Around one in 12 adult social care jobs in Gateshead were unfilled last year, according to new figures, as vacant posts across the country hit a record high.
Skills for Care charity, which estimates there are 165,000 vacant posts across England, said the social care sector is facing complex challenges with a surge in demand impacting recruitment and retention.
The charity’s annual report found England’s social care vacancy rate hit a record high of nearly 11% in the year to September.
Figures provided by the charity, which are rounded to the nearest hundred, show there were around 5,400 jobs available in Gateshead’s adult social care sector in 2021-22 – with roughly 5,100 of these posts filled.
It means the area’s vacancy rate stood below the national average at 8%. There was a significant level of vacancy for support and outreach (14%) and care worker (10%) roles.
North East had the lowest vacancy rate across England’s regions, at 9%.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK and co-chair of the Care and Support Alliance, said: “Recruitment and retention in social care have been difficult for some years but both now appear to be getting markedly worse. The main problem is pay: cash starved care simply can’t compete with the big supermarkets and online retailers on wages so committed staff are lured elsewhere."
Ms Abrahams added “there’s no avoiding" the need for improved pay and conditions within social care.
Meanwhile, Skills for Care’s report found about 400,000 people left jobs in 2021-22, with an average turnover rate of 29%.
Gateshead had a turnover rate of 21% across all adult social care services, with rates especially high among registered nurses (67%) and care workers (22%).
The charity said a key solution to high turnover and job vacancy was better pay for care workers. It estimated that care workers with five years’ experience were paid just 7p per hour more than those with less than a year.
It added the average care worker was paid less than £1 per hour less than new healthcare assistants in the NHS.
Oonagh Smyth, CEO of Skills for Care, said: “We must talk more about how rewarding social care is to work in so that we attract more people, and we must make it easier for the people who love working in social care to stay by improving terms and conditions and investing in their career development.”
She added 480,000 extra staff in social care will be needed by 2035 as 28% of the current workforce are aged 55 and over and may retire in the next decade.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We’re investing in adult social care and have made £500m available to support discharge from hospital into the community and bolster the workforce this winter, on top of record funding to support our ten-year plan set out in the People at the Heart of Care white paper."
They said "tens of thousands" of extra staff have joined since care workers were added to the Health and Care Worker visa and the Shortage Occupation list – a list a list of jobs in short supply which can be more easily filled by non-UK workers. They added a new domestic recruitment campaign will be launched.