Social work sector welcomes plans to discontinue NAAS social work accreditation

The Government announced it will scrap the controversial scheme in its current format, which has so far only accredited 1,700 social workers and cost £24 million.

18/01/22

Social work sector welcomes plans to discontinue NAAS social work accreditation

The Department for Education (DfE) said it would replace the National Assessment and Accreditation System (NAAS) with a new programme later in the year.

Social workers and social work leaders have welcomed the decision with many questioning the value for money of the system, criticising the Department’s “wasting” of £24 million on the initiative which could have been better invested in the profession.

The NAAS was first announced in 2015, with the intention to validate practice for children and families social workers by standardising the levels of practice, knowledge, and skills across post-qualified social workers.

However, the non-mandatory scheme struggled to attract significant engagement or aid professional development with just 1,700 social workers receiving accreditation under the scheme since it started. Ministers had planned for every children’s social worker to be accredited by 2020, however the target was dropped after a consultation in which just a third of respondents supported the proposals.

“We will be ending the current model of NAAS to develop a revised approach that takes account of feedback from the sector and learnings from the pandemic, while retaining the same rigour, consistency and user-focus,” a spokesperson for the DfE said.

A research report, released last year by Kantar, revealed that the NAAS had struggled to attract significant interest and engagement within its first two trial phases, with concerns over additional workload as well as apprehension over the aims, purposes and longevity of the new accreditation.

However, the report said that despite the low turnout, there were more positive reactions towards the assessment itself, as well as for the training and preparation that practitioners received. Participants suggested that the new accreditation had bolstered their beliefs in their own abilities and “provided validation of their current practice”.

Speaking to PSW magazine John McGowan, General Secretary of the Social Workers Union, said the system has been “a shocking waste of £24 million that could have been better spent on investing in children’s social work.”

“It’s not more testing social workers need but better work conditions to prevent high turnover and burnout rates in children’s social work.

“Social workers have already highlighted that their caseloads are unmanageable and that they are being inundated with referrals.”

Rachael Wardell, Chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) Workforce Development Policy Committee said that directors had “long held reservations about the necessity and value for money of the National Assessment and Accreditation System (NAAS) when we have limited resources available.”

“The announcement that the NAAS will not continue in its present form beyond March 2022 affords us all a real opportunity to invest in other parts of the wider children’s workforce that equally need our attention, such as early help services, and to think differently about further development of the social work workforce.

“Many local authorities will have their own CPD offer in place to support social workers and it is important that they are given the financial means to continue or expand these offers. We also know that retaining enough experienced social workers is a big challenge and ADCS urges the government to use this opportunity to develop a national recruitment and retention strategy to encourage more people into the profession, and crucially to want to stay.”

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