More than a third of social care services across Scotland have reported unfilled staff vacancies in the past year, according to the Care Inspectorate, and almost half of those faced difficulty recruiting the right staff.

Currently over 80% of care services in Scotland are judged to be good, very good or excellent in respect of the quality of care they provide. Inspectors regularly identify that stable and consistent staff teams are an important component of high quality social care which supports people well.

The Care Inspectorate, which registers and inspects all social care services, has today published new figures on the levels of staff vacancies in the sector. The report provides, for the first time, a national overview of vacancy levels and recruitment difficulties reported by individual care services directly to the Care Inspectorate. The information is published to support care services in their recruitment plans and integration authorities in their strategic commissioning plans.

In the past year, 35% of services reported having one or more staff vacancies. Care homes for older people (59% of services), housing support services (57% of services), care at home services (57% of services), and care homes for adults (51% of services) were the main service types with the largest proportion of individual services reporting vacancies. Daycare of children services (19% of services) was the only main service type where the vacancy rates were significantly below the national average.

Karen Reid, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate said: “Most people in Scotland experience high quality care which is down to the dedication, professionalism and commitment of the social care workforce. Our evidence shows that people benefit from an effective and stable staff team which allows people experiencing care to build trusting relationships with the people supporting them.

“Recruitment and retention remain major challenges in some parts of social care. The reasons are complex and not easy to resolve. Our report shows where recruitment is most challenging and spells out some of difficulties Scotland’s almost 2600 social care employers describe.

“With people living longer, and early learning and childcare expansion, Scotland needs more people to work in social care. Numbers do not tell the whole story - the skills, experiences, and values of social care staff are just as critical as the number employed.

“We expect to see more innovative solutions embraced by care providers and funders. Social care services, local authorities and the NHS must continue working across traditional boundaries to deploy staff in a way that puts people’s needs at the heart of staffing decisions. There are some excellent examples of innovative practice which are truly person-led, and we want to support more of them."

The report is available here: 

The information in today’s report on vacancies, problems filling vacancies, and the reasons why services have reported having problems filling vacancies, has been extracted from information provided by care services, across early learning and childcare, children’s services, and adult social care.

Every care service is asked to complete an annual return every year to provide statistical and other information. The vacancy questions are asked for every care service type apart from childminders, who are typically sole providers.

  • At 31 December 2016, 41% of services with vacancies reported having problems filling them; up 2 percentage points from the previous year.
  • Particularly high proportions of the following types of services reported problems filling vacancies: care at home services (64%), care homes for older people (57%), care homes for adults (49%) and housing support services (48%). Additionally, nurse agencies (61%) and residential special schools (61%) had high proportion of services reporting problems filling vacancies, although these percentages were based on a small number of services.
  • Aberdeen (57%), Perth and Kinross (52%) and Fife (51% of services) had the highest proportion of services reporting that vacancies were hard to fill.
  • Too few applicants with experience (58%), too few applicants in general (58%) and too few qualified applicants (50%) were the most common themes within most service types reported for why vacancies were hard to fill.