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