A recruitment drive has been launched by the government to fill 110,000 social care jobs amid concerns Brexit uncertainty is hindering international hires.
More than 1.45 million people work in social care currently, but an extra 650,000 workers will be needed by 2035 due to an ageing population, ministers said.
The new campaign – Every Day Is Different – comes as the Health Foundation publishes a report on the NHS workforce warning of growing staff shortages across the board.
It said there were “worrying trends” in community care, with a drop in nurses and health visitors in the community, adding that NHS staff numbers as a whole are failing to keep pace with demand.
“There is huge demand for more care professionals who work incredibly hard to look after the most vulnerable people in our society”
Brexit uncertainty and migration policies were cited by the Foundation as factors blocking recruitment from abroad, with EU hires falling significantly.
The new Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) campaign aims to promote social care as a career with good progression and professional development and will run over the next two months across print, radio, online and social media.
It will promote a range of roles, including carer in a nursing home, activities co-ordinator in the community, hospital occupational therapist and personal assistant in a person’s home.
Care minister Caroline Dinenage said: “Adult social care is too often seen as the ‘Cinderella service’ to our NHS.
“I’m determined to change this perception, starting with our hardworking social care workforce.
“There is huge demand for more care professionals who work incredibly hard to look after the most vulnerable people in our society.
“We must spread the word that careers in adult social care can be rewarding, varied and worthwhile. Care is a vocation where you can transform people’s lives and every day is different to the next.”
Staff turnover rate in the sector is 30.7%, equating to nearly 400,000 people leaving care jobs every year.
As of February 2018, the typical hourly rate for a care worker in the independent sector was £7.82 per hour, a penny below the current national minimum rate for anyone over 25.
The campaign was welcomed by Age UK but its director said more needed to be done to improve working conditions for those in the sector.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Social care is a hugely important service on which many depend and more needs to be done to make it an attractive career, as well as personally satisfying and worthwhile for all the great people who are involved – on the frontline and in management and leadership positions.
“The long-awaited, multiply-postponed green paper is the obvious vehicle for bringing these measures forward and it needs to be published now if the recruitment campaign is really to achieve its potential.”
It comes as separate research for charity HfT found three out of five social care providers were forced to cut back on services or hand back contracts to local authorities because of financial pressures.
The study for the charity, which supports adults with learning difficulties, suggested low wages were a barrier to recruitment, while financial pressures were compounded with the cost of hiring agency staff.
While the number of hospital-based doctors has continued to grow, the number of GPs has fallen by 1.6% – 450 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff – over the year to September 2018, the Health Foundation report said.
The government is also widely expected to miss its goal of recruiting 5,000 more GPs by 2020.
Similarly, numbers of nurses and health visitors working in community health services have continued their long-term decline, falling by 1.2% (540 FTE staff) in July 2018 compared to a year before, the Health Foundation said.
The number of mental health nursing staff has also increased by less than half a per cent (170 FTE), while specialist learning disability nurses fell by 3.7% (120 FTE) over the same period.
The NHS as a whole is reporting 100,000 vacancies, of which 41,000 are nursing posts, the report went on.
Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said: “These are hugely worrying figures and a stark reminder how disappointing it was that a serious plan to recruit the NHS staff we need was absent from the recent NHS plan.
“Years of austerity has left us bereft of the staff we need in the NHS.
“Labour will prioritise staffing in the NHS to provide the quality, safe care patients deserve.”