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Gove: ‘My banker friends have it easy compared to social workers’

Frontline 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

Kirsty McGregor

About Kirsty McGregor

Kirsty McGregor is Community Care's workforce editor. She reports daily on social workers' pay and conditions, education, training, career progression, registration and fitness to practise. This includes issues affecting newly qualified social workers across the UK and the recent development of the assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) in England. She is also responsible for producing job hunting and career progression advice.

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3 Responses to Gove: ‘My banker friends have it easy compared to social workers’

  1. Julia Abadi 16 September , 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Positive affirmation of social work is great. However care should be taken not to deflate the morale of those of us who chose social work as their initial, preferred career as compared to those who have come lately, with the idea of a management role within a high status career. There exists the danger that social workers will feel themselves to be part of a hierarchy; those with a Bachelor degree as second class, somehow inferior to the Frontline cohort.

  2. Patrick Donohoe 17 September , 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Utter mealy mouthed nonsense from the arch meddler Gove. Career in high finance on mega bucks or poorly paid overworked under resourced badly managed crisis driven Social Work?

    Oh I can see the queue forming now.

    How about some of this stellar support for those already doing the job in ridiculous circumstances, then Frontline might have more resonance?

    Come on Mr Gove and chums how about it?

  3. choosesparky 17 September , 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    Yes that’s fantastic. Thanks Michael. Very sincerely meant, I’m sure.
    It’s unlikely to get any coverage though, and in fact I’ve not seen this news covered anywhere else- certainly not in the mainstream news on the day the SCR on Daniel Pelka is explored.