Changemakers or troublemakers: what do social care providers think of younger workers?

Think tank: The King’s Fund

Author(s): Nicole Blythe; Safiya Benniche; Simon Bottery; Saoirse Mallorie

May 1, 2024

This report from UK think tank The King’s Fund recommends that social care has a wider workforce that includes younger people within it.

Social care has a problem with young people. In the overall economy, under-25s make up 11% of the workforce, and in some sectors younger people are the backbone of the workforce (around half of all waiters and waitresses are under 25). In adult social care, however, only 8% of the workforce is under 25.

This is despite considerable recruitment – of those who started in their current role less than a year ago, 17% are under 25. However, there is substantial turnover of under-25s over time: only 28% of under-25s in the social care workforce in 2014 were still in the sector four years later. So what explains social care’s workforce issues with younger people? And what can be done about them?

As part of wider work to explore the issue, including upcoming work to report the experiences of younger workers themselves, The King’s Fund spoke with representatives of 11 social care providers from medium-sized and large companies (these types of organisations employ almost half of the adult social care workforce).

The providers varied in the type of care provided, the settings in which they provided it, and the types of people who typically drew on their services. Where known, the proportion of 18–25s they employed ranged from 3% to 25%. We spoke with individuals occupying a range of senior leadership positions, including chief executives, human resources managers and recruitment managers (see Summary of research methods).

Below we share what they told us about younger people and what they think might need to happen at organisational, sector and national level to attract and retain more young people into the sector.

We then offer some reflections and recommendations for the sector around challenging organisations to think about whether they really do want to attract more younger people into the workforce and, if so, what changes they need to be prepared to make for that to happen. Later this year, we will publish the findings of our interviews with young people themselves.