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08.07.16

Accreditation best way to restore confidence in social work, says Trowler

The new accreditation and regulation system for social workers is the best way of restoring confidence in the profession, the chief social worker for children and families has said.

Speaking at the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) annual conference in Manchester, Isabelle Trowler urged colleagues to embrace the new system, saying it was the best way to restore confidence in the profession.

Under the system, all social workers will be assessed and accredited under supervision by a new regulator.

Trowler told her colleagues: “A new social work regulator [is] controversial but in my view essential. The government has not just a role, but a responsibility to have a closer relationship to social work. I want government to understand social work, invest in it and promote it.

“When push comes to shove, it’s the best chance all round to get into a position for rebuilding public confidence in the social work profession. And no matter how unfair you think it may be that this is the public narrative, that we have to get better, we’re stuck with it and we need to do something about it.”

Children’s social services have faced criticism in recent years owing to high-profile child protection scandals such as the revelation of widespread child sexual abuse in Rotherham, which led to the council being found ‘not fit for purpose’.

Trowler also said that the new social work regulator would give “a much clearer and agreed understanding of what we want social workers to know and do”.

She also said that applying a clear accreditation system to agency social workers would help tackle doubts about their quality.

Council spending on agency social workers increased by a third in 2013-14, to £1.8m for each council.

Almudena Lara, the deputy director for children’s social work reform, explained how the accreditation system had been developed.

The system gives social workers a score out of seven, with a three or below considered unacceptable.

Lara said that in the pilot tests, 20% of social workers scored three or below, although 70% of these scored a three, which is considered borderline.

“Those that were a one or two were probably not very good social workers,” she said, “and there’s a question as to whether they should be in the system in the first place. Those that are a three, the employer can work with them.”

When asked by conference attendees if she was concerned that the failure rate was too high and would destabilise the profession, Trowler said: “I understand it doesn’t sit easy with you, but it doesn’t sit easy with me that you have social workers you are concerned about. Social workers can develop, but poor social work costs.”

Lara said that, following a development process, the accreditation system will include knowledge assessment, simulated observation and endorsement from an employer.

It originally included digital assessment but this is going to be removed.

Lara also said that some social workers expressed concern about the relevance of the knowledge assessment to specialist roles, but that it supplied a “common base and common understanding”.

Earlier this week, education secretary Nicky Morgan promised widespread reforms to local authority children’s services.

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Comments

Prof. Gary Holden   09/07/2016 at 01:29

It appears that Ms. Trowler makes a number of unsupported assertions regarding this new government run accreditation system. Perhaps before spending an unspecified amount of public resources on this venture it would be wise to demonstrate that the system actually produces psychometrically sound assessments of social workers. If "poor social work costs" then it seems reasonable to conclude that 'poor government will cost as much or more'. Prof. Gary Holden New York University: Silver School of Social Work NY, NY, US

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