KPMG and Morning Lane Associates expected to develop pass or fail test for children’s social workers

The government contract to ensure a minimum level of knowledge and skills is worth around £2m

kpmg offices
KPMG offices in London's Canary Wharf. Photo: Jeff Blackler/REX

The £2m contract to develop a system that will transform the entry into children’s social work is set to be jointly awarded to consultancy giant KPMG and Morning Lane Associates, Community Care understands.

‘Minimum level’

The three-tier accreditation system will be designed to ensure every children’s social worker in the country meets the minimum level of knowledge and skills set out by chief social worker Isabelle Trowler last summer.

The contract, put out to tender in January, invited bidders to develop a process of assessing social workers for the Approved  Child and Family Practitioner status by next March.

‘Pass or fail’

Under the plans, social workers will not be able to practise with children until they have successfully completed a pass or fail test.

KPMG, one of the four largest professional services companies in the world, is expected to share the contract with Morning Lane Associates – the consultancy jointly set up by Isabelle Trowler along with former Hackney assistant director Steve Goodman after they developed the Reclaiming Social Work model.

Trowler resigned from the company when she became children’s chief social worker in September 2013. The company’s public accounts show she handed over her shares in the August before she took up her post.

This article was amended on 19 March to clarify Isabelle Trowler is not a shareholder in Morning Lane Associates

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28 Responses to KPMG and Morning Lane Associates expected to develop pass or fail test for children’s social workers

  1. David Howden March 19, 2015 at 12:00 am #

    Is Isabelle Trowler still a shareholder in Morning Lane? Resigning/not working with the organisation of itself does not remove her ownership.

    • Rachel March 19, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

      Hi David,

      The company’s accounts on Companies House show Isabelle Trowler handed over her shares in August 2013 before she took up her post. We are approaching the chief social worker for comment.

      Thanks,
      Rachel
      Community Care

      • Anon SW March 19, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

        If Ms Trowler sincerely stands to gain no pecuniary benefit from an expected contract award then given previous business ties it still appears akin to ‘a job for the boys’ here and casts a shadow upon intentions/actions within post. Whatever way the matter raised here deserves some further scrutiny! Thanks Rachel @CommunityCare for seeking clarity on this one.

        • Anon SW 2 March 20, 2015 at 7:51 am #

          As well as this money, Morning Lane Associates has got £ 4 million from the Innovation fund. They are closely linked to Frontline, who also have received considerable DfE finding, including an £1.8 million from the Innovation Fund. I agree that this requires much further scrutiny.
          Thanks Rachel and Community Care for asking questions about this.

      • Simon Cardy March 19, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

        ‘handing over her shares’ is not he same as ‘sold her shares’ or have I missed something?

        • Rachel March 20, 2015 at 11:06 am #

          Our understanding is Steve Goodman is now the sole shareholder in Morning Lane Associates

  2. Simon Cardy March 19, 2015 at 9:02 am #

    This is a worrying development, not so much in the sense of the lack of evidence of the need for a new a professional standard of qualification, but in the sense of handing over of £2m and to one of the worlds biggest private management consultancies whose interests are solely focused on maximising the rate of return for their shareholders and not necessarily on the needs of the people to whom social work serves. The trend to look outside of social work expertise to solve social work,s problems, and I mean this in its broadest possible terms including international expertise and related collaborative fields, and to private sector financial consultancy to solve our problems is becoming clear. For example we have seen another of the 4 big consultancy players Deloitte’s contributing to the teaching programme for Frontline social work. The use of Morning Lane Associates is part of this worry for a number of other related reasons but also because it is still not clear if the chief social worker for children, who may well have stepped aside from the board of directors at MLSs, still retains a financial stake in the the company?

  3. Concerned of Social Work March 19, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    The saddest thing to note here is that The College of Social Work surely went for this and didn’t get it. The CSW has allowed yet another player in the regulation of this profession – at the expense of our own professional body. A sad day. The amount of DfE funding that is going into the Morning Lane coffers is nothing short of outrageous. The CSW ought to step more carefully – her authority doesn’t just rest in in her office – but in the quality of her relationship with this sector. Its heading south fast.

  4. david Hambly March 19, 2015 at 10:49 am #

    I believe she should resign.If she is still a shareholder she has a conflict of interest and she needs to make a statement on the matter.
    What I would say is she is doing a great job in making Social Workers want to leave the profession and deterring people from entering it in the first place. What is she doing about poor pay and massive caseloads for Children’s social workers, nothing as far as I can see.

  5. Andy West March 19, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    My memory is that KPMG is also a company that advises companies and individuals as to how they might (no doubt legally) avoid paying tax. If everyone paid the tax they should there would be more money to put into public services. And now this same company will be devising ways of testing social workers-it’s a mad world isn’t it!!!!!

  6. tanya Hawkins March 19, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    Yet another obstacle for oppressed social workers to jump through under this government. Why have we got the HCPC. Surely the whole point of this body is to regulate the profession. As people above have already highlighted there is a loophole with this plan and a money spinner for someone. This profession is heading in the wrong direction.

  7. Liz Hill March 19, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

    Could Community Care find out if the College of Social Work did submit a bid for the contract and how much it was for??

    • Rachel March 24, 2015 at 11:08 am #

      Will ask the question, Liz.

  8. Jenny Dadswell March 19, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    How does this link with the expectations of HCPC? Surely if we have confidence in the CSW & HCPC we should let them get on with their job and give social workers the time, resources & support to do theirs.

  9. Ruth Cartwright March 19, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    Why do social workers need testing by some organisation outside the profession? SW courses are rigorous and new SWs are passed or failed by their Universities and Practice Educators. Then there is the support and assessment during their first year (ASYE) when they are passed or failed by their employers. Is there any real evidence that children’s SWs (given that they are receiving appropriate support and supervision and have reasonable caseloads) are en masse not up to the job? I think not! Outrageous that the government should waste money which could go to enabling SWs to do their jobs more effectively with better resources on further demoralising the profession.

    • Jazz March 19, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

      This is absolutely shocking. It raises more questions, i.e. Concerns about the thinking behind this yet another example of total lack of faith and understanding in professionals. Can anyone elucidate why the Whitehall government feels that this is necessary? I am rather scared of the policy this idea seems to be promoting. It smacks more of power (e.g., money) and control than genuine care. What appears to be being ignored is that the only way to increase real knowledge and develop skills of any profession is when doing the job! (e.g., social worker!) Testing people before they’ve had opportunity to gain experience is rather strange and ‘catch 22ish’ and appears to seek to undermine the training already provided/planned for by universities, employers, professional bodies etc. Does this ‘testing’ apply to ‘beginning’ social workers or also to those already working in children’s services? Is it a rather sneaky policy planned to fit in with future legislation seeking to replace such bodies as the HCPC and their counterparts in the Celtic nations such as the Care Council for Wales with private companies becoming responsible who will have the same functions but do it cheaper?

  10. Phil S March 19, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

    Well clearly KPMG are steeped in the social work tradition! MLA are the rising stars and the fact that Isabelle was a founder has absolutely nothing to do with them gaining this contract after all everything is done above board in the UK….

  11. Sam March 19, 2015 at 10:52 pm #

    Severed ties with Morning Lane? If so why appear to support Morning Lane when they are delivering their services.

    These developments are not about making things better. What does anyone think the impact is on social workers relentless quest to make a difference to children? Disgruntled and demoralised professionals deliver what quality of service? Guess

  12. ANONJQ March 20, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    There are indeed very serious issues about private companies getting such a large amount of money and the relationships involved. No doubt these relationships are perfectly proper but perception is all! It would be so sad if the Chief Social Worker role was brought into disrepute by these and related developments such as grants from the innovation fund to Morning Lane.
    It is however vital that all this does not obscure the problems with this project. A ‘pass or fail’ test is being implemented in a context where there are really serious issues around retention. Is this really the way to test knowledge and practice in such a complex area of work?
    Alongside proposals in relation to criminalising workers, the government is sending out very mixed messages about how to build a workforce that is risk sensible and trusted.

  13. Alex Knapp March 21, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    As a company we have built and hosted online assessments used by social workers for years and they don’t cost anywhere near that much £.

    Did I miss the tender for this work?

  14. Trishtosh March 21, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

    Tender issued January with submission in matter of weeks for a £2 million contract, such fair play! I don’t know any public authority with enough consultants ago move that fast!

  15. MAX March 22, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

    I am not a social worker but I would like to express a few points in favour of social workers that work with children.
    They have a high level of responsibility to the children and those who care for them as well as to society in general, thay are suseptable to all sorts of reactions if thay make a mistake or decision that someone sees as not in line with what the critic thinks.
    What does a private unconnected on a daily basis with children Company really know what is entailed in the looking after children?
    This seems to me to be comparable with the present Governments arrangement to decide who is fit to work and who is not and we all know how that has and is turning out.
    Thank you for the opportunity to give support to all those who look after those less fortunate in our society

  16. Andy Cook March 26, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    Just read this. As a Foster Carer of 10-years I welcome anything that changes the way in which many different child-Social-workers interpret what they should (must) do. Having just worked very closely with a front-line Social Worker I have experienced the difference in working practice and involvement in the child’s needs.. Unfortunately she has just ended her involvement with a child and passed over the mantel to a child-social-worker. We’re hoping beyond hope that we won’t get a new Social Worker who’s supervision and understanding is satisfactory and hoping we don’t get an established Social Worker who’s methods are to do as little as possible..
    Minimum Standards from our perspective don’t seem to exist when you’re trying to get a child and our home/families represented. Misrepresentation and fabrication of fact seem to be normal methods of controlling a placement. Making Foster Carers scared by threats and bullying are also ways of preventing accountability. I’ve had it all and a friend is going through it now with a child who has threatened to kill a Teacher (in a copy-cat of the Ann Mcguire murder in Leeds). A knife was found and the Social Worker has done nothing. My friend was “instructed” not to call the Police! and told there are no placement available so you’ll have to keep him longer. School had excluded the child… The child can’t be moved apparently (putting another child at risk and blocking any future placements). Foster Carers who need support and/or complain can be threatened with going back to panel etc etc. I’ve challenged child-social-workers and Therapeutic Workers and they can all put nonsense on your permanent file based on their own need to head-off accountability or complaint.
    Any way to improve the standards of child-social-workers and raise standards for children and placements is a welcome one. Social Work is an honorable and valuable profession but my experience with 14 children suggest that only 4 or 5 of those children had a Social Worker that conscientiously worked on their behalf and knew about our expected standards, training or guidance.

  17. Concerned Professional March 26, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    The HCPC and College of Social Work are respectively responsible for the monitoring and enhancement of professional practice skills. Both are public sector organisations thus it can be assumed work primarily in the public interests. KPMG and Morning Lanes Associates are private companies thus may be drawn to being primarily concerned with profit margins and the needs of shareholders over that serving the interests of the public.

    Mrs Trowler returned her shares in her company (Morning Lane Associates). Has anyone enquired as to whether her significant other or wider family members have shares in Morning Lane ?

    Additionally where she may have no formal level of involvement with Morning Lanes Associates she may have maintained social connections with the senior personnel of the company through which information could be conveyed

    There needs be a fuller explanation from the D of E as to the decision to award the contract.

    As supposed Chief Social Worker Mrs Trowler may have better devoted her time to challenging government spending cuts which have contributed greatly to Social Work professionals having to manage unacceptably high caseloads; impacting upon their practical and emotional capacity to maintain let alone enhance practice standards, instead of devising yet more ‘ learning hurdles’ which practitioners will be expected to jump.

  18. Maggie March 28, 2015 at 4:03 am #

    The tide of objection should continue to rise. That is the only chance we have of making the difference we came into this profession to make.

  19. AnonSW April 2, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

    I note the Chief Social Worker has personally made no comment thus far on this issue and I can recall in the past a certain MP being himself more than willing to engage in some debate on this exact forum, following views and advice presented within a TV programme appearance I believe. Perhaps rather than the continuing raft of news we keep hearing about the prevalence of the HCPC’s fitness to practice hearings, which have raised concern amongst a large amount of our registrant body around methodology and findings in a number of instances, they could now consider making some efforts to investigate further into the ethicality of this particular matter due to the interest that it has raised. Perhaps it could be their first publicly visible move towards demonstrating a willingness to represent or even protect where appropriate its own members?

    Who will stick up for Social Workers? Wholeheartedly agree with Maggie’s latest sentiments here, as we have made some positive strides already this year and sincerely need to keep the momentum going if we are to ever find a platform in which to have a voice or perhaps the future means to assertively challenge the surge of the ‘being done to’ affect type tide that continues to batter our profession. Final thought to takeaway – This time it isn’t even the PM that actually needs standing up to here and at least he was elected to actually represent his party!

  20. Jane April 4, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    What strikes me is how ignorant Ms Trowler is about Local Authorities.There are a number have worked in as a manger that have set up post qualifying academies to provide further learning and support good practice .
    It is interesting the same woman remained silent at the latest social work event to why she doesn’t think the current CPD is not good enough . She heard again and again the impact of this governments respect for social workers.
    Quite frankly she should shadow a social worker and then she will rediscover what an amazing set of professionals are out there struggling against the odds.