MORE than 1,000 posts were unfilled in Worcestershire’s adult social care workforce on any given day last year, according to new figures.

The Care Provider Alliance said more needs to be done to recruit, support and retain staff in the sector across England, warning that low wages can see it portrayed as "an alternative to a job in the supermarket".

It followed a report from charity Skills for Care, which estimates the sector will need to recruit 520,000 extra jobs nationally by 2035 to keep up with the ageing population.

Figures provided by the charity show there were around 15,500 adult social care jobs in Worcestershire in 2019-20.

But with an estimated vacancy rate of 7%, it meant an average 1,060 posts were unfilled at any one time.

The West Midlands as a whole had the seventh-highest vacancy rate of all England's regions, at 6%.

Figures include local authority employees and those in the independent sector, but exclude NHS staff and those working for recipients of direct payments from the council – allowing people who are entitled to care to employ and manage staff themselves.

Across England, there were around 112,000 vacancies at any one time, though the vacancy rate of 7% was down slightly from 8% in 2018-19.

Kathy Roberts, chairman of the Care Provider Alliance, which brings together trade associations representing adult social care providers in England, said: "The Skills for Care report reminds us that, despite improved awareness, much needs to be done to ensure we have sufficient numbers of well-supported care workers right now, and in the future.

"We want to see structured career pathways that ensure working in care is an attractive profession.

"Care work should not be portrayed as an alternative to a job in a supermarket. Yet, retail staff on average earn 24p more an hour than a care worker, raising concerns about the wider issues on pay."

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said councils are still facing a recruitment and retention "crisis" in social care.

“Urgent action is needed for the care workforce including on pay, professionalisation, skills and training," he added.

In Worcestershire the staff turnover rate was 36% last year – the estimated proportion of people who quit their job completely or moved to a different role in the sector – with the figure particularly high among registered nurses in the sector (61%).

Across England the turnover rate hit 32%, meaning more than 400,000 people are estimated to have left their jobs.

Nina Hemmings, researcher at the Nuffield Trust health think tank, said: "Early data from the period of the coronavirus outbreak suggests pressure on staff has only intensified: sickness rates have nearly tripled since the pandemic began.

"Given the absolutely crucial role we have seen these workers play during Covid-19, they must be better supported in their health and wellbeing."

Care Minister Helen Whately said the Skills for Care report shows the challenge of recruiting and keeping staff, and added adult social care careers are being promoted to jobseekers.

She said: “We are supporting care providers through the pandemic with the costs of pay for staff required to self-isolate, and so no care worker should lose income as a result of the requirement to only work in one location."