Frontline graduates face restrictions on practising outside of England

Regulators in Scotland and Northern Ireland say the specialist fast-track programme’s social work curriculum is insufficiently generic

Picture: zinkevych/fotolia

Social workers trained by the Frontline fast-track programme will face restrictions on practising outside of England.

The social work regulators in Scotland and Northern Ireland have concluded Frontline’s course is not generic enough to arm social workers with the skills to work with all age groups. As a default, the regulators will only register Frontline graduates on the condition they work in children’s services or take on extra training.

The move is unprecedented and means changes are likely to be made to a longstanding agreement designed to help social workers move between UK countries.

The memorandum of understanding between the HCPC, which regulates social workers in England, and their equivalent organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland states that social workers trained on an approved course in one part of the UK can register in another UK country without extra requirements.

The HCPC has approved Frontline as meeting its professional and education standards. Graduates from the programme qualify with a social work degree and can practise in any setting in England.

Frontline is focused on social work with children and families. However, its trainees also learn about work with adults and take on a 30-day placement in adult settings.

The course is one of three specialist social work training routes backed by the Westminster government. The others are Step up to Social Work, a children’s social work focused course, and Think Ahead, which aims to attract graduates into mental health social work.

A Frontline spokesman said the decision of the regulators “casts doubt” on the position of all English specialist routes in respect to their graduates seeking registration in other UK countries.

“Despite repeated requests the regulators have not yet revealed what evidence was taken into account in reaching this decision,” he said.

“We have received no requests for our course material and they have not taken evidence from anyone who has undertaken the qualifying programme. Our understanding is that HCPC are also in contact and are trying to bring to light what evidence was used to reach their decision.”

Marc Seale, chief executive of the HCPC, told Community Care he had contacted the other regulators about their decision.

“Essentially they feel that the standards of knowledge, skills and proficiency of The Frontline programme doesn’t meet their standards for being able to work outside of children and families settings,” he said.

Seale said he was confident Frontline, and the other HCPC approved courses, were producing social workers “ready for safe and effective practise” in line with the HCPC’s standards. He said it was up for the other regulators to make their own decisions about their own standards but he hoped a solution could be found to the Frontline issue.

“It is really advantageous for professionals, employers and the regulators if we have movement within the UK.”

In statements, the Scottish Social Services Council and the Northern Ireland Social Care Council said they had reached the view that Frontline “does not meet the full range of initial social work training” required in their countries.

“The councils are mindful of the need to support workforce mobility throughout the UK and have therefore, within their respective legislative requirements, arrived at positions which should support mobility and preserve the requirements for registration as a social worker,” the statements said.

The organisations said they would assess a Frontline graduate’s qualification and subsequent experience to see if registration criteria are met.

“Where this is not the case the social worker will be registered with a requirement to undertake additional specified training and may have their practice restricted to work with children and families, until the additional training has been completed.”

The Care Council for Wales said anyone qualifying through Frontline would have to undertake “a consolidation programme”, which it requires of any other newly qualified social worker from any other parts of the UK. “If they have post-qualifying experience, their case would be considered on its merits,” a spokesperson added.

3 Responses to Frontline graduates face restrictions on practising outside of England

  1. lilybright April 3, 2017 at 8:15 pm #

    Glad that the Welsh and Scottish regulators have taken on board precisely the points that those of us who are not in thrall to neoliberal ideology have been making from the moment that Frontline was proposed. Good.

  2. Jim Greer April 4, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

    I think this illustrates a failure on the part of the regulators in England to properly set out a curriculum for social work at the point that HCPC and The College of Social Work took over regulation. At the time the College were issuing curriculum guides for all sots of topics such as how mental health or youth justice should be taught by Universities. However, there was no overall guide which specified that mental health, for example, had to covered at all on a social work course. When I raised my concerns about this in a consultation meeting held by The College and HCPC I was told by a representative of the College that they ‘did not want to be prescriptive’ about what was taught on social work courses. So, we had a very strange situation in which there was no requirement to any part of the curriculum but very prescriptive guidance about how parts of the curriculum should be taught IF they were covered.
    Inevitably this bizarre failure to make even the loosest of guidance about what a social work student needs to learn was going to lead to anomalies and problems. It is the single failure which opened the door for highly specialist courses to give entry to a generic profession. There is of course, nothing wrong with social work degrees becoming specialist However, this ought to happen by design rather than oversight.

  3. londonboy April 4, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

    Not sure which programme my son’s current SW has come from (Service users would be impertinent to ask) but she is brilliant so take heart there are some good programmes out there.