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Healthier working lives for the care workforce

Developing careers. Promoting wellbeing.

Healthier Working Lives

Healthier Working Lives (HWL) is a Innovate UK funded programme that assesses the challenges and opportunities for the over 50’s care workforce. The programme is led by King's College London in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh.

The adult social care sector is at a tipping point. Recurring sets of issues have been exacerbated by COVID and Brexit regulations. Many employees are chronically underpaid and business models are broken, with de-moralised experienced professionals are leaving in droves.

This crisis is reflected in unusually high levels of workforce turnover and vacancy rates. Many service provider owners and managers are struggling to maintain care quality levels with limited resources and increasing costs.

The HWL team's focus is tackling this crisis facing care workers and organisations.

What next for care work? A symposium on futures

28 February 2024 17:30 to 20:30 - Bush House, Strand Campus, London

Our programme has been on a three-year mission to understand care workforce innovation challenges and has gained valuable insights, IP and propositions ready to share with the care sector to make an impact.

Join us to examine what next for the care workforce, with experts from care, innovation, enterprise and policy, who will share their views on the future of one of the UK’s most valuable sectors.

Meet the Experts

There are a limited number of tickets available. Please sign-up as soon as possible.

Find out more

If you are an innovator, business leader or entrepreneur working, or seeking to become involved with the care sector, join the Healthier Working Lives campaign through our registration form or contact

Read insights from the project on the Healthier Working Lives blog.

Find out more about the care sector and HWL's work in our regular Bulletins.

Follow our Facebook page where you can chat with us directly as well as keep up to date with the latest insights from Care Sector research, and activities from the programme.


  • To identify ways to promote healthier working lives and ageing for older care workers – developing their careers, enhancing user continuity and promoting everyone’s wellbeing.
  • To transform aspects of the care sector workforce experience and culture – making their services more agile, innovative and accessible.
  • To attract and encourage professional, respected and confident workers and improve workforce planning and support.


Co-designing with users

The care workers themselves and their ideas to improve their industry will inform, shape and guide the development of propositions. The co-design process places our key audience at the heart of the HWL programme.

Care workers will be deeply involved in a collaborative process with innovators and entrepreneurs in the care and healthy ageing sectors. They will explore and co-design potential solutions to the health and professional development challenges that they face daily, including:

  • Scheduling work shifts and tasks
  • Passporting professional development
  • Balancing health and personal care
  • Addressing pronounced risks in the light of coronavirus.


The Healthier Working Lives programme will tackle head on the need for significant practical change in the care sector at the sharp end of service delivery.

The primary goal is to generate and support ideas, through the co-design and adoption of innovative products and services that address challenges in the recruitment, retention and the health and well-being of older workers, particularly in the growing residential and retirement village care sectors.

Struggling supply

There are currently an estimated 120,000 vacancies and the annual turnover of staff in the sector is around 30% – 430,000 have left in the last year. A National Care Forum survey of more than 2,000 social care services revealed that 74% of providers have reported an increase in staff exits since April 2021, with half of workers leaving due to stress. The Health Foundation suggests that over 600,000 additional care workers will be required in the UK over the next decade to meet demand, in addition to the 1.5 million existing posts.

Meeting demand

The care sector is significant – worth £15.9 billion to the UK economy. As life expectancy increases, so does the proportion of older people to the total population. One in 7 people will be aged 85+ by 2040. The UK care home population is 450,000 and growing whilst the number of care home beds available for those over 85 has fallen since 2010 – a trend predicted to continue. 82% of care workers are women and 27% are aged 55+ with many of this age group working in supervisory roles.

The over 50’s frontline care workforce is ageing whilst addressing the stresses of caring in work and caring for their families and elders, operating in demanding physical and emotional conditions. This presents a challenge to the wellbeing of staff, residents, families, and communities. Continuity in staffing, recognition of the value of their work, and supporting workers to co-determine their development needs, are central to this programme.

Innovative solutions

The products and services may be initiatives, tools, processes or resources, that will require technical, design and financial support to be attractive, relevant, user-friendly and popular. The solutions will be developed through co-design and co-production to ensure care workers and providers inform, shape and guide the proposition development process.

Knowledge network

The programme will also nurture a community of innovators and intrapreneurs in the care sector through creativity, empathy, lifelong learning and peer support amongst care workers and care providers. A richer and more diverse community of practice is an important legacy that will enable the sector to accelerate change as demand increases.

Motivating care enterprises

A key strand of the Healthier Working Lives programme is enterprise engagement, specifically identifying and motivating enterprises to grow investable propositions that will shape the future of the care sector.

The care sector is on the cusp of significant change and we are listening to the experiences of ‘Care Trailblazers’ leading that change, breaking new ground and disrupting the market. This will enable us to identify market failures and gaps, key development themes and opportunities and areas of focus for future industry development.

We'll be hearing from the leading pioneers in the care sector, exploring their ideas and understanding their approaches to develop a body of on-the-ground evidence around the key development opportunities in the sector. 

Find out about the Care Trailblazers shaping the future.

Project status: Ongoing
HWL Logo with Strapline Landscape Colour


Funding Body: UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

Amount: £1.37 million

Period: March 2021 - February 2024

Contact us

Find out more about the care sector and HWL's work in our regular Bulletins.

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