The government’s accreditation programme for children’s social workers has been expanded despite the coronavirus lockdown halting assessment activities.
A letter published by the Department for Education (DfE) revealed that 12 new local authorities had joined the National Assessment and Accreditation System (NAAS) programme, taking the total number of participants to 68.
The group of councils are not part of the existing first two NAAS phases, which have resulted in more than 1,600 practitioners being assessed, through which the the progress of the scheme will be evaluated and the DfE will take a decision on its wider roll-out.
Some of the new councils are in the process of improving services in the wake of unfavourable Ofsted judgments. A source at one said adopting the NAAS would assist in benchmarking social work practice.
A statement provided by the DfE said that the new participating authorities had been invited to join the scheme in order to expand its reach in “under-represented” areas such as the South West and Merseyside.
The DfE said that at present NAAS was running in “background mode”, with all assessment centres closed since 17 March due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Its statement added that the £1.9m cost of grants released to the councils had been included in a figure of £24m for the total cost of NAAS to date, which the children’s minister Vicky Ford recently released.
While the new letter does not explicitly say how many social workers are expected to undertake the NAAS, as has been the case in previous documents, sources told Community Care that targets of 20% of the workforce within a year had been set.
That figure mirrors expectations placed on councils in earlier phases – though the figures released by Ford revealed that actual take-up around the country has been highly variable.
Some councils have offered incentives to social workers in order to take part in accreditation – which recent freedom of information requests by independent social worker Simon Cardy revealed to be up to £400.
As in previous round, the new grants for authorities include £10,000 earmarked “to champion the ongoing research and evaluation of the programme, which is being used to inform and develop the NAAS as it rolls out”.
Practitioners in some boroughs have also told Community Care that the DfE’s research partner, Kantar, has struggled to persuade social workers to participate in evaluating their NAAS experience once accreditation is over.