Retention and sustainability of Social Care workforce


Staff turnover and job vacancy rates are persistently high in UK social care. Understanding the drivers of staff retention and motivators of care staff is important to enable the sector to provide sustainable, high-quality services and meet increasing demand.

This project has helped social care providers, commissioners, regulators and policy-makers understand the specific organisational and individual drivers of staff retention in the social care sector by exploring:

  • What specific characteristics do social care workers have, and how committed are they to their jobs, when compared with workers in other low-wage service industries?
  • Why are there differences in retention rates between social care providers, and between social care and other low-wage service industries?
  • Why do care workers decide to leave their jobs, and why do some job leavers choose to leave the social care industry altogether?
  • What is the impact of COVID-19 on workforce retention and sustainability?

The COVID-19 pandemic had a wave of unprecedented challenges for the UK's long-term care (LTC) workforce. The Retention and Sustainability of Social Care Workforce (RESSCW) study, led by Professor Shereen Hussein and Dr Florin Vadean and funded by the Health Foundation, started in 2019 and concluded in 2023. It aimed to help social care providers, commissioners, regulators, and policymakers understand the specific organisational and individual drivers of staff retention in the social care sector in the United Kingdom (UK). During the course of the RESSCW study, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives, including how social care services are provided and received and significantly impacted everyone involved within the care sector. As a result, the study team supported by the Health Foundation were able to expand on our aims to examine the impact of COVID-19 on workforce retention and sustainability. 

The findings from this study shed light on the profound impact of abuse on the well-being of workers, the organisation they belong to, and the entire sector. The implications are far-reaching and emphasise the urgent need to address these issues. One key finding is the strong correlation between abuse and a poor work-life balance, irrespective of the type of abuse experienced. Our results align with previous research, indicating that a significant number of LTC workers frequently experience feelings of tension, unease, depression, and gloom directly stemming from their job. Consequently, their overall health and work-life balance are detrimentally affected.

Furthermore, our study revealed that workers’ intention to leave the sector was only about half as prevalent as the intention to quit their current employer voluntarily within the following year. This finding highlights the immense motivation among the care workforce to remain in the sector, indicating their hope that a change of employer could lead to improved working conditions. Despite the numerous challenges these workers face before and during the pandemic, their dedication to the sector remains unwavering.

These compelling findings underscore the critical role of policymakers and care providers in ensuring the recruitment and retention of qualified staff. They must prioritise increasing support for workers, offering better compensation, and implementing a robust system that safeguards the well-being of the care workforce. We can foster a more sustainable and resilient care sector by addressing these crucial aspects.

Find out more in a special impact video created from project findings:


The team have also authored a blog on The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Long-Term Care Workforce: Evidence from the United Kingdom. Read it here.

Partners & Collaborators

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

University of Kent

University College London (UCL)

City University of London

Skills for Care

Health Foundation

NIHR ARC North Thames

Lead Investigator
Florin Vadean (University of Kent)
Shereen Hussein (LSHTM)
Investigating Team
Stephen Allan (University of Kent)
Alex Bryson (UCL)
Grace Collins (University of Kent)
John Forth (City)
Katerina Gousia (University of Kent)
Catherine Marchand (University of Kent)
Daniel Roland (University of Kent)
Hansel Teo (University of Kent)
Ann-Marie Towers (University of Kent)
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