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Adult social care – market overview

The population is growing

Over the next 20 years (2012-2032) the population in England is predicted to grow by 8 million to just over 61 million.

The population is ageing

The population aged over 65 is growing at a much faster rate than those under 65.

More people are living alone

By 2032 11.3 million people are expected to be living on their own, more than 40% of all households. The number of people over 85 living on their own is expected to grow from 573,000 to 1.4million.

Increasing demand

Demand for social care is growing as the numbers of older people and those with long-term conditions, learning disabilities and mental health conditions increase.

Estimates predict at least 1.7 million more adults will require social care over the next 15 years.

Informal care

Informal care is unpaid care provided by family members to elderly or disabled relatives. The majority of these people provide care for 10 hours or less a week, with 1.9 million providing intense informal care for more than 20 hours per week.

Carers UK estimate that by 2037, the number of carers across the UK needed could rise by 40 per centre (2.6million people) taking the total number of people providing informal care to 9million.

The health and social care workforce§

The NHS employs 1.4 million people and social care to 1.6 million people.

Together the health and social care sectors employ one in ten of the working population.

The adult social care workforce

80% of all jobs in adult social care are done by women.

The workforce is comprised of:

  • 204,000 administrative, ancillary and other jobs
  • 1.3 million staff directly providing care to people (e.g.) care workers, personal assistants, etc)
  • 147,000 managerial and supervisory jobs
  • 100,000 professional jobs (including social workers, nurses and occupational therapists)

In 2008 67% of people working as ‘care assistants and home carers’ claimed to be qualified to NVQ Level 2 or above, and 7% had no qualifications at all.

The Skills for Care 2019 report indicates that 84% of the workforce are British, 8% EU and 9% non-EU. However, there are regional differences.

The health care workforce

  • The healthcare workforce is highly educated 
  • 48% of staff are professionally qualified.
  • 80% of non-medical health service staff are women compared to 46% of the wider workforce.
  • There is strong demarcation of roles and responsibilities, such as prescribing powers, between different staff groups.
  • The length of time it takes to train doctors, nurses and other professional staff means that it is difficult to balance supply and demand.


Adults with care needs are supported in two main ways: formally through services they or their local authority pay for; and/or informally by family, friends, or neighbours.

Regional variations of self-funders§

Approximately 172,000 older people in independent sector care homes in the UK paid for their own care (44% of the total).

The extent of self-funding varied considerably across England.

There are more self-funded residents in care homes in the south of England than the north.


Adult social care services in England are regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). CQC makes sure that health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

They monitor, inspect and regulate services that provide health and social care.

Activities that CQC regulates include:

  • Treatment, care and support provided by hospitals, GPs dentists, ambulances and mental health services.
  • Treatment, care and support services for adults in care homes and in people's own homes (both personal and nursing care).
  • Services for people whose rights are restricted under the Mental Health Act.


An Ipsos MORI poll suggests that only one in twenty people personally used social care in the past year in the UK. That compares to each person in the UK consulting a GP around five times a year. This comparatively low usage result in low levels of awareness of the nature of social care – and potentially its lower levels of public support by comparison to the NHS.


infographic of Social Care Market Overview