Frontline’s fast-track training scheme for children’s social workers must meet 31 conditions in order to be approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), including a requirement to show how students will be equipped to work with adults.
Frontline – officially named the Frontline Academy – is due to start training its first cohort of 112 students at a five-week summer institute in July. However, all qualifying social work education programmes in England must be stamped with the HCPC’s approval before they can take on students.
The HCPC carried out an initial assessment of Frontline’s proposed programme in February, to determine whether its curriculum and partnership arrangements with employers and educators meet the regulator’s standards.
The HCPC’s visitors – both social workers – concluded that 26 of its standards of education and training have been met by Frontline and that conditions should be set on the remaining 31, all of which must be met before the programme can be approved.
In a response to the HCPC dated 19 March, Donald Forrester, professor of social work research at the University of Bedfordshire (Frontline’s academic partner), and Josh MacAlister, chief executive of Frontline, reiterated their commitment to meeting the HCPC’s standards.
They added: “Frontline is an innovative social work programme that is being developed over a relatively short time period. In this context, there was considerable development in the articulation of the details of the programme policies and procedures between the submission of the documentation for the HCPC visit (January) and the visit itself (at the end of February).”
They said they would send a full set of revised documentation to the HCPC on 4 April.
Understanding the adult perspective
One of the conditions set by the HCPC’s visitors concerned Frontline’s focus on child and family social work in both the curriculum and the practice placement settings.
The visitors acknowledged that the curriculum would include aspects of social work practice outside the sphere of child and family social work and that students would experience other areas of practice during some of their placements.
However, they said they could not determine how the programme would set and assess relevant learning outcomes “to ensure that students will gain the knowledge of the adult perspective and orientation in social work”.
In particular, they could not determine how the learning outcomes of the programme would ensure the students developed an understanding of service users who are experiencing issues such as mental health, learning disabilities, or physical disabilities, or issues faced by older people.
But the Frontline team said they did not recognise the knowledge, skills and values required by child and family social workers “as something distinct and different from ‘adult’ social work as outlined by the HCPC’s visitors”.
“The types of issues referred to, such as adult mental health, learning difficulties and substance use, and working with older people, are all relevant to working with families and integral to effective child and family social work and will therefore be covered by teaching on the programme,” they said.
They accepted the need to provide more detail about the incorporation of both curriculum guidance and the inclusion of learning across a range of service user groups, but asked for more detail in relation to the HCPC’s understanding of child and family social work.
“Our approach to the programme is to teach knowledge, values and skills for working with children, adults and their families. Understanding and working with a variety of ‘adult’ issues is, in our opinion, an essential and core part of child and family social work.
“If this is a different understanding of social work in a child and family setting to that of the visitors, it would be helpful to have clarity on (a) what their understanding of child and family social work is, and (b) what the additional elements of ‘adult’ work that would not be covered by this but required on a social work course are thought to be.”
The visitors reviewed this observation and agreed to amend the condition, but not to withdraw it; they have not yet published the amendments.
A further visit will take place so the HCPC can assess the response to their conditions.
A Frontline spokesperson said: “Like every social work programme HCPC has visited, Frontline has been set conditions. We look forward to meeting these conditions as we complete the approval process.”