Minister defends plans for social worker accreditation tests

In an interview with Community Care, Robert Goodwill said changes announced yesterday would improve the controversial accreditation scheme

Robert Goodwill speaking at an event in 2014. Picture: Geoff Moore/RexFeatures

The new children’s minister has defended plans to introduce accreditation tests for social workers, saying practitioners he’d met were “up for” the scheme and some criticism of the proposals reflected a “nervousness” of change.

In an interview with Community Care, Robert Goodwill said changes announced yesterday to the way accreditation will be rolled out would help the Department for Education identify and address any issues with the assessments before the scheme goes national.

The first phase of accreditation will now be delayed until next year and run at just six councils, rather than the 31 originally intended. This will be followed by a second phase with a further 13 authorities. A target to accredit all 30,000 children’s social workers by 2020 has also been dropped.

Goodwill said the smaller and slower accreditation rollout would be critical to “getting it right”, adding: “What would be a mistake in my view would be to try and go in one fell swoop into a national scheme, and find that problems that might arise would then be national problems rather than the ones we discover.”

The minister said the changes were based on feedback from more than 400 responses to a government consultation on accreditation. The DfE has still to release the results but accreditation has attracted criticism from sector bodies, with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) saying it would be costly and Unison launching a petition to scrap accreditation entirely.

Asked about concerns raised over the scheme’s costs and the impact it could have on councils, Goodwill said the criticisms were “not really ones that I would recognise”. He said some negative feeling towards accreditation reflected “nervousness about change”.

He said: “I’ve spoken to a lot of social workers in the last four weeks, and I get the impression that they are up for it. But the alpha phase is about making sure we get it right, that the way we deliver the assessment is done in a way that really recognises the skills that we need in social workers and we can give them the accreditation that can demonstrate that

“What I have found more than anything in this job is the professionalism and effectiveness of social workers, and this accreditation is all about recognising that.”

Goodwill said the scheme would “throw a sharp focus” on the quality of training currently on offer to social workers, adding: “We will see whether some of the courses being delivered actually deliver the standards that we require to deliver effective children’s social care.”

Yesterday Goodwill made his first speech since replacing Edward Timpson as children’s minister. Goodwill has served in government since 2010, and was previously immigration minister at the Home Office.

Speaking at the ADCS annual conference in Manchester, he told delegates he planned to work collaboratively with the sector on reforms and he wanted to understand “what you need and what will work” to improve children’s services.

“Beyond the individual social worker, it is my intention to see the development of a system where all local authorities are actively engaged in ongoing improvement, a system where all local authorities have available the support they need to get to good, and to go from good to great,” he said.

“I intend to be a champion for our social care profession. I promise to identify and celebrate where practice is excellent, finding ways to recognise the nation’s most accomplished practitioners. I also promise to both support and challenge employers to provide the training and ongoing development that their staff need in order to do their job well.”

Register now for Community Care Live London for two days of free and essential learning to boost your CPD, sharpen your legal knowledge and improve your practice, on 26-27 September.

8 Responses to Minister defends plans for social worker accreditation tests

  1. Andrew July 7, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

    Why do I not believe that he has spoken to “a lot of social workers”?

    Be interesting for someone to do some digging into his diary and then ask a specific question as to how many social workers he has met.

  2. Stuart July 7, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

    So many non-sequitors and weasle words I lost count (but don’t worry Mr G., I do have A level maths and English).

    If you really want to champion the profession though, please note we aready have ‘Social Worker of the Year’ in several categories. We don’t need an Olympic Games of social work, we need signs that the profession is valued. Let’s see whether the much heralded breaching of the 1% pay cap applies to social workers (and the rest of local government!) as much as to your pet causes of nurses, teachers & blue light staff…

  3. Social Work Tutor
    Social Work Tutor July 8, 2017 at 8:31 am #

    Day 1: Goodwill says he will listen to Social Workers and work with us

    Day 2: Goodwill says he doesn’t recognise why Social Workers are concerned about accreditation

    The hope for partnership working and having our voice heard lasted 24 hours…

    The collapse of this shambolic excuse for a Government and getting Emma Lewell-Buck into this role can’t come soon enough.

  4. Gris July 8, 2017 at 9:40 pm #

    My concern is that this will make it easier for govt and LA’s to keep piling the work on social workers who already do many more hours than they are paid. And make it easier to get rid of staff who try to stand up for quality and decent working conditions.

    • Jonathan Ritchie July 12, 2017 at 5:47 pm #

      You are correct. Accreditation is a political purge.

  5. dave July 10, 2017 at 3:03 pm #

    ‘impression that they are up for it’ they either are or they’re not and I’m not. We all have supervision and if there’s a practice issue it’s addressed; all LAs have auditing; we all have to register with HCPC; every local authority has a complaints procedure in compliance with the CA 1989 and there’s an ombudsman – isn’t this enough accreditation?

  6. Tom Hughes July 10, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

    That we’ll know and experienced social worker, Robert Goodwill knows what he is talking about. Just like his vastly experienced social worker and cobblers son Edward Timpson.

  7. Brad Social Worker July 11, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

    I would love to know where Robert Goodwill found so many social workers who said they were ‘up for it’. I have not met another front line worker who thinks testing in a bloody test centre is a good idea. This will put people off joining an already under resourced and beaten down profession who are poorly paid and poorly valued. Absolute disgrace. Why don’t minister’s such as Mr Goodwill actually listen to the workers. Oh yes, I forgot. He is a Tory politician!!!