Trowler: ‘Social workers will get say on mandatory accreditation’

Chief social worker for children says ‘extensive’ consultation exercise will be launched within weeks

Chief social workers Isabelle Trowler (L) and Lyn Romeo (R)

The government will consult ‘extensively’ on whether to make accreditation of children’s social workers mandatory, the chief social worker for children has said.

Speaking at a British Association of Social Workers debate last week, Isabelle Trowler moved to clear up confusion sparked by a pledge from education secretary Nicky Morgan that children’s social workers “across the country, at every level, will be fully assessed and accredited by 2020”.

Message ‘confused’

Morgan’s remarks were seen as confirming the accreditation tests would be compulsory, particularly as her speech made no mention of any consultation.

However, Trowler insisted no decision on mandatory accreditation had been taken and said an “extensive consultation” on the changes would be launched shortly.

She said: “It has got confused. In order for something to become mandatory it has to have either statutory guidance or legislation.

“The government’s ambition is that this is rolled out. Whether that needs to be through a mandatory mechanism is one of the questions we will ask over the next few weeks.”

The Department for Education told Community Care the consultation would address questions over who would pay for accreditation tests and the implications for practitioners who fail the assessments.

Trowler said the consultation would also seek views on the government’s plan to create a new body to regulate and set professional standards for social work.

She defended the government against accusations the profession was kept in the dark over the plans: “I don’t think this has just come out of the blue. There’s been a huge amount of discussion and debate about those two things [regulation and accreditation].

“With accreditation we’ve had extensive involvement from social workers. Hundreds of social workers across the country are testing the assessment method. The principal social workers network has been fantastic…and we’ve been really helped by input from children and families on the work.”

Debate over chief social worker roles

Much of the BASW debate focused on the role of the chief social workers and how they represent the profession’s views to government.

Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston university, said: “In 2008, I suggested there should be a chief social worker that would bring expertise and wisdom into government.

“But I’m concerned it is been rescoped so that it is a way the government comes out to tell us what we should be doing.”

Peter Beresford, emeritus professor of social work at Brunel university, voiced similar concerns: “We’re not getting what Ray Jones hoped for. Maybe there are issues here about the meaning of being a social worker which could apply to attaching that label to the chief social worker.

“The truth is we are getting people within government telling social workers what they are going to do from the perspective of government.”

Trowler said her role was to act as a “conduit for frontline practice” to government but warned the profession needed to develop its own “strong voice”.

‘I’m a civil servant’

She said: “I don’t pretend to be the voice of the profession. I’m my voice. I’m a civil servant and I see my role very much about offering advice to ministers based on what other people tell me about the system. That includes children and families as well as social workers out there doing the job.”

Ruth Allen, who will take over as BASW chief executive in April, said the profession had a right to shape the chief social worker roles but also had to develop its own challenges to government policy.

“We need to be working as an association and as a collective of organisations around the sort of answers we want to put out there as an alternative to some of the things that are coming through.

“That is the way we empower ourselves as an organisation and it is how we will mature our relationship with government. Every profession has to develop its relationship with Whitehall and we have to think strategically how we do that.”

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3 Responses to Trowler: ‘Social workers will get say on mandatory accreditation’

  1. Mel Panther January 25, 2016 at 8:06 pm #


    I think it is long overdue, Child social workers involved in the decision making and application to the courts should have the opportunity to be properly accredited to have the expertise to do so. Pretty much as a mental health social worker and now others need to have the approved mental health practice award when involved in the decision makinbg regarding fundamental changes in the lives of adults.

    This would force the surrounding professionals to act up to this level and the assurance that someone is suitably qualified, supported and experienced is able to put forward the best interests of the child to the courts and the safeguarding system in general.

  2. Phil Sanderson January 25, 2016 at 8:20 pm #

    I am not sure what a conduit for frontline practice actually means. Trowler does not speak for ordinary social workers she speaks for management and the Tories

  3. Debbie January 27, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

    When will the government listen to ordinary social workers? They can pour all the money they have into accreditation and university courses and committees for this and that and I feel it will make very little difference and may even drive more experienced social workers away. This could well prove to be the straw that beaks the camel’s back. We have gone through several different qualifying education, we have gone through changes each time there is a tragedy and more is added to our caseloads. One thing will change social work overnight. Many more workers leading to much lower caseloads, leaving time for workers to get to know their families so being able to notice changes in the children. That is the only thing that will make a real difference. Whilst they carry on putting hurdles in front of workers, there will continue to be a mass exodus of people feeling that being a social worker is not worth the time any more.