Just 4% of children’s social workers will face accreditation tests over the next three years after the government abandoned its target for every practitioner to be accredited by 2020.
The full extent of the Department for Education’s climbdown on plans for the controversial testing regime is revealed in a contract notice issued by the department last week.
The document shows the DfE now plans to accredit 1,200 social workers from a group of volunteer councils between January next year and January 2020. The government originally planned to test 8,000 by December next year and all of the estimated 30,000 children’s social workers by 2020.
However, a backlash over the plans led to ministers scaling back and slowing down the rollout of the scheme. Children’s minister Robert Goodwill said the department had “fundamentally changed” its approach based on feedback to a government consultation on accreditation, which he said had received more than 400 responses.
The consultation closed in March. Despite pressing ahead with the revised accreditation plans, the DfE told Community Care the consultation results will not be released until later this year.
Unison, which is petitioning the government to scrap the accreditation plans, called on ministers to be transparent on the results and the cost of the accreditation plans.
“Surely it should be incumbent on the department to be fair, frank and open about this scheme?,” a spokesperson for the union said.
“Instead we’re left with changes being announced in response to the consultation but we do not know what views were actually expressed in those 400 consultation responses. How many were critical of accreditation and to what extent?
“There are also so many unanswered questions that the consultation itself didn’t address, not least how much is this going to cost and who is going to fund it?”
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services has claimed the accreditation scheme would cost £23m to set up. A DfE spokesperson told Community Care this figure was not put forward by the department. The spokesperson refused to say what the government’s cost estimate was.
The DfE has previously said the accreditation tests, which involve digital and written assessments and a practice observation, will boost public confidence in social workers and improve the consistency of practice. But sector bodies have been highly critical of the scheme, with separate surveys by both the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and Unison finding most social workers do not support the plans.
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