Accreditation tests for social workers: government reveals consultation response

The long-awaited response to the consultation on controversial accreditation tests has been published

Image of computer key marked 'assessment' (Credit: momius / Adobe Stock)
(Credit: momius / Adobe Stock)

The government has published its long-awaited response to the consultation on accreditation tests for children’s social workers.

The Department for Education revealed the responses to the controversial new tests this week, which shed more light on the government’s climbdown over accrediting social workers across the country by 2020.

The government was forced to reconsider the plans, which would have seen 30,000 children’s social workers sit the accreditation tests by 2020, following a mixed response to the consultation.

Just 34% of the 396 respondents agreed with the initial proposal to accredit all social workers by 2020, while 59% rest were split between being uncertain that it would work and flatly saying it wouldn’t.

“Responses identified a number of key issues, but there was overwhelming concern for the effective delivery of [the National Assessment and Accreditation System]. We have considered carefully these concerns and are subsequently revisiting delivery plans,” the response said.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services said in its submission that the scheme would be “poor value”, and would only work if it was mandatory and fully funded.

Test authorities to start rollout in 2018

The government had outlined plans to move to a two-phase rollout of test authorities before rolling it out nationally earlier this year.

The first five authorities to deliver accreditation will be Bury, Leeds, Manchester, Oldham and Wigan. These authorities will begin rolling out the tests, supported by grant funding, in 2018. Between twelve and fifteen authorities will complete phase two in 2019.

While the test is not mandatory, the government will review this position following the testing phases and consider whether more grant funding will be necessary.

The response added that while not meeting the standards will not impact on a social worker’s registration, the government expects employers to decide “if the outcome of assessment should form part of pay and reward, or any performance proceedings”.

It said the government would “monitor this aspect of the system closely”.

“It is our hope that local authorities will think carefully about what high scores mean and whether they will wish to incentivise and reward those who do very well with, perhaps, an enhanced role within the organisation.”


The government said all social workers will receive feedback from the assessment. Those who are deemed to have ‘not met’ the standard will get feedback in line with each area of the knowledge and skills statement.

“Employers will then be expected to assist that individual to improve their knowledge and skills in those areas through local support and, if needed, learning and development,” the consultation said.

“As a social worker’s HCPC registration remains unaffected, it is for the employer to decide if the outcome of the assessment will form part of any performance proceedings – as any other evidence collected during the social worker’s employment would do.”

The consultation was published at the same time as the government revealed it has begun recruiting for the chief executive and chair of Social Work England, which will be based in Sheffield when it is established. There is no timeframe for when the regulator will be launched, but the government does not expect it to begin regulating the profession before Spring 2019.

‘Strengthen professional status’

Children’s minister, Robert Goodwill said: “The National Assessment and Accreditation System is a key part of this work to strengthen the skills and professional status of child and family social workers so they can provide this vital support to children who need it.”

“We welcome the constructive feedback we have received and will work closely with the sector and local councils to support them as they start to introduce the new system in 2018,” he added.

The consultation response also raised concerns about how the knowledge and skills statement (KSS) was not being embedded in local authorities. The KSS is proposed to be the basis for the accreditation assessment, but this is currently being discussed with the sector in a series of roundtables, which the government intends to publish a report on in 2018.

“A recent survey by Skills for Care revealed that a quarter of local authorities have still not begun the process of embedding the KSS. And the proof of concept phase suggested a substantial number of social workers do not currently meet the standards set out in the KSS,” the response said.

It added: “We therefore need a way to support employers to use the KSS and align their performance management and training to them.”

Steve Walker, director for children’s services in Leeds council, said the accreditation system had brought a “welcome focus” on how local authorities can support best practice.

“Leeds’ involvement in the accreditation system will provide us with an opportunity to review and strengthen our career development opportunities for social workers and enable us to recruit and retain great social workers, which is what children and young people need and deserve.”

More from Community Care

10 Responses to Accreditation tests for social workers: government reveals consultation response

  1. Sonia lewis December 6, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

    The elephant in the room : more investment in retaining social work staff would be beneficial not more training to undermine the good will that social work personnel bring with them to the profession.

  2. Santokh Ghai December 6, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

    Ultimately it may become mandatory to pass this accreditation test

  3. Sabina December 7, 2017 at 8:47 am #

    I’m currently studying to become a social worker, 3 years of intense study with work placements and now I may have to undertake more assessments to prove I am capable of the job. What qualifications do Ministers and Politicians have to pass to show they are worthy of their positions. SW are already under a lot of pressure through caseloads, media negativity and low staff morale, not sure this is the best way to retain people or address the balance, certainly made me sceptical.

  4. A Man Called Horse December 7, 2017 at 10:56 am #

    This particular vicious Tory Government are intent on destroying Social Workers by making them all rats on a spinning wheel. You will have to keep running very fast to stay on the wheel and if you fall off or falter in any way you will be half way out of the door.

    The tests have already been shown as biased against older Social Workers and none white ethnic groups.

    The Tories need a big stick to beat social workers and accreditation is that big stick. Seriously what do you think will happen to Social Workers considered unable to meet the new standards? It will not be we really appreciate your contribution, the way out is first on your right.

    Politicians are having a laugh at your expense. If you tolerate this nonsense you will put up with anything.

    • Andy December 12, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

      Absolutely right. When did we as a profession become so bovinely supine that we allow this to be foisted upon us? Why is the government pursuing this when the ADSS have stated it will be poor value? I think we know the answer to this…. Which other qualified profession has to be accredited to justify its existence? Doctors? Teachers? Police Officers? Nurses?

      Does anyone else think this could to lead to legal challenges being made given it isn’t compulsory and won’t affect our registration?

      If I don’t have the required skills and knowledge after 30 years of working with children and families, whose fault is that- mine or the various LA’s I have worked in?

      We should consider working to the terms of our contracts until this ridiculous scheme is flushed away

  5. JD December 8, 2017 at 9:49 am #

    I wonder how much these results are skewed by sycophantic principle social workers who did a collective survey amongst their social workers. The bottom line is that the principle social worker role is not carried out the in the way it was set up to do, in that they do not represent the voice of the practitioner within senior management. Instead they are simply another management tool and this is evidenced by the fact that although our principle SW surveyed social workers she did not include any questions about whether we objected to it.
    The strange thing is that this authority does actually complete the social work health check, but it would appear that the negative year on year results are not acted upon, which again makes a mockery of what the principle SW is supposed to do. Yet clearly if some of these issues were addressed it is likely that morale and performance would improve.
    Stop the NAAS, but also consider getting rid of the club of management tools who are equally ineffective.

    • Spelling December 13, 2017 at 10:45 pm #

      I think you mean Principal Social Workers

      • Me me December 15, 2017 at 5:41 am #

        That response was just unnecessary. Regardless of the paux far the message is clear. Your pratronisation was totally uncalled for. This is another problem with modern day AS practice in that it measures others capabilities by the standard of the average conservative “white folk ” who have never experienced hardship,kids or any of the real life issues SW’s deal with everyday with very little support. The emotional stress and turmoil of the job is enough without more tests. I concur with an earlier comment that these test only act as a big stick solving nothing. This will only force another panic buy to bridge the gap or lack thereof of good SW’s with good work ethic into an elitist profession. As a practising SW I would argue the whole political agenda and bureaucratic processes are killing people across board. Think I might reconsider my carreer. We’re not appreciated for what we do anyway.

  6. Stuart December 10, 2017 at 9:13 am #

    I’m so disappointed to see my employer is not in the 2018 test bunch, I was really looking forward to all the extra training and help my employer was going to give me after I deliberately scored zero out of a hundred.

    It’s just like the latest brexit fudge (08/12/17) – complete doubletalk. If accreditation is good they have no business taking this long about introducing it. But they’ve now discovered it isn’t and are bit by bit retreating as fast as they can while still saving as much face as possible.

    All hail the revolution. Just a pity I won’t be here to see it.

  7. Anonymous December 10, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

    Well done to the gvt. More testing for SW, more money wasted and none on what benefits the profession or families we work with!