Social Services are one of the biggest job creators in Europe today with over 1.7 million new jobs created since 2008, and it plays a key role in empowering all people to play an active role in society. The sector already employs over 10 million people and is fast growing to respond to demographic changes (ageing population) and evolving family patterns (ensuring work-life balance). However, there are growing concerns regarding the recruitment and retention of sufficient staff, in particular to respond to the growing demand for services. There are also significant concerns that the downward pressure of public expenditure towards social service providers is having a negative impact on the quality of the jobs created and the attractiveness of the sector. In short, many social service providers have numerous open vacancies which remain unfilled; despite the high levels of unemployment in many European countries. A shortage of staff in social services will ultimately hinder access to quality care and support for those in need of such services (children, persons with disabilities, elderly, other disadvantaged groups); and consequently, their social inclusion. This assessment is highlighted by reports from the European Commission (2014; 2015). The European Commission’s response has focused primarily on this issue within the healthcare sector, with very little attention given to the social care sector; despite clear differences regarding salaries, working conditions, job profiles, and funding of the sector. This highlights the key problem; that the workforce in the sector of social care remains often largely invisible in much research on this issue.
In response to this, Social Services Europe have commissioned a study which looks at existing and effective interventions made at national level, as well as possible barriers related to recruitment and retention in the social care sector. Taking basis in the conclusions of the study, we wish to discuss the role of the EU institutions, the national policy makers, and the social service providers in order to address the identified issues.