News Insight: Doubts hang over future of workforce development

With the Children’s Workforce Development Council losing government funding, its responsibilities will transfer to the Department for Education. Lauren Higgs reports on the achievements of CWDC and the sector’s hopes for the future of workforce development.

Though the future of the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) had been in the balance for some time, last week’s announcement that the government will remove funding and end its non-departmental public body (NDPB) status sent shockwaves through the sector.

Early years organisations, including the National Day Nurseries Association, warned the government not to lose momentum on workforce development, while the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action argued that its members would “lose out” without the responsive support they currently receive from CWDC.

Sir Paul Ennals, chair of CWDC, admits the decision to end the council’s funding and change its status is “very disappointing”. He also concedes that the move “makes less certain the future of integrated working”.

But he is nonetheless cautiously optimistic. The process of transferring CWDC’s responsibilities to government should be completed by 2012, after which Ennals insists CWDC will continue in some form. Indeed, the organisation was founded in 2005 as an independent company and only became an NDPB in 2007.

Significant contribution

“In essence, the announcement relates to the government’s funding and to the legal status of CWDC as an NDPB,” he says. “We will continue with our company status and we will talk with the Department for Education (DfE) and the rest of the world to work out how employer engagement and workforce reform can better be continued.”

Ennals acknowledges that workforce development activities will “grow and change” once taken in-house at the DfE, but he hopes the principles of joint working will remain.

“The evidence is so firmly in support of integrated training, working and qualifications as being cheaper and more effective,” he says. “It’s hard to imagine that the government will come to any conclusion other than that the fundamentals of the system that we’ve established will continue.”

In a letter to Ennals explaining the reasons behind the move, Education Secretary Michael Gove states that the NDPB model is no longer the most “efficient and accountable way of meeting government aims” but is quick to praise the quality of CWDC’s work. All of CWDC’s funding comes from the DfE, with the budget for 2010/11 at £128.5m.

Funding uncertainty

But the government will face challenges in ensuring the value of CWDC’s work is not lost. For example, the big society vision will be impossible to deliver without support for volunteers and government may struggle to engage small employers and the self-employed to the extent that CWDC has done.

“If we look to more volunteers to deliver services, somebody is going to have to address their training and development needs,” Ennals says. “We are also as yet unsure how the government intends to make sure that voluntary sector employers and self-employed people such as foster carers and childminders are better supported in the future.”

Which of CWDC’s programmes will be continued within government is similarly uncertain. Ennals admits there will be less money for development, but predicts that key programmes such as social worker recruitment, will remain a priority. “It would be hard to imagine them not seeking to find a way of continuing much of what we’ve successfully done in social work,” he says.

However, whether funding will continue in other areas is less clear. “Certainly youth work and play are two examples where out in the field the frontline staff have been very affected by cuts,” Ennals explains. “We haven’t as yet had any reassurance from government as to their commitments to future support of that. Nor have we yet received commitments around continued support for integrated working.”

John Chowcat, general secretary at children’s services union Aspect, warns that cutting workforce development will seriously hinder joint working.

“CWDC is carrying out some major projects to enhance the training and professionalism of key sectors in children and young people’s services,” he says. “The decision to put these functions into the DfE means that programmes will not be able to continue on the same scale. This is a significant setback.”

While he welcomes the CWDC’s intention to continue independently, he is concerned that the profile of workforce development in children’s services is being diminished.

“Lots of people in the workforce will see this as a relegation of children’s services,” he warns. “A body not linked to government will clearly have less clout. But the issues for the workforce that led to CWDC being created remain the same.”

Integrated workforce

Matt Dunkley, vice-president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, wants to see more integrated training for children’s services professionals, not less.

“There are core skills that every professional working with children should have to ensure that children’s needs are recognised and met – knowledge of child development and child protection issues; an understanding of the range of services available for children and the professions that work in these services; and the ability to assess needs in a holistic way,” he says.

“We believe this is the best way of building a workforce that can deliver an integrated and high-quality service for children and their families. This effort should go further, with health visitors and other health professionals receiving training so that they are able to work effectively alongside early years professionals, teachers and social workers.”

He adds that the employer engagement aspect of CWDC’s work has been key to its success, warning that an in-house DfE service may not be as responsive to the needs of employers, the workforce, or children and young people.

Dunkley urges the government to prove its commitment to supporting the children’s workforce within an integrated framework.

Future challenges aside, Ennals is keen to emphasise how proud he is of what CWDC has achieved.

He says the organisation has transformed the face of children’s workforce development and led to the training of “probably hundreds of thousands of professionals”. Whether the government will continue this legacy, and how, remains to be seen.



Social work

    * 56,472 people have registered their interest in training to be a social worker through CWDC’s Be the Difference campaign and applications for social work degrees increased in 2010 by 41 per cent
    * More than 3,000 social workers have entered the Newly Qualified Social Worker (NQSW) programme since its inception in September 2008. More than 500 NQSWs have progressed onto the next stage of CWDC’s early professional development programme
    * 850 managers are developing skills so that they can better support their frontline social workers through CWDC’s Support to Frontline project

Young people’s workforce

    * 25,000 accredited training places are being offered to build capacity in the voluntary and community sector young people’s workforce
    * More than 5,500 leaders and managers in the young people’s workforce have been trained to deliver integrated youth support
    * CWDC has provided funding to nine local areas to support frontline delivery of integrated youth support. Funds have been used for around 180 advanced apprenticeships, 170 foundation degree places and 50 graduate recruits

Early years

    * More than 5,800 people have gained Early Years Professional Status, CWDC’s graduate standard for those leading services for children aged under five. Just over 3,100 are currently in training.
    * More than 6,720 settings and 130 local authorities have registered on CWDC’s early years workforce qualifications audit tool, to aid management of records and targeting of support


    * 4,000 playworkers have enrolled on Level 3 qualifications through the Playwork Level 3 training initiative
    * 600 frontline managers have benefited from CWDC’s Playwork Leadership and Management Programme

Integrated working

    * 130 local authorities to date have signed up to the Voluntary Sector Engagement Fund 2010/11 to support workforce reform activities with a voluntary sector partner
    * All 152 children’s trusts in England have signed up for the One Children’s Workforce Framework so their professionals can work together better
    * 46 people signed up for the leadership programme for workforce planners

Source: Children’s Workforce Development Council