Backlash sees government scale back social work accreditation plans

Children’s minister says accreditation system will be “fundamentally changed” and focus less on the number of social workers tested

Department for Education

The government has scaled back plans for the first phase of its controversial testing programme of social workers after facing a backlash from sector bodies over the scheme.

Accreditation assessments of children’s social workers will now be initially rolled out at six local authorities, instead of the 31 councils the Department for Education (DfE) had promised would run the tests over the next year.

The DfE told Community Care it still intends to eventually roll out the scheme nationally but targets for at least 8,000 children’s social workers to be accredited by December 2018, and all 30,000 to be accredited by 2020, have been dropped.

Children’s minister Robert Goodwill said the department had “fundamentally changed” its plans for accreditation after analysing the results of a government consultation.

Writing in The Guardian, Goodwill said: “Rather than having a system focused on the numbers of social workers assessed, we will focus much more on the support that local authorities and individuals will need.

“Where we initially proposed working with 31 pilot authorities, we now plan to start work with six. National rollout will follow, subject to and informed by the findings in the early phases.”

The DfE has said the 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 the plans have faced fierce criticism from social workers and sector bodies.

Goodwill said the government received more than 400 responses to its consultation on accreditation. The DfE has still to release the results but several organisations have published their consultation responses.

In a highly critical submission the Association of Directors of Children’s Services questioned the accreditation scheme’s value for money at a time when frontline services are stretched. The British Association of Social Workers said the “unpopular” and “flawed” tests could drive social workers out of the profession.

This week Unison launched a petition urging Goodwill to scrap the accreditation plans entirely. The union said a survey of its social worker members found more than 90% did not feel the tests would benefit social workers or the children and families they support.

Goodwill said the DfE wanted to make sure all children received high quality support.

“So we have set clear expectations for child and family social workers, and will work with them to make sure they get the training and support they need to meet these standards,” he said.

“That’s why we are introducing a system of assessment and accreditation to ensure standards are consistent, as well as giving the profession more confidence in the work they do.”

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6 Responses to Backlash sees government scale back social work accreditation plans

  1. William July 6, 2017 at 2:41 pm #

    Sigh… what a gigantic waste of time, money and precious resources – DISGRACE. The worse thing is I’m not surprised at all; the general consensus has always been sceptical i.e. how on earth does this help? How on earth is it delivered?

    Chief social worker completely out of touch with social workers on the ground.

    What is needed IMO:

    A well resourced PQ route for social workers linked into observations of their practice. This could provide the accreditation and provide SWs with opportunities for development – two birds one stone.

  2. Too old for this stuff July 6, 2017 at 2:41 pm #

    Do we know if this first tranche will still include all NQSWs who have completed the ASYE programme, as was originally intended?

  3. Bham social worker July 6, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

    I have been qualified for two years and am working in child in care social work and I try to continually develop my skills and knowledge. I had a protected case load in my first year in practice (ASYE) and benefitted from extra time to complete training, to reflect and to access a good standard of regular supervision. So I believe having a manageable caseload and a management structure that values skills and learning is key to developing practice.

    I took part in the accreditation inital pilot and passed, but in my opinion it was nonsensical and a waste of my time. For instance, it didn’t tell me anything about my practice, or gaps in knowledge and skills other than for instance I didn’t know specific answers for some arbitrary and pointless questions, such as how many words should a child know at age 4, or 5. Many other questions were not relevant to my experience and learning in child in care, so my knowledge for instance of adults practice, or child protection timescales was hazy and is not relevant to my current practice.

    In addition, many councils seem to recognise that relationship based practice is a key to good social work, which requires time to spend with families, time to reflect, time to access supervision and access further learning where necessary. The Munro report said that bureaucracy and paperwork were barriers to good social work practice and so someone in Whitehall decides to spend £23 million to add more bureaucracy and paperwork to social worker and take time away from already overworked and overstretched social workers and resources in the form of testing for accrediation. Completely crazy. What a waste of money and resources, that could have been used in so many useful ways. Such as employing more frontline workers, paying social workers better (lift the pay cap), employ more admin staff, improve IT….

    Surely better to ask social workers what they need to develop practice and social work skills.

  4. Lilybright July 7, 2017 at 10:21 am #

    It’s not tests that will improve public confidence in SWs. That can be achieved by ministers simply stopping their relentless denigration of the profession & acknowledging the good work we actually do.

  5. Casper July 7, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

    I think it is a very good idea. If you are a social worker who does the best for a family a protect children then fair enough you will find it a “waste of time”. However, realistically there is many problems within Children’s Social Care where parents are being punished due to lack of knowledge and unwillingness to accept advise from professionals (especially when dealing with children with disabilities). There are many cases where social workers do not understand the childrens and the families needs and instantly target the parents for being at fault!

  6. Brad Social Worker July 11, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

    Testing a poorly resourced, under valued and constantly berated profession is not the answer. Government smoke screen to hide the fact that they will not fund an adequate social care system. Instead we get more austerity. Give children’s social care the money to employ more social workers and so reduce case loads which are unmanageable. Spend that 20 million on better training not silly tests which prove nothing except some have better memories than others. Ask front line workers what they want, not puppets who say testing hard working social workers is the answer to preventing mistakes which inevitably cost children’s lives. When will the powers that be wake up??? I despair.