DHSC seeks supplier to aid social care recruitment amid staffing crisis

Successful supplier will provide support with hiring internationally and “promotional activity” to boost domestic recruitment
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

The Department of Health and Social Care is seeking a supplier to set up a support service to help adult social-care providers and local authorities to recruit and retain staff, amid the ongoing staffing crisis in the sector.

DHSC is inviting bids for a contract worth up to £1.11m to provide a “core workforce support and improvement offer” to support the aims of its adult social-care reforms.

The successful supplier will spend eight months developing a support package aimed at providers and local authorities and regions on international recruitment practices, as well as “promotional activity” to boost domestic recruitment into adult social care.

The contract is set to run from the start of August to next March, with the option to extend for a year.

In the first few months of the contract, the supplier’s domestic recruitment work will focus on attracting people from under-represented demographics – particularly men and young people – into care roles.

The contract aims to support the delivery of Next steps to put people at the heart of care, the April 2023 follow-up to a white paper setting out DHSC’s 10-year “vision” for social care in December 2021.

It said local authorities had stressed that the availability of staff was “one of the main barriers to expanding workforce capacity”, and pledged ongoing support in the form of recruitment campaigns and advice on good recruitment and retention practices.

The plan included a commitment to “support care providers to access international recruitment and build a sustainable workforce”, which it said would “bolster the workforce and improve accessibility of care”.

“We recognise the vital contribution that international recruitment provides,” the document says, noting that there had been 56,900 visa grants for care workers and senior care workers under the Health and Care Worker visa in 2022. Last year, that figure rose to 118,522.

MPs and social-care providers have been warning of chronic staffing shortages and difficulty retaining staff in recent years, owing to a mixture of reasons including low pay, a lack of career progression opportunities and unfavourable conditions compared to health workers.

Staff shortages have worsened since the UK's exit from the EU. In summer 2022, parliament's Health and Social Care Committee said DHSC had “refused to do proper workforce planning” in health and social care and that the sectors were facing the "greatest workforce crisis" in their history.

A damning report last year from Age UK found there were more than 165,000 job vacancies in social care, and that staff shortages had dramatically reduced access to both at-home care and residential care-home beds.

The charity found that around one in eight people aged over 50 – 12%, or 2.6 million – have unmet social-care needs, including support with showering, eating and getting dressed. The figure rises to 21% of over-80s.

The latest tranche of workforce reforms, announced earlier this year, included the launch of the first-ever national career structure for the care workforce; a new, nationally accredited social-care qualification; and social work and social care nursing apprenticeships.

“In the immediate term, to support the delivery of these reforms, [DHSC] wishes to commission a core workforce support and improvement offer to complement this ambition and these policies,” the contract notice said.

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