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.