Social workers believe Frontline will have negative impact on practice

Survey shows 55% of permanent and agency social workers are unconvinced the new fast-track training scheme will improve quality.

Grassroots social workers remain sceptical about the controversial Frontline training scheme according to a recent survey.

Liquid Personnel, a specialist social work supply agency, carried out its annual survey of 650 permanent and agency children and adult’s social workers and found 55% believed the new scheme would have a negative impact on the quality of practice.

Almost 80% did not believe the scheme would address current staffing issues.

Frontline is a fast-tracked social work training scheme, based on a similar one put in place for teaching, where those selected already possess a university degree. Students undergo two years of intensive on-the-job training with a number of evening and weekend sessions to build on intensive residential training at the beginning of the course. Alongside this participants learn theory which they must translate into practice.

The scheme will also pay local authorities to use some of their most experienced social workers to provide support for the students throughout.

However some of the social workers who commented on the Liquid Personnel survey feared such candidates would not make good social workers.

“I believe that it may bring more people who are academically bright but with no heart for the work,” said one.

“You can’t fast track social work training. We don’t need high flyers, we need emotionally intelligent workers. They are tackling the issue from the wrong angle,” claimed another.

Others were concerned that such gifted students would be unlikely to stay in the profession, given the current resources, pay and conditions.

Some were simply cynical.

“The majority I have met [applying for Frontline] are of teaching backgrounds and their expectation is to be in management roles in a short space of time.”
Another commented: “Using inexperienced, enthusiastic new staff to do a specialist task is negligent. But it means a service rather than a waiting list.”

Many felt the scheme devalued their own three year degrees and undermined social work as a profession. Others worried graduates would need huge amounts of support when they entered the workforce.

Liquid Personnel’s managing director, Jonathan Coxon said although he supported any scheme trying to address staffing issues and improve quality, it was clear there were serious reservations about Frontline.

“It’s crucial that key cornerstones of effective social work practice, such as empathy and emotional intelligence, are not being ignored in favour of academic achievements”.

However, Mark Potter, External Relations Director for Frontline denied such fears were warranted.

He said Frontline candidates would undergo a rigorous selection process including role plays, psychometric tests and observed sessions with young people.

“Only candidates able to demonstrate resilience, excellent communication, emotional capacity, and a commitment to the cause and values of social work will secure a place,” he said.

He also pointed out that Liquid Personnel’s survey last year found that 70% of newly qualified social workers were entering the profession without sufficient skills to practise.

“Successful [Frontline] candidates join a programme that offers more days in practice before qualifying than any existing route into social work. This commitment to developing practice-ready social workers is just one of the reasons why Frontline has received huge interest from local authority partners,” he added


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5 Responses to Social workers believe Frontline will have negative impact on practice

  1. anne November 5, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    I have to say I am disappointed by the narrow minded comments in this article, not to mention the surprise I felt reading such stereo typed judgmental opinions, although I understand the concern I have to say not every body applying will have a teaching degree and three years of life skills to rub together.
    I applied to University as a mature student, a mother of five with twenty years worth of life skills to be knocked back for a room full of A- level students, because I lacked volunteering experience, some of who left the course or transferred to an easier course because they found it to difficult.
    However when I apply for Frontline I will be proud to put on the application my 2:1degree (specifically tailored around social work), three years volunteering experience with various high profile agencies, all my relevant training courses, oh and my insignificant life experiences and knowledge of raising my five children.

  2. Esmeralda November 6, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    It is sad to hear that mature students life experience does not count for much, even though they are the preferred group in social work courses! I myself have recently qualified as a mature student from a degree in social work. Being a mother of three and managing a family, placement, studying and a load of financial problems has given me a deeper understanding of clients needs. However, to employers that means nothing as they require other kinds if experience. In the meantime I’m working as a support worker with asylum seekers and thoroughly enjoying my job and will continue to do so until something better comes along!

  3. Alan November 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Why is it employers miss the grass route cause of any staff shortage, more often than not it is poor working conditions and respect. What follows is a quote from a 1930’s book; You must never expect your staff to love you: why should they. Any attempt to secure their devotion would be the most disastrous folly. No, it is you who must love them. You must care for them in every way, and genuinely, not hypocritically and for your own advantage. You must take them into your confidence, you must explain what you are trying to do and what the difficulties are, you must convince them, by your actions that their welfare is your primary concern. Words won’t be enough.
    I am a counselling supervisor and believe this clinical supervision (kept separate and in total confidence) would benefit all those in all caring professions as has been stated in text books used in training of clinical supervisors. It amounts to fulfilling duty of care to best practice standards thus allowing the employee to see they are of value and are valued as an employee as a person. Part of what I believe to be teamwork at its best.

  4. Keith November 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    The concept of The Frontline training scheme appears plausible and may help produce capable competent social workers the profession needs. However, as with any other profession, quality workers need experience on the job combined with a passion for their role and a strong disposition to cope with the extreme pressures that child protection social work requires. Enthusiasm, intelligence and life experience are great assets and will certainly be a solid foundation for social work, however, the long hours, high case loads, intense pressure, abusive service users and the increasing risks workers are exposed to will quickly filter out the less capable as they simply will not be able to cope.
    The current newly qualified status does give new workers a certain degree of protection and helps develop competent, quality social workers. The NQSW role also prepares workers gradually so coping strategies are learnt to reduce ‘burnout’. My concern would be that the idea of fast tracking social work would be detrimental for the worker and their practice and could result in negative outcomes for service users.
    As previously pointed out, quality practice, appropriate use of theories and the ability to challenge comes with experience, this cannot be fast tracked. The option of increasing the days in practice will be beneficial, but being able to adapt to the eclectic and diverse field of social work successfully takes time and this cannot be overlooked or forgotten.

  5. ALI November 8, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Social work is about dealing withthe people at all levels and to be strong advocates for change , requires strong experince of working knowldege both at practical levels and academice levels, fast track may be one aspect but the need for transparent service an social worker , who can bring change not gate kep, the need to dismantle barriers