The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has offered to support social workers who opt to take part in the government’s pilot of accreditation, which is under way at five councils as of this month.
A joint statement issued today from BASW chair Ruth Allen and John McGowan, the general secretary of the affiliated Social Workers Union (SWU), committed to offering “support and advice” to practitioners who choose to participate in the controversial National Assessment and Accreditation System (NAAS).
But it added that social workers must not face “undue pressure” to take part in the social work accreditation programme.
Difference of opinion
The approach contrasts with that of Unison, which is discouraging members from involvement in NAAS. At present, taking part is voluntary. The union argues that the programme will heap more pressure on social workers and potentially create a two-tier workforce.
The BASW/SWU statement acknowledged the deep unpopularity of NAAS as originally proposed. But it also pointed to the scaling back of its implementation – in the light of concerns from sector bodies – as mitigating some of its flaws.
Initially, the government had planned to have all 30,000 frontline children’s social workers complete accreditation by 2020. Now, just a small fraction of that number are expected to do so.
“Our view is that social workers should make up their own minds about participating and we will support and advise them whatever their decision,” the statement said.
“BASW and SWU support the ongoing development of good practice – social workers need ongoing access to educationally-sound learning, development and professional opportunities that are both challenging and supportive,” it added. “We need to cherish motivated, skilled social workers and maintain the morale, confidence and skill levels of whose who challenge society’s injustices and provide support to people in need day after day.”
The NAAS programme must not be allowed to distract from the structural issues facing children’s social work, the statement from BASW and the SWU said.
“A massive deficit in children’s social care funding, predicted to be at least £2 billion by 2020 according to the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Children’s Services, needs to be addressed,” it said. “No skills-testing regime can bring about wholesale improvement in the experience of children and families while these widely-acknowledged gaps in resources get worse.”
Editor’s note: The headline and first line of this story was edited on 25/07 to better reflect BASW and SWU’s intentions to support participants of the scheme, rather than the overall scheme itself.