NAAS scrapped after hard UNISON campaigning

The DfE has announced the accreditation scheme for children’s social workers will be closed in March after very low take-up

After years of strong, coordinated campaigning by UNISON, the department for education (DfE) has announced that the national assessment and accreditation scheme (NAAS) for children’s social workers will be closed in March 2022.

The DfE says that this decision was taken following feedback from social workers, councils and trusts as well as learning from comparable professions that have moved towards remote assessment during the pandemic.

UNISON has campaigned for NAAS to be scrapped from its inception, believing the scheme unnecessarily wasted millions of pounds when there were already robust systems in place to ensure the standards of social workers.

It also piled further pressure on an already massively overworked workforce and took them away from the frontline.

The scheme was initially rolled out on a voluntary basis and UNISON asked its members not to participate unless it was compulsory under their contract of employment. As a result, freedom of information requests and branch surveys indicated that take-up of the scheme was poor and, in early 2020, testing was suspended due to lockdown.

The original DfE plan was for all children’s social workers to be assessed by 2020. However, since being introduced in 2018, only 1,700 social workers have been accredited in 69 councils and children’s trusts. This is only 5% of the children’s statutory workforce and, as of 2020, the scheme had cost taxpayers £24m.

Speaking of the closure of the scheme, UNISON national officer for social work Gill Archer said: “We want to thank regions and branches for all their hard work campaigning against this scheme as well as to thank members for pulling together and holding tight against it. It’s been a great example of the power of collective action.

“However, we must still be on watch for another tender coming out for NAAS’s replacement. The DfE say they will be devising a new model to be in place by the end of 2022 and UNISON is meeting with them to discuss what approach they will be taking and to put forward the view that further of children’s social workers testing is unnecessary.”