Increasingly stringent budget constraints and a limited talent pool are combining to drive local authorities to hire temporary social care workers on an unprecedented scale, a new study from contractor supply management service Comensura has revealed.

The organisation’s latest Social Care Index found that the number of Umbrella Company employees and other locum social care workers in local authorities between July and September 2013 and the same period this year climbed by 6.8%.

The chief reason why locums are being hired in such numbers is to provide cover for vacant posts. Qualified and experienced temporary social care workers aged between 45 and 54 have seen a surge in demand as local authorities seek talent capable of managing complex case loads with minimal supervision and training. This year, qualified social worker FTEs (full-time equivalents) made up 67.4% of the total temporary social care headcount, climbing significantly from the 59.6% recorded during the same period last year. Unqualified roles, in contrasts, fell by 13.9%.

Male social care workers are especially in demand in a heavily female profession to better mirror existing and future care needs amongst the UK’s population.

Comensura’s MD, Jamie Horton, said: “Understanding trends in the use of contingent workers is key for local authorities who are constantly trying to manage budgets and cope with evolving regulatory and inspection regimes. With fluctuating pay rates, an ageing workforce and an industry-wide gender imbalance seen as major issues in temporary social care recruitment, an understanding of these trends will help local authorities to make most efficient use of their resources.”

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