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Children’s services leaders warn accreditation risks creating two-tiered system

The government’s proposed National Assessment and Accreditation System risks creating a two-tiered social work workforce, children’s services leaders have warned.

Responding to the Department for Education’s consultation on the new national assessment and accreditation system (NAAS), the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) could destabilise and “already fragile workforce”.

Rachael Wardell, Chair of the Association’s Workforce Development Policy Committee, said: “ADCS is clear in that, if the government implements assessment and accreditation for the approved child and family practitioner and the practice supervisor statuses, this must be mandatory, rolled out at pace and fully funded by government as a new burden. Without mandation, it is unlikely that the NAAS will be a ‘nationally consistent mechanism’ demonstrating whether social workers can meet the standards set out by the knowledge and skills statements, as described in Putting Children First (2016). Voluntary implementation poses a number of risks which could further destabilise an already fragile workforce.”

Ms Wardell added that voluntary implementation could result in the creation of a two-tier system – dividing the workforce into social workers who are accredited and those who aren’t. In practice, this could lead to situations whereby a social worker’s professional judgement could be questioned if they are unaccredited despite there being no statutory requirement for this.

“This is concerning and will do nothing to help raise the confidence of the profession or consistency across the workforce,” she added.

The ADCS said that while it welcomes the government’s commitment to raising the quality and confidence of the children and family social work workforce, it questions in the context of austerity and rising demand for services, whether at a cost of £23m to the public purse, the NAAS represents good value for money.

“Instead, this money would be much better spent on supporting front line and early help services that we know are currently under enormous strain given the deepening pressures on children social care,” added Ms Wardell.

The Department for Education has said it wants 8,000 social workers accredited by 2018.

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