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Developing capacity

Working for the agency: The role and significance of agency working in the social care workforce

Purpose

The overall aim of the research is to assist local councils and other adult social care service providers in England to reduce reliance on temporary agency staff by finding out how different organisations have developed more flexible ways of dealing with staff shortages. 

Research team

Michelle Cornes, SCWRU
Jo Moriarty, SCWRU
Jill Manthorpe, SCWRU
Shereen Hussein, SCWRU

Funding

Department of Health: Policy Research Programme, Social Care Workforce Research Initiative

Background

About 3 per cent of social workers, care assistants or home care workers in England are employed on a temporary rather than permanent basis. These workers are not employed directly by the local authority, but work through employment agencies. Government is seeking to reduce this number so that service users and carers can expect to see the same workers on a regular basis. This research aims to answer questions about: the numbers of agency workers in social care; their background and previous jobs; why people work for employment agencies; what plans the workers have for their future careers; what service users and carers think about temporary agency workers in social care.

Methods

Methods include (1) a survey of local authorities in England to explore what progress is being made towards reducing reliance on temporary agency workers and (2) interviews with: agency workers; adult services managers; and employment agency managers in three contrasting areas across England. The study is also consulting specially convened groups of people using services and carers in each of the three areas.

Findings

While local authorities have made progress at the level of reducing the costs associated with agency working, less progress has been made in tackling the underlying recruitment and retention issues, which means that agency workers continue to play an important role.

Timetable

2007 - 2010

Output

Final Report
Cornes, M., Moriarty, J., Blendi-Mahota, S., Chittleburgh, T., Hussein, S. & Manthorpe, J., (2010), 'Working for the Agency: The role and significance of temporary employment agencies in the adult social care workforce. Final Report to the Department of Health' [pdf, 755 KB], London: Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King's College London.
Summary
Cornes, M., Moriarty, J., Blendi-Mahota, S., Chittleburgh, T., Hussein, S. & Manthorpe, J., (2010), 'Working for the Agency: The role and significance of temporary employment agencies in the adult social care workforce. Summary' [pdf, 196 KB], London: Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King's College London. 
Interim report

Cornes, M., Moriarty, J., Blendi-Mahota, S., Chittleburgh, T., Hussein, S. & Manthorpe, J., (2008), 'Working for the Agency: The role and significance of temporary employment agencies in the social care workforce. Interim report to the Department of Health' [pdf 304 KB], London: Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London.

Articles

Cornes, M., Manthorpe, J., Moriarty, J. & Hussein, S. (2013) 'The experiences and perspectives of agency social workers in England: Findings from interviews with those working in adult services', Social Work & Social Sciences Review, 16(1): 67-83.

Cornes, M., Manthorpe, J., Moriarty, J., Hussein, S. & Blendi-Mahota, S. (2013, online) 'Assessing the effectiveness of policy interventions to reduce the use of agency or temporary social workers in England', Health & Social Care in the Community.

Manthorpe, J., Cornes, M. & Moriarty, J. (2012) 'Considering the safeguarding risks presented by agency or temporary social care staff: research findings and recommendations', Journal of Adult Protection, 14(3): 122-130.

Associated events
Cornes, M., Moriarty, J., Blendi-Mahota, S., Chittleburgh, T., Hussein, S. & Manthorpe, J., (2010), 'Workforce Supply: The Role of Temporary Staff' [ppt, 730 KB], International Conference on Evidence-based Policy in Long Term Care, London, 9 September.

17 November 2009: A presentation made at the Social Care Workforce Research Initiative meeting: 'Temporary agency workers in the adult social care workforce. Issues in procurement and management.'

Impact

The study has informed social care workforce development at the Department of Health.
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