Accrediting the first wave of children’s social workers could cost up to £3.5 million, a government contract tender has revealed.
A tender process for delivering the government’s ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’ phase of accreditation was published last week, and put a maximum £3.5 million cost on accrediting up to 2,300 social workers between January 2018 and January 2020.
The government announced last month it would slow down the rollout of accreditation. Its original plan was to accredit 8,000 social workers by the end of next year, and the full children’s workforce of approximately 35,000 by 2020.
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It now anticipates 550 social workers from six authorities being accredited in the alpha phase of the plan, with a further minimum of 900 social workers being accredited from 12-15 beta phase local authorities. During the beta phase, contractors may want to expand the alpha centre to continue accrediting social workers in that area, the contract said.
Not a pilot
The successful bidder would be expected to find assessment centres in the local areas, and recruit and train assessors, observers and actors for simulated observation.
A pre-existing digital platform would need to be expanded ready for roll out, and systems for retakes, appeals and employer feedback all need to be designed. The successful bidder would be expected to work alongside an independent research partner throughout the contract period.
The total contract value would depend on “final throughput of expected social worker numbers”, the tender said.
It also stated that while the government wants to “look at some delivery questions in this phase it is not a pilot or a trial run. The Delivery Partner will be delivering the beginning of what will become national roll out.”
Earlier this year, the government employed Deloitte to help craft the questions on the test, following the evaluation and proof of concept held at the end of last year.
The contract, which was worth £281,000, was to develop knowledge questions and simulated and written assessments for the accreditation tests. This followed the £2 million deal for KPMG and Morning Lane Associates to develop the tests for the proof of concept phase.
Since the £2 million deal was announced in March 2015, this is the first price that has been put on any part of the process of accrediting social workers. Earlier this year the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) estimated the cost for a full national rollout to be around £23 million.
A Department for Education spokesperson told Community Care the total cost of the latest contract would only be decided for this phase once a bidder had been chosen and discussions with them completed.
They added it would not be safe to assume a £3.5 million cost per 2,300 social workers nationally, as there are many different elements required in setting up a national system for the first time. These include other issues not in this contract, such as content development and standard setting.
The slower rollout of accreditation was announced following a consultation earlier this year, the outcome of which the government has yet to publish.
Sector bodies have become increasingly critical of the proposals, with Unison calling for it to be scrapped entirely, and the ADCS has criticised it as poor value for money.
In July, children’s minister Robert Goodwill told Community Care he felt social workers were “up for” accreditation, but the reduced rollout was necessary to get it right.