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Local authorities increase use of temporary labour to deliver social care services

With increasing budget constraints and a limited talent pool, local authorities are frequently turning to temporary social care workers as an immediate solution to their short term resourcing problems. Cover-based reasons, which primarily includes cover for vacant posts, accounted for 43.9% of total FTE (full-time equivalent) and is the main reason why authorities are hiring temporary social care workers. 

Local authorities are increasingly focusing resources on qualified temporary social care workers who can step in and manage complex case loads with minimal training and supervision. In July to September 2014, qualified social worker FTE accounted for 67.4% of the total temporary social care workforce, up from 59.6% in the same period in the previous year. This increase in demand is consistent across all age ranges and is a consequence of the rising caseloads that qualified social workers face. In contrast, unqualified roles have decreased by 13.9%.

The Index also highlighted other key findings including:

- The desire for proven experience 

- The increasing use of the male social care worker

- The continuous growth of the limited employment status 

The desire for proven experience 

Findings revealed that the trend for local authorities to seek proven experience continues. In July to September 2014, those aged between 35-64 years of age reported increases in usage. Temporary social care workers aged 45-54 are the most popular, representing 33.2% of total FTE and grew by 15.6% on the year. Further analysis, shows the greatest demand was for qualified workers in the 45-54 age range, as they typically have more experience and proven capability.

Only 1.1% of qualified temporary social workers FTE were under the age of 24 years but there was an encouraging 15.5% increase in usage in July to September 2014 compared to the previous year.  

Jamie Horton, managing director at Comensura, said “Local authorities consistently seek temporary qualified social care workers with proven capabilities to manage caseloads efficiently. Those who are hired tend to fall into the older age brackets. However, with a small talent pool, local authorities have and should continue to turn to younger, newly qualified workers to support them. These workers require investment in support and training but this is essential to address the need for a larger social care workforce in the future.”

The increasing use of the male social care worker

Historically, the majority of temporary social care workers are female and this continues to be the trend. Yet, there has been significant growth in the number of male workers, up 11.2% on the year, more than double the growth registered by female workers (5.2%). There is a strong demand from local authorities for more male social workers to better reflect the current and future care needs of the UK population.


The continuous growth of limited employment status

It is a well-established trend that temporary social care workers continue to seek work under a limited employment status. This way of working gives social workers greater control over their pay rate and tax affairs compared to traditional contracts of service (referred to as PAYE in the Index). A staggering 90.2% of all temporary qualified social workers operated with a limited status in July to September 2014, at a growth rate of 23.7% on the previous year. However, unqualified workers are predominantly employed as PAYE (80.9%).

Jamie Horton continues, “Understanding trends in the use of contingent workers is key for local authorities who are constantly trying to manage budgets and cope with evolving regulatory and inspection regimes. With fluctuating pay rates, an ageing workforce, and an industry-wide gender imbalance seen as major issues in temporary social care recruitment, an understanding of these trends will help local authorities to make most efficient use of their resources.”


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