“Say No” to National Assessment and Accreditation

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Conference
2018 Local Government Service Group Conference
Date
1 January 2018
Decision
Carried

The Conservative government is planning to introduce an accreditation system for children and family social workers which will undoubtedly put already stretched social workers under even more pressure to meet rising demands on services that protect Children and Young People (CYP).

Conference notes:

• Children’s services are in financial crisis. According to report in Guardian on 8 Aug 2017 councils warn that children’s services are £600m in the red. Social workers have high workloads with increasing referrals;

• A recent Local Government Association (12/01/18) survey found that a child or young person was referred to CYP services every 49 seconds whilst social workers struggle to cope with unprecedented caseload demands resulting in increased stress and anxiety amongst staff;

• Branches across the regions are representing record numbers of social workers in disciplinary procedures or in ill health procedures as a direct result of workload pressures and difficulties with wellbeing resulting from stress and associated workplace problems;

• Social work with children and families urgently needs investment. But instead of putting the services children and families need in place, the government’s response has been to recommend unnecessary tests for social workers in England at a high financial cost;

• Social workers have overwhelmingly voiced opposition to the National Assessment and Accreditation System (NAAS) in a UNISON survey; Heather Wakefield, UNISON’s head of local government’s comments about the NAAS:“This ill thought out scheme threatens to make things worse, not better. It doesn’t accurately assess the work staff do, and could prove to be the final straw for many experienced employees, who may vote with their feet and leave;”

• The government has already significantly reduced the roll out of NAAS following opposition from council leaders, social work managers, social workers and UNISON.

Conference believes:

• The National Assessment and Accreditation System will have a detrimental effect on social workers who have already high case-loads and will lead to individual social workers getting blamed more frequently rather than for lack of service provision due to austerity.

• It is a national scandal that this government awarded, in February 2018, a contract to an international consultancy firm and that the cost of this contract for social work accreditation is £3.6 million. Mott Macdonald, a construction company, will develop and roll out the scheme across the pilot authorities.

• The previous pilot projects were all criticised by all social work organisations. The scheme up to now is shown to be unworkable. Previous pilot projects showed that there was an in built discrimination against older and ethnic minority social workers.

• That investment in social work development is welcomed but should be planned in line with the views of experienced social workers;

• That social work development should be part of an ongoing accreditation system that results in recognised qualifications/developmental awards rather than a potentially punitive exercise and that developmental activity should be rewarded with pay progression;

• That the Tory government should be focusing resources to local communities and preventative services that have been viciously cut such as children’s centres. This will provide for much better outcomes for children and young people;

• That there is a crisis in our social work system, caused by developments like these along with continued austerity. Social workers are continually faced with excessive workloads, reductions in qualified staffing, and cuts in training and professional development;

• That social work assessment and accreditation should not be developed by private organisations such as Mott MacDonald or Deloitte rather by organisations dedicated to the profession such as BASW and the Social Work Action Network with close consultation with trade unions that represent social workers in the workplace.

Conference is concerned that £2 million has already been spent with contracts awarded to KPMG and Morning Lane, the company which was co-founded by the chief social worker. The collapse of Carillion and no evidence that private sector provides better outcomes for children means that social work accreditation should not be privatised.

Furthermore, this conference believes we should question whether there is a conflict of interest when a contract is awarded to a company the chief social worker has had involvement with.

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

Conference asks the local government service group executive to:

1) Oppose the introduction of NAAS at national and local level;

2) Organise a campaign amongst the local authorities UNISON branches involved in the first and second phases;

3) Organise forums of members directly affected seeking the support of other social work organisations.

4) Use all avenues to explore why is so much money going to private companies not related to social work when the money could be going to front line services;

5) Re-state social work best practice is best monitored through supervision and local authority procedures. Local authorities understand the local needs within their population;

6) To challenge the DfE to introduce targets for restricted caseloads and regular reflective supervision which social workers, judges, academics and others have identified in numerous research documents, legal judgements and serious case reviews this is evidenced as supporting social workers to assess and manage risk and effectively support children and young people. It is also crucial to the development of social workers.