Assessment scheme adds to pressure on already overstretched social workers, says UNISON

The government should scrap plans to roll out its new assessment and accreditation scheme for social workers because it will take up valuable time that could be spent helping vulnerable families, says UNISON.

Over nine in ten (93 per cent) social workers who took part in a recent UNISON survey say the National Assessment and Accreditation System (NASS) will increase the pressure on already overstretched local authorities.

The government initially plans to introduce the new scheme later this year in 31 of the 152 English local authorities responsible for family and children’s services later this year.

Ministers claim the NASS will make sure social work teams have the right knowledge and skills. Social workers believe the initiative will do nothing to tackle the problems caused by a lack of resources and overwork, and will actually make things worse, says UNISON.

The overwhelming majority of social workers (97 per cent) who took part in UNISON’s survey said they didn’t have enough time to prepare for, or take part in the assessment and accreditation process.

Ninety three per cent said the time spent having to assess and accredit would have a detrimental affect on the delivery of services.

Just one per cent thought the scheme would address the main problems faced by social workers, and only six per cent that it would be beneficial to the families and individuals they are trying to help.

UNISON head of local government Heather Wakefield said: “Social workers do incredible work, under ever-increasing pressure because of government cuts.

“This ill-thought out scheme threatens to make things worse, not better. It doesn’t accurately assess the work staff do, and could prove the final straw for many experienced employees, who may well vote with their feet and leave.

“Ministers should think again, and instead of making dedicated employees take this ill-conceived test, provide more resources to enable them to do their jobs properly.”

Notes to editors:
– Consultation on the NASS started on 20 December 2016 and closed on 14 March 2017.
– The government piloted the NASS in 22 local authorities from March 2015 to April 2016, and the report of that exercise is available here.
– The House of Lords will debate the Children and Social Work Bill today (Tuesday).
– UNISON’s survey ran from 15 February to 3 March 2017, and 1,213 social workers responded.
– Comments from social workers completing the survey included: “Social workers could do their jobs better if they were given lower case loads. It’s simple. Testing them more to try and make them work better is illogical. It just takes time and resources from already overstretched services.”
“Social workers and departments are at breaking point across the country. The imposition of an assessment at this time would be unfair. Social workers won’t have the time or resources to prepare for assessments without a detrimental impact on the service.”
– There are more than 28,000 social workers in England dealing with family and children cases.
– The UNISON survey findings are available here.
– Social workers have to be registered to practice with the Health and Care Professions Council.

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