More than a third of care services across Scotland reported unfilled vacancies last year, according to a new watchdog report.

The Care Inspectorate also found that two out of five of those providers were having problems filling the positions.

The watchdog, which registers and inspects all social care services, has published its latest figures on staffing levels in the sector, providing a national overview of vacancies and recruitment difficulties.

Its report covers a range of services, including care homes, nurseries and housing support and care at home services.

The report found that, on December 31 last year, 35% of services were reporting vacancies, up one percentage point from the previous year.It found 41% of those with vacancies were having problems filling them, up two percentage points from the previous year.

Particularly high proportions of care at home and housing support services, and care homes for older people and adults, reported difficulties.Services said the main reason for recruitment problems was not having enough or appropriate applicants.

Almost a third - 27% - said there were too few applicants applying for roles while 20% reported there were too few applicants with the required experience and 18% said there were too few qualified applicants.

Care Inspectorate chief executive Karen Reid said: “Recruitment and retention remain major challenges in some parts of social care.“The reasons are complex and not easy to resolve.

“Our report shows where recruitment is most challenging and spells out some of the difficulties Scotland’s almost 2,600 social care employers describe.“With people living longer, and early learning and childcare expansion, Scotland needs more people to work in social care.

“Numbers do not tell the whole story - the skills, experiences and values of social care staff are just as critical as the number employed.

“We expect to see more innovative solutions embraced by care providers and funders.

“Social care services, local authorities and the NHS must continue working across traditional boundaries to deploy staff in a way that puts people’s needs at the heart of staffing decisions

“There are some excellent examples of innovative practice which are truly person-led and we want to support more of them.”