Scottish Care highlight growing staff shortages

Care providers are warning that the lack of people working in the sector is crippling care provision across Scotland.

The growing shortages of care staff in care home, care at home and housing support services for older people need to be treated as a political priority, say care sector representatives.

Scottish Care, the body that represents private and voluntary providers of social care, has released new data which shows:

For care home services:

  • More than three quarters of services (77%) have current staff vacancies
  • 25% of services have found it more difficult to recruit care staff this year, and a further 64% found recruitment to be as difficult as the previous year.
  • 44% of care home services rely on the EU as a recruitment pool for support workers The average rate of staff turnover is 22%

For care at home & housing support services:

  • 89% of care at home & housing support services have staff vacancies at present
  • 90% of organisations have difficulty filling support worker vacancies
  • Over half (58%) have said recruitment is harder this year than last, with only 3% stating it was less difficult.
  • Nearly 10% of care at home staff are from the European Union.
  • One third of total staff leave every year.


The surveys on which this data is based were led by Scottish Care and provided data from nearly 250 care services, which deliver care for over 25,000 individuals across Scotland and employ over 10,000 people.

Speaking about the survey results, Scottish Care CEO Dr Donald Macaskill said:

“These are very worrying statistics, particularly given that they represent a trend of increased difficulty for care providers in recruiting and retaining staff.  These figures have been worse year on year from 2015.

“The recruitment and retention crisis facing the care sector makes the planning and delivery of reliable, high quality and sustainable care very difficult for care providers.  However, it also means that individuals in receipt of services have their choices compromised, whether that is in terms of who they want to deliver their care and when, or whether they even receive a care service at all.  We know that the lack of staff is directly impacting on services’ ability to support people most in need, including those who are ready to be discharged from hospitals.  Providers are regularly having to turn down care packages because they simply do not have the staff to deliver this care.

“We need a joint approach to considering why there is such a challenge in terms of people coming in to and staying in the care sector.  Whilst the Scottish Living Wage has been a first step in improving recognition of care staff, there are clearly other significant issues which are not just about money but other rewards and forms of recognition. 

“The work undertaken by care staff is highly skilled, hugely important, extremely rewarding but also very challenging and completely undervalued.  This needs to change as a matter of urgency. 

“We have therefore launched our Agenda for Care, a manifesto which outlines what we believe should be the priorities of national and local Government in light of the upcoming Local Elections in May.  We are calling on politicians and councillors to work with us to progress the ten points of this Agenda.”

Central to this Agenda for Care are:

  • Valuing social care – in order that services and their workforces can develop and adapt to suit the needs of individuals
  • Securing the workforce – ensuring that there is a joined up, planned approach to overcoming the recruitment and retention crises in the social care sector
  • A human rights based framework for care provision – protecting and promoting individuals’ rights and choices, which includes ensuring these are not compromised by a lack of suitable care provision

Dr Macaskill added:

“We must make working in care an attractive option for all individuals.  If we are going to see a future of integrated health and social care teams which put the individual at the centre of their own care, we must address the particular workforce issues in the social care sector.

“The social care workforce must be seen as a key national and local political priority.  We can see no other profession which is so critical to the lives and wellbeing of so many, but which is so under-recognised and under-valued.  If this doesn’t change, the future of care provision looks very bleak indeed.”

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