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What will Social Care Workforce Development look like under Labour?

Published on June 20th, 2024

With Labour averaging around a 20-point lead over the Conservatives, most commentators are predicting a comfortable win for Labour on July 4th.

So, with a new Labour Government in the pipeline, we wanted to do a quick dive into what social care workforce development will possibly look like under Wes Streeting, the presumptive Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Although we can get an overview of the Labour Party’s key commitments from their manifesto, it doesn’t provide much in the way of detail. So, to glean an insight, we need to dig a little deeper. Fortunately, Wes Streeting (along with UNISON) commissioned a report by the Fabien Society entitled: ‘Support Guaranteed: A Roadmap to a National Care Service‘ that pretty much outlines his plans for HSC. Whilst the report is not official Labour policy, it was commissioned to help outline what the National Care Service could look like, what hurdles it might face and a draft timeline for delivery. In many ways, it provides a blueprint for the Labour Party’s ambitions.

So, if you work within HSC workforce development and want a glimpse of the direction of travel, then this is required reading.

Whilst the report is far-reaching in its scope, making some 48 recommendations, one of its top priorities is:

“A fair workforce settlement: a sector-wide Fair Pay Agreement will be negotiated including a sector minimum wage and minimum conditions. People employed by National Care Service providers will have national pay bands and employment terms designed to achieve parity over time with similar roles in the NHS”.

To achieve parity with the NHS, the report identifies ten ‘Building Blocks’ that will help deliver this seismic change, including a new National Care Service Act that both revises and updates the existing Care Act 2014.

A full review of all Ten Blocks is perhaps beyond the scope of this post, however, we will focus on Block 2: Workforce, which outlines the following objectives:

  • Negotiate a fair pay agreement covering the whole adult social care workforce to include a sector minimum wage and minimum employment conditions.
  • Introduce national employment terms, pay bands and minimum pension entitlements for employees of National Care Service providers to achieve parity with similar roles in the NHS over time.
  • Redesign occupational roles in adult social care with the long-term ambition of more people in the sector having higher skilled or specialist jobs.
  • Align adult care and NHS workforce planning and skills functions with reforms to existing national agencies, and joint responsibility between councils and the NHS locally.
  • Expand regulatory requirements for training and skills and consider improvements to the design and delivery of social care qualifications.
  • Introduce professional registration for the adult social care workforce on a voluntary or compulsory basis with detailed consultation before deciding which of these approaches is best for England.

Stabilise the current landscape

Further reading reveals more details of what the workforce plan itself might look like in some detail. For example, the report recognises the landscape which the new Labour government will inherit (from the Conservatives) suggesting that some key aspects will perhaps continue to be built upon, including much of the work that has already been undertaken around the new Adult Care Workforce Pathways and the new Level 2 Adult Social Care Certificate qualification.

Expand regulatory requirements for training and skills

The achievement of accredited training and qualifications is a constant theme running throughout the report, with plans to drive up standards via increased regulation. Alarmingly, it is noted that since the introduction of the Care Certificate in 2015, some 32% of the workforce have not taken part in any care certificate training, with only 43% having achieved the certificate. Furthermore, participation in social care apprenticeships has also fallen dramatically, with a two-thirds fall between 2026/17 and 2020/21. So, it is highly likely the CQC will be targeted to drive up professional standards via detailed specifications focused on externally assessed training and qualifications.


Not surprisingly, employers will remain responsible for funding training and qualifications that are a regulatory requirement, however, there are plans to allow part of the Apprenticeship Levy (via a new Growth and Skills Levy) to be utilised towards the cost of broader training and accredited modular learning. Whether this extends to include the new Level 2 Adult Social Care Certificate qualification remains to be seen, as it stands at present, it is an Ofqual regulated qualification but hasn’t any funding stream attached. Watch this space!

Professional registration

Professional registration of the social care workforce has been mooted for some time now, and finally a workforce register may well be on the cards, either on a voluntary or compulsory basis subject to a detailed consultation to explore the benefits of each approach. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all chosen the compulsory option, so we will likely see some form of registration (including mandatory qualification) as part of the registration process. If we were to look into the future, we would suggest that a key requirement of any registration process will include the achievement of the new Level 2 Adult Social Care Certificate qualification – but that is not yet confirmed.


Usefully, the report also provides an indicative timeline for implementation:

Block 2 : Workforce
Inherit (24/25)
  • Government currently developing a care workforce pathway and skills passport
  • Proposed level 2 accredited care certificate
Stabilise (24/25 to 25/26)
  • Launch health and care recovery plan focused on vacancies
  • Fair Pay Agreement provisions form part of an Employment Rights bill in the first King’s speech
  • Launch sector minimum wage (eg real living wage)
Prepare (25/26 to 27/28)
  • Agree and implement a sector-wide Fair Pay Agreement
  • Negotiate NCS employment conditions and pay scales (modelled on Agenda for Change)
  • Complete England-wide and local workforce and skills plans
  • Launch voluntary professional register
Launch (28/29)
  • Introduce new workforce terms and conditions and NCS employee insignia to coincide with the formal launch
  • Continue to review NCS occupational standards and skills
  • Review providers’ regulatory requirements for skills and training
Embed (29/30 to 30/31)
  • NCS pays scales converge on similar posts in the NHS
Evolve (29/30 onwards)
  • Move towards compulsory professional registration (if not earlier)
  • A measurable shift in the composition of the workforce towards more senior and specialist roles

As we can see, we will likely see a renewed focus on training and achievement of accredited qualifications driven by a combination of legislation, inspection, registration, increased funding flexibility and a commitment to professionalise the sector via well-defined occupational roles and pay bands. That’s ambitious.

Ultimately, everything changes and yet in many ways, nothing changes, with the main takeaway being that employers will be under increasing pressure to provide access to accredited training and qualifications, with possibly the new Level 2 Adult Social Care Certificate qualification (or similar) becoming the mandatory requirement for workforce registration.

So, if you are not already preparing for the new Care Certificate Qualification, grab a copy of our free Care Certificate Mapping Toolkit which will help you review your existing training against the new qualification specification and highlight where you might have gaps that need addressing. The DHSC via Skills for Care are already canvassing training providers on the impact of the ‘pause’ to the launch of the new care certificate qualification. We also understand that many of the leading Awarding Organisations are canvassing for the re-launch to be scheduled ASAP and they have a meeting slated for 11th July (following the election results) to try and seek confirmation.

As always, if you want to find out how you can be ready to deliver the Level 2 Adult Social Care Certificate qualification (and others) in-house, you can set up a free Discovery Call with our team and we will share with you how our unique Employer-Direct model will transform your L&D approach.


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