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.