Trowler defends £2m KPMG contract for social worker accreditation

Chief social worker for children says accreditation scheme is chance to ‘revolutionise’ support for social workers, children and families

Isabelle Trowler
Isabelle Trowler, chief social worker for children

The chief social worker for children has defended the government’s decision to award a multinational private firm a £2m contract to develop a set of social work accreditation standards.

In a Twitter exchange, Isabelle Trowler responded to questions from the Social Work Action Network over the Department for Education’s decision to award the contract to a group led-by global consultancy firm KPMG. The group also includes Morning Lane Associates, a company co-founded by Trowler. The chief social worker returned her shares in Morning Lane when she took up her current post in September 2013.

SWAN asked Trowler why the £2m contract had been awarded to the two firms at a time when social workers faced “dangerous resource restrictions”.

In response, Trowler defended the contract award arguing that the £2m fee was a fraction of an estimated £6.5bn a year spent on children’s social work including costs to partner agencies and the court system. The cost was also “frankly peanuts compared to the costs (human and financial) of low level skill and knowledge across the hierarchy,” she added.

The development of accreditation standards was a chance to address failings in supervision and practice leadership, said Trowler, with many practitioners “fed up” with the current levels of support they were getting. Service users were also “crying out for change” and accreditation standards could “revolutionise” the way universities and employers worked with social workers and families, she said.

The £2m contract is for the development of three new levels of practice being introduced in children’s social work. These are: an ‘approved child and family practitioner’ status, a ‘practice supervisor’ status and a ‘practice leadership’ status.

The College of Social Work also bid for the contract but was unsuccessful. The College will close at the end of September due to a lack of funds and the organisation’s leaders have claimed that losing out on the accreditation work was a “significant” factor in its closure.

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16 Responses to Trowler defends £2m KPMG contract for social worker accreditation

  1. Alex Knapp August 21, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    Did I miss the open and competitive tendering process for this?

    • daisyb August 21, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

      It was tendered, how open it was is another question but is was a bid process

      • Andy McNcioll August 21, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

        Alex, Andy from ComCare here. The contract was part of a tendering process with the contract listed on the government’s contract finder website. Here are the details:

        In response to a recent story we ran on DfE funding going to private companies, the department issued this statement: “Where private sector organisations represent the best value for taxpayers and meet the high standards rightly expected by the public, we work with them to support policy development and innovation in children’s social care services.

        “All contracts are made following a full and open competition as required by law.”

  2. Dave Ensor August 21, 2015 at 11:16 am #

    I think I will stand as Chief Social Worker in the next elections. Anyone wish to nominate me when the application forms for candidates come round?

    • daisyb August 21, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

      Not elected posts, both appointed

    • Gill August 23, 2015 at 9:39 am #

      ……but would you able to tow the party line?……..that is the qualifier I think you will find!

  3. Philip King August 21, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    I must have missed the tender for this as well!!
    Interesting that the cost of this work is described as peanuts. I wouldn’t.
    I also wonder if they will use all the work that was done a time back for DSCF on this topic.

  4. Mary Brady August 21, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    Gobsmacked !!! It was all soo predictable! Reclaim Model here we come – in all its glory. I’m sure it will all be marvellous once the model is rolled out all over the country.

    • Dr John August 22, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

      Yes – just what we need. One size fits all elitist nonsense

  5. Chloe Dunne August 21, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    When will this come into effect?

  6. Hilary Searing August 23, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    Social work is in a bad place at the moment. On the one side we have SWAN, where social workers are encouraged to use clients to further their revolutionary struggles. On the other we have KPMG, where social workers are encouraged to be clever, ambitious and more concerned with raising their status than listening to aggrieved parents. I can only hope that the Chief Social Worker takes up a more realistic position.

    The debate should be about – what are the skills and knowledge expected of those supervising and managing children’s social workers? If we had asked concerned members of the public we would have got something better than this draft statement from KPMG. Where is an in-depth statement about the task of supervision, the nature of accountability, the importance of keeping up to date with developments and current debates in childcare law and practice?

    The way that society deals with the safeguarding of children requires a sound understanding of the connection between the law and ethics. The law sets limits on the safeguarding powers given to professionals but ethical considerations often allow them to go further in order to keep children safe. Unfortunately, the blurring of the boundary between the lawful and the ethical approach has created huge problems for social workers. While the social work profession claims to have a very strong sense of its values, in ‘safeguarding’ work it needs to develop a more coherent account of what these values really are. Managers must have a clear sense of professional identity that incorporates a more balanced ethical position.

    There is a perception that children’s social work is now a middle class project to rescue children from parents whose lifestyle is too far away from those of mainstream society. It is invariably focused on those who are poor and disadvantaged. SWAN recognises this but seems to oppose any notion of child rescue work. There is gap between their position and mainstream statutory social work practice that needs to be bridged.

  7. Jazz August 23, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

    Excuse me if I appear a bit thick but are these new accredited practitioner statuses like the old PQ system? Haven’t the other regions of the UK like the Care Council for Wales (not a private company) received Government funding of a few million pounds to develop post-qualifying practitioner qualifications? In conjunction with universities? Basically continuing what was positive General Social Care Council (GSCC) (before its demise and replacement by the HCPC) and university joint work? I know that the four UK regions do communicate. But with wanting to promote thought and discussion not offence, my feeling is that article themes in Community Care can appear rather English/HCPC/Whitehall centric. Just an observation – But if there’s good work being done in one region of the UK why can’t it be built on in England for example with joint regional working based on existing development giving continuity to all social workers from all four regions in the UK? Which would also be less confusing and save money? Good practice should be universal and if one UK organizations is already doing it lets all share it.

    • Richard Leighton August 24, 2015 at 9:42 am #

      Hear, hear. Best practice should be shared across jurisdictions, even if small tweaks are necessary. Why does this government, because it IS this government – Trowler is just their mouthpiece, see the need to ‘reinvent the wheel’, unless its goal is to wholly emasculate the social work profession?

      This handwringing is not as evident in Scotland, what are social workers doing there, which can be adapted for English settings?

    • Peter Starr August 26, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

      When the General Social Care Council existed before its politically inspired demise, it did a lot of work on post qualifying standards. It also engaged in significant liaison with the other social care workforce regulators in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and did look to learn from them.

  8. Mark Rogers August 23, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

    I have no issue with the tendering or the award per se; that’s how the cookie crumbles. But it reminds me that in the not too dim and distant past we had a social work task force which begat a social work reform board. I sat on the latter, with the delightfully determined and wonderfully focused Moira Gibb (Dame) in the chair, and she was capable of persuading all of us to do this kind of thing out of the kindness of our hearts. And we did. And would again if only we were asked to. Oh well, it least it will give me more time for preparing to implement the KMPG work.

  9. david harrop August 27, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    Peanuts… PEANUTS!!
    who decides what constitutes peanuts..
    a) I would be very happy to find it down the back of my sofa
    b) It’s public money earmarked for social work provision to support for vulnerable people, being trousered by those who have influence with power/ whitehall

    I can’t wait to see what will happen when Jeremy comes in
    Down with this kind of stuff