International consultancy firm handed £3.6 million social work accreditation contract

The firm will develop accreditation processes to roll out across the social work accreditation pilot

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

An international management, engineering and development consultancy group has been put in charge of rolling out the first phase of social work accreditation.

Mott MacDonald will use the £3.6 million contract to develop accreditation processes and roll it out across the pilot authorities. Between 1,200 and 2,300 social workers will be tested in the pilot that runs until the end of 2019.

At the end of the pilot phase, Mott MacDonald is expected to work with a research partner to produce a report on outcomes and conclusions from the pilot. The consultancy has previously received money from the Department for Education to implement the adoption support fund and reforms of care for children with special educational needs.

It will lead a consortium of organisations involved in delivering the tests. This includes:

  • Synergy Learning to support technical delivery;
  • React to provide actors;
  • Attenti to provide qualified assessors;
  • Kingston University to provide moderation services;
  • Pete Dwyer, the professional lead and engagement partner; and
  • The Prince’s Trust.

Social work reforms

The decision to slow down accreditation into a two-year pilot phase was made last year. In the original tender document, the government anticipated 550 social workers from local authorities being accredited in the first part of the pilot, with a minimum of 900 accredited in the second phase from 12-15 local authorities.

The National Assessment and Accreditation System (NAAS) is a key part of the government’s children’s social work reforms. It currently applies to frontline social workers and managers, who need to be endorsed by their employer to take the pass or fail tests.

Accreditation involves an employer endorsement, an online question and answer test, an online scenario-based assessment and a simulated practice observation. Failing the test will not affect a social worker’s registration, but employers will be expected to support those who fail to retake the tests.


As part of the contract, Mott MacDonald must work with the Department for Education to agree systems for dealing with retakes, concerns, queries, complaints and appeals.

The contract includes a requirement to find assessment centres, as well as recruit and train assessors, observers and actors for simulated observation. It will also need to expand the existing digital platform for roll out, and design systems for retakes, appeals and employer feedback.

Mott MacDonald is not responsible for the content of the accreditation tests, with that responsibility contracted to Deloitte last year.

The social worker as the customer

One core principle of the contract should be the quality of the social worker’s experience, said the documentation.

“A key focus of developing [NAAS] will be the experience of the social workers undergoing the assessment. We want to understand how NAAS affects commitment, morale, and career plans, and any unintended consequences.

“We will be looking for unrelenting quality, focused on the social workers as the customer.”

Mott MacDonald is also contracted to develop a plan for a “continuous feedback loop from social workers and employers to enhance the social worker experience”.

“It is essential, therefore that this contract and its outcomes focuses on how [social workers] feel the experience is for them, and where we can improve upon it,” the contract said.

At the time the tender was first published, a DfE spokesperson said it would not be safe to assume its cost would be per 2,300 social workers nationally, as  many different elements are required in setting up a national system.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services had previously estimated a full national rollout of accreditation would cost £23 million.

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12 Responses to International consultancy firm handed £3.6 million social work accreditation contract

  1. GERALD February 7, 2018 at 12:49 pm #

    At last, people with a tried and tested background, independent of local politics etc. being given the chance to sort out this fiasco.
    In house monitoring systems have been clearly proved not fit for purpose.
    Let us hope that these people are given a real chance and not hampered by Dogma and politics, it is imperative that massive improvements are put into place as soon as possible as children are at risk under the existing system, something drastic needs to be done.

  2. Tom J February 7, 2018 at 1:21 pm #

    What a weird world we live in! £3.6 million pounds for Mott MacDonald, £2 million for KPMG, £5.1 million for Deloitte, anyone else fancy a few million?….. Meanwhile Local Authorities are on their knees, barely able to meet their statutory responsibilities let alone offering quality early intervention support!

    It wouldn’t be so bad if these private companies were bastions of greatness, however time and time again we see they are anything but. My first Google search notes ”services provided by Mott MacDonald throughout the project were unsatisfactory” and to be honest I expect nothing less.

    I truly believe that the £2 million pounds handed to KPMG will achieve zero impact for children and families living in Britain.


    • Jane February 9, 2018 at 9:07 am #

      And even more depressing when , supposedly, the social work profession has a presence within government, in the form of a Chief Social Worker for Children and Families who has driven the whole process.

  3. North West February 7, 2018 at 5:10 pm #

    How can the SW be the customer if your under assessment?

  4. Jo February 7, 2018 at 9:02 pm #

    Mott McDonald seem to get everything the DFE put out to tender!

  5. Lisa Mc February 8, 2018 at 6:02 pm #

    How much more time and money will be wasted feeding into consultants and agencies who are driven by profit margins. The children of this country have a threadbare system with very little money for resources .. budgets for local authorities should be receiving these big cash injection for frontline services!

    Social workers are registered and qualified and accountable for their practice and abide by the codes set out by the HCPC!


    • Denise February 9, 2018 at 8:59 am #


  6. Dr Steve Rogowski February 8, 2018 at 8:39 pm #

    Outsourcing/privatisation whatever you want to call it does not work other than to make profits for those at the top of outsourcing organisations. We can all think of the culprits.

  7. Gary irwin February 8, 2018 at 9:53 pm #

    What a waste of money,dear god this Tory gov won’t rest until the public sector is totally demolished,all the while pretending they are only trying to raise standards.Tell that to the police,probation,nhs,teachers etc.

  8. Chris Akrill February 8, 2018 at 10:41 pm #

    I completely agree with all the above comments.What an absolutely ridiculous waste of time and money which could be channelled into supporting families and alleviating some of the misery social workers encounter on a daily basis.

  9. Simon Cardy February 9, 2018 at 4:11 pm #

    We and the public purse are simply being fleeced! Please raise this development with your trade union, professional organisation and complain to your MP.

  10. jim February 12, 2018 at 10:51 am #

    this is all part of this nonsense by the Tories to privatise everything where posible in the public sector. Its part of the ‘value for money’ culture bought into by new labour as well. Why don’t they set up an independent complaints body to look at any and all complaints made about services provided by Councils or Health Trusts?

    In N.Ireland we have the toal farce where the Health&Social Service Trusts investigate complaints against its own staff or services, and guess what? .. hardly surprising that very few of the complaints made are ruled in favour of the complainant, and nearly always absolve the Trust! No wonder they are happy to encourage complaints! If one is still not happy with the outcome one can go to the Ombudsman which can take months if not years, and the Ombusman has no leagl powers to penalise the Trust. All he can do is embarrass them or request that they take a certain action