Frontline had its official launch last week and many familiar faces were in attendance, from education secretary Michael Gove to Labour peer Lord Adonis, chief social worker Isabelle Trowler, College of Social Work chief Annie Hudson, Cafcass chief Anthony Douglas and Professor Julian Le Grand.
The Frontline team is clearly good at getting to know the right people. Founder and chief executive Josh MacAlister was backed early on by Adonis, who was a trustee of Teach First (MacAlister is a Teach First graduate). Adonis’s support apparently secured that of Gove and, while Gove is perhaps unlikely ever to win the popular vote of social workers, he does have influence and access to funding; he has thrown £1m at Frontline so far and there may be more to come.
Back to the launch. Trowler said a few words on video and in person. For the most part, she stuck to emphasising the importance – and joy – of choosing social work as a vocation. She also heaped praise on those involved in Frontline, although she was careful not alienate the rest of the social work academic world, finishing by saying she hoped Frontline would become “part of the rich tapestry of social work education in this country”.
In front of this audience, Gove appeared quite in awe of social workers. He talked about why Teach First is good at attracting the best into teaching, before going on to say: “That’s why Frontline is so important for social work; because as important as teaching is to the future of the nation, social work is even more important and, yes, even more demanding.”
He cracked a joke about his merchant banker and barrister friends “having it easy” compared to social workers. “Their jobs, to my mind, aren’t nearly as intellectually stimulating or demanding or prestigious as being a social worker,” he said. “And my view is that Frontline can help us to ensure that the next generation of graduates, when [big, corporate banks/companies] say join us and by joining us you will affirm your position as one of the most spectacular graduates of this generation, I move that more and more graduates will say, well that’s very flattering, but I’m going into social work.”
Whether you agree with the principles of Frontline and whatever your feelings about Gove, it is encouraging to see social work getting this kind of attention, even if, once again, the focus is on child protection over all else. On that note, a steering group has now been set up to explore the option of a Frontline in adult services. Keep an eye on Community Care for updates on this.
I would love to know what people think of Gove’s comments and support, so please feel free to comment below.
An interview with Lord Adonis will follow shortly…
Photo by Ewan Shears, picturing (from left to right): Isabelle Trowler, Josh MacAlister, Michael Gove, Andrew Adonis