Low pay and zero hours contracts see a third of nurses quit social care roles

There are over 110,000 vacancies throughout the adult social care sector.

Matt Bodell
30 May 2019
Nursing Home Social Care

Social care spending in England has fallen further behind other UK countries.

A new analysis from the Health Foundation shows estimates a social care funding gap of £4.4bn in England by 2023.


In the absence of an additional funding commitment, the money available for adult social care will rise at an annual average rate of 1.4% a year. This is much lower than the 3.4% a year the government has committed to the NHS and crucially, far below rising demand of 3.6% a year, with increasing numbers of elderly and younger adults needing help with day to day activities such as washing, eating and dressing.

In 2010/11, England spent an average of £345 per person compared to £457 in Scotland (32% more) and £445 Wales (29% more).

‘110,000 vacancies’.

The Health Foundation also points to poor pay and conditions in social care as a major threat to the quality of care and future sustainability of the sector.

Staff turnover has been increasing since 2012/13 and there are over 110,000 vacancies in adult social care. Over 40,000 nurses work in adult social care but almost a third are estimated to have left their role within the past 12 months.


After years of capped pay, NHS salaries are now increasing but social care wages are low and below equivalent salaries in the NHS.

Earlier this month, AgeUK warned that many parts of the country have become ‘care deserts’, where older people are unable to access residential or home care, regardless of whether they can pay for it or not.

‘Two-thirds of staff at the minimum wage’.

Anita Charlesworth, Director of Economics and Research at the Health Foundation said: “Adult social care is one of the victims of the current political impasse but is in urgent need of funding and reform.

“Pressures on the service continue to grow at a much faster rate than funding. More people need care but we also need to ensure that care is high quality. Staffing is a key determinant of both quality and cost. With around two-thirds of staff at the minimum wage and a quarter on zero hours contracts, it is perhaps unsurprising that adult social care providers are struggling to attract and retain workers.


“Planned changes to make international recruitment more difficult also present a major challenge to a sector that is highly reliant on staff recruited from overseas. Rising demand and competition for the same pool of workers from other sectors, including the NHS, will compound these problems.

“Tackling the challenge of social care reform will require decisive political action and an appropriate funding settlement. Successive governments have ducked the challenge and the tragedy is that vulnerable people and their families are suffering as a result. If reform remains unaddressed, social care’s inadequacies will continue to undermine the NHS and people in need of care will continue to fall through the cracks.’

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