The UK care workforce – what investors need to know

by Reena Virdee Senior Manager

Email +44 (0)7712 596068

The UK’s care sector is already the largest employer in the UK – with more than 1.6 million people. And with the ageing population set to expand dramatically over the next decades, demand for the services the sector provides will continue to grow.

Investors have long realised the value of the sector. But it’s also the case that they have not always seen the returns that they would wish from those investments. One of the main factors driving financial performance is, of course, people. And how those people are employed can have a decisive impact on the success or otherwise of investment performance.

PwC has carried out the first ever major piece of research[1] that aims to find out more about the attitudes, aspirations and experience of the UK care workforce.  What we discovered was a hugely committed workforce that, nonetheless, faces some considerable challenges. And those matter to investors. They matter because many of the challenges identified by the workforce are driving them to seek new roles or even leave the sector altogether. A sustainable workforce is key in delivering high quality care with positive outcomes. But what we’re seeing is unstable teams and a growing number of unfilled vacancies. And those vacancies are often filled by agency workers. Consequently, we're seeing agency spend rise to 10-15% of staff costs in many care businesses. In a sector already working with tight margins, the impact of those unnecessarily high costs can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

So what are some of the specific challenges that investors should be aware of as they assess and work with operators? We think there are some key areas that they need to pay attention and bring their influence to bear in order to maximise operators’ chances of retaining staff and addressing the impact of rising people costs.

The first is to ensure that care is always at the core. What do we mean by that? Carers want to care. It sounds obvious, but our research suggests that carers’ often feel that they’re working in a profit-centric culture where they’re assessed on financial metrics. This fails to address their motivations for the work they do and are most committed to.

Secondly, management and organisational structures are critical. Investing in managers and creating a structure in which they can dedicate time to working with and developing their teams is vitally important.

Focusing on making day to day operations as efficient as possible is key – embracing tech and apps to minimise paperwork is the norm in many other sectors, care needs to keep up.

And further to this, understanding the needs of your carers and working with them to develop a career path will help them see care as a viable and sustainable long-term career in which they can build their future. Investors should also pay attention to how successfully carers feel they are able to develop and progress their careers at a specific business. Lack of development was highlighted by many carers as a reason to look elsewhere for employment or even leave the sector altogether.

The shortage of staff and the high turnover rates in the sector are challenging today, but could reach crisis point in the near future. Today, it’s estimated that the number of staff employed in the adult care sector falls 120,000 of the number required. That could rise to 290,000 by 2030 if the vacancy rate increases as it has over the past three years. Those are numbers that should worry investors. And should prompt them to take decisive action.

To find out more about this, please visit our website.


[1] PwC conducted an online survey of over 2,000 UK carers to find out how they think, feel and behave and how they expect these to change in the future.  


by Reena Virdee Senior Manager

Email +44 (0)7712 596068