Government to spend £50 million training 900 social workers on fast-track routes

An information notice for a contract has said a fast-track provider should train between 700 and 900 social workers over two cohorts

The Department for Education will spend £50 million training up to 900 social workers on fast-track courses, a tender document has said.

The prior information notice ahead of the contract’s publication at the end of the month is for a provider to train between 700 and 900 social workers over two cohorts that would begin in 2020 and 2021.

The document also said the contract may include options to be extended for the delivery of further cohorts.

The notice said the successful procurement partner would deliver social work education through “an employment-based, fast-track route”, and that participants would be embedded in a team delivering statutory child protection work through the course of their training.

The government invested £100 million to fast-track training schemes Frontline and Step Up to Social Work in 2016 to expand them across the country.


The Department for Education said the contract would represent a continuation of current fast-track training, rather than an expansion. The last Frontline cohort advertised in 2017 for over 350 places.

The cost per social worker over the two-year contract could be £55,000, if you divide the total contract cost by the maximum number of social workers that could be trained. An evaluation of the cost of routes into social work carried out in 2016 said the cost per newly qualified social worker on Frontline was £46,024, while the cost on Step Up To Social Work was £40,413.

The description said the provider should work to attract high-performing graduates with leadership potential “who might not otherwise have considered a career in social work”.

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30 Responses to Government to spend £50 million training 900 social workers on fast-track routes

  1. Ray Jones April 6, 2018 at 11:52 am #

    So here we have it. The fragmentation of the social work profession with too early specialisation, with the training to be fore-shortened, and with social work with children and families now defined as child protection. This is an assumed elite group who are to be enticed by the prospect of moving into leadership roles but who have never before considered being a social worker. Others who have wanted to be social workers and to have a university social work education, or who want to work with adults or outside statutory children’s services, are excluded from this considerable DfE funding. They will end up qualifying with big debts from fees and having to fund themselves through their social work education, and will be cast as the long-term practitioners to be led by a privileged elite. What a government-determined outcome for a values-based integrated profession which seeks to challenge discrimination, inequality and the impact of social injustice. And, of course, more money to go to companies like Frontline and their associates such as Morning Lane Associates, and advisors such as KPMG.

    • Lorraine Woods April 12, 2018 at 12:39 pm #

      Hi Ray, I happen to be a Step Up Social Work Student. There are 16 of us on our cohort for Lancashire. I have a MA in Youth and Community work and worked both in child services and ASC for the past 10 years. Everyone on the course has similar stories, qualifiactions and backgrounds. We have all worked in the social work field a long time and earned our stripes. None of us are privileged elite. None of us breezed the interview process and all of us want to make a different to the service primarily because we care about people. Surely having this breadth of experience outweighs graduates just out of uni with no life experience? Morning Lane were really good and very knowledgeable. I wish we could have had more lectures with them.
      Many thanks, Lorraine

    • Angie B April 14, 2018 at 2:59 pm #

      Hi Ray
      50 million on fast track routes, then the recertification programme to show you are qualified to work with children. The marginalisation of any other form of social work that doesn’t involve children. Not all but some in the fast track programmes will see themselves in ‘leadership ‘ roles in a profession that is now top heavy with ‘leaders’and bullying management cultures. Often there is poor work life balance and too high caseloads. The quality of current senior management teams is not often addressed in terms of retention of staff and job enjoyment. Those with less confidence or not able to apply for fast track following more traditional routes but who want to be social workers will be saddled with debt. ‘High performing graduates with leadership potential’, what is everyone else? What are their contributions- worth nothing? Where is the diversity?
      Team Managers need to be supported to feel confident in recruiting newly qualified worker, along side more experienced staff. Often they are pressurised to take on experienced staff at the expense of NQSWs. Huge expenditure on theses fast track posts and what is the long term research evidence to say this is the right course of action . Has it worked for teach first? Is the government trying to decide the profession into a 2tier system like the US? Directors, Senior Managers,Team Managers etc Fast Track, then everyone else .
      There have been numerous serious case reviews, yes but has no one ever considered it is the organisation where social workers arebase and the quality of the management, structures that have led to caseload management and services problems where people have been harmed? Morning Lane , KPMG, Motte McDonald (primarily and engineering and development consultancy), yet services are being closed all over the country for children . When will everyone say enough!

  2. Debra April 6, 2018 at 11:59 am #

    I have 14 years child protection experience and left social work 18 months ago due to poor management and needed to have a break. I have continued to access all up-to-date information through BASW and NSPCC site and completed several training courses. I would really like to go back to social work not sure which area but I have a lack of confidence in management, case loads, supervision, quality/regular support/training/supervision.

    Does anyone know if there is anywhere that offers back to social work training/guidance/support in the north west.

    I read this article wondering why there is not a campaign to encourage social workers to return. I am aware that there was such a campaign in the north east with places for 100 social workers who had left social work employment for 2 – 5 years.

    Any suggestions would be welcome.

    • eileen quigley April 12, 2018 at 12:27 pm #

      why not challenge yourself and start your own campaign I am confident you wont be on your own for long and then perhaps things will change in the right direction to focus on the values of core social work, as we were trained for and invested our life into.

  3. Sihle P Mabena April 6, 2018 at 12:10 pm #

    I’m just finishing my second placement on a gruelling MA program. Both placement were statutory, and yet to be considered for a job seems a difficult task. There are social workers out there trying to get jobs but the barriers of being newly qualified means they get overlooked for experienced social workers. The interview process should not determine if you are capable or not. If it can be made easer for all those qualified to get a job then the government would not need to spend this much money on fast track training. Interviews should be considered on your end of placement portfolio not just interview only. My view.

    • Trina Long April 7, 2018 at 8:42 am #

      I absolutely agree with sihle p mabena, I Qualified 1 year ago; and have been for 3 NQSW jobs which I have not got due to the questions appearing to be for a more experienced social worker whose is currently in post. I am beginning to think that NQSW are only invited to interviews as a tick box exercise so it appears as though the LA are giving NWSQ a chance, when really they know full well they wont be offering the post to them. Another issue is that you are only allowed to apply directly to LA as opposed to to being offered Newly qualified posts via an agency. Which means if you dont get the job for the LA that you have applied for, you could be waiting another year until the LA put out more NQSW posts unles your willing to relocate which some people are unable to do due to family commitments. My friend attended around 13 NQSW interviews – in the end she had to take a social work assistant job without pay (and only recieved train fares reimbursement). Its absolutely disgusting that we spend thousands of pounds at university but yet only a handful of NQSW are able to obtain a social work role. Something needs to change. The longer we are without a social work role, the harder it’ll be for us to obtain a job within the field we studied years for.

    • Lovemore mazivisa April 7, 2018 at 9:02 am #

      True Sihle P Mabena… although I did not struggle to be shortlisted after my completion of the MSc program it took me many similar interviews to finally get a job. Employers set the bar too high for newly qualifieds and this is a barrier. There are many newly qualified social workers who have passed well but the way interviews are conducted make them fail to secure NQSW positions. In reality there is no shartage of SWs at all

    • June Thoburn April 9, 2018 at 3:51 pm #

      Some important points. Another is that not only are the Front liner and Step-up trainees highly privileged financially, they also take up ‘as of right’ the smallish number of ASYE social work positions making it harder for those qualifying on MA and degree courses to move into social work posts when they complete as you say a far more ‘gruelling’ and all-round demanding but balanced social work education and training. And are these Frontliners really worth the 3 times as much that it costs DfE to train each one compared to University qualified MA and graduate social workers. Why have we not seen, before this costly tender issued for 2020 and 2021 cohorts, a longitudinal study of how many actually complete Masters degrees and how many are still in their basic grade posts 3 years after qualifying. I thought DfE was interested in evidence. The first evaluation was very early and raised more questions than it answered.

    • Graham April 11, 2018 at 2:40 pm #

      I have sympathy with anyone struggling to find a job after qualification. When I qualified in the 1980s all the jobs in my city were being taken by experienced social workers moving from London in order to take advantage of the then rocketing house price differential. I had to move to London to get a job, which helped in the long run because when I returned home as an experienced SW I was put on a higher pay grade than if I had stayed!

      I realise that not everyone can do that but the ‘related article’ above shows that there are still areas desperately in need of social workers.The truth seems to be that popular places to live and university towns with SW courses will always be more competitive in the jobs market. It is something to consider before you train if you are not able to relocate for whatever reason.

  4. Tasneem April 6, 2018 at 6:36 pm #

    Sihle you a 100% correct. I got my 1st social work job in a private company because I knew somebody there. All LA front line jobs rejected my application before interview despite having a distinction (1st class) for my degree and years of experience in health and social care prior to my studies.
    Rather than spending the money to train social workers this should be given to Social work employers 2 emloyee social workers already holding the qualification!

  5. Silvia April 6, 2018 at 7:41 pm #

    Wouldn’t it be easier and less expensive to make it easier for foreign social workers living in the uk to ease into the profession here? There are no “adaptation” courses and even though the values and mission of the profession are the same abroad the practice here is so different and nobody would hire you without uk experience! Providing A short training to foreign social workers in the uk would help them to be employable.
    I’m an Italian social worker living in the uk and I’ve contacted the local authority for shadow work and never got an answer. Some local authorities just answer they won’t take shadow works. There’s lots of people in my same situation.
    A short training to help foreign social workers convert and adapt their knowledge to uk practises would be great, so some of us could apply for jobs and be successful!

    • Tariro April 11, 2018 at 8:38 pm #

      If you have experience Devon is recruiting social workers from abroad as far as Zimbabwe and South Africa and if you go on their website you apply for transition social worker post. They offer a 6 months programme on the job which is similar to the ASYE one but more intense.

  6. Casper April 6, 2018 at 8:02 pm #

    They should look after the social workers they have then they wouldn’t leave !.

    • Lee April 11, 2018 at 8:01 pm #

      I totally agree focus on retention,treating staff better and being supportive.I am a South African who has been practicing as a frontline line social worker for ten years. I have worked in several local authorities across London and can not longer stomach the bullying culture from management.

  7. Stephen Mac April 7, 2018 at 8:37 am #

    I’m wondering how many social workers qualify through an MA or BA over two years and what the cost of this is to the government per social worker. Does anyone know?

    • June Thoburn April 9, 2018 at 3:55 pm #

      Answer. Less than a third of the cost of a fast-track trainee to complete a more comprehensive and blanced undergrad or MA course at a university.

  8. Diane April 7, 2018 at 7:29 pm #

    I had to turn down my MA place at university. Total lack of funding representative of what I needed as a single parent. I’m 53 now and that was my last chance. So many people who want to train to be a social worker for the right reasons. Yet this article states the intention of attracting those high flyer graduates who might not ordinarily consider social
    Work as a career. So wrong

  9. Jay April 8, 2018 at 12:52 pm #

    I’m a qualified HCPC registered social worker with over ten years experience in family, youth and integration team in Finland. I moved to England one year ago. I have applied to work for free, I have gone to more than three borough councils with my CV in person, willing to volunteer as a social worker after I was told that social workers are overloaded with heavy workload. I indicated interest to volunteer. No one seems to care. The few replies I got were all negative. Hello government, social workers are here, ready to work. Give us the opportunity and cut down the training cost while lives are changed.

  10. Amo Virdi April 8, 2018 at 9:34 pm #

    The reason for wanting experienced workers are due to the number of serious case reviews which can occur due to inexperience of social workers who want to work in the Child Protection arena.

    When your newly qualified your placements do not reflect the actual risky cases you will be working on as you get a protected case load.

  11. Sw111 April 9, 2018 at 3:09 pm #

    Workers having connections are in a better position for getting employment; merit is a very small determining factor. It’s very depressing.

  12. Lexi April 9, 2018 at 5:59 pm #

    Hmmmm this is interesting….. so I assume the 700-900 cohorts will replace all those students (working hard accumalting unnessacry debts) are already in mainstream university? Where does that leave us this is becoming very competitive, it always has been but actually trying to pursue this career I feel less and less optimistic.

    Secondly, if most ASYE are offered in L.A then where does that leave mainstream students? It feels although only private and voluntary sectors are available to mainstream students. I’m flexible to this, providing I can complete my ASYE but I’m under the impression this does not apply in these sectors. I am now reflecting back wondering that I have made a big mistake undertaking this degree. Based on the uncertainties of competition with cohorts ASYE.

    I am honestly considering alternative job opportunities, as the competition feels too much to pursue. The barriers and hurdles I just jumped through to the end and I’m still going to be challenging for myself to succeed.

    If anyone could give accurate information on the ASYE status that would be great?

  13. Suziie April 11, 2018 at 1:38 pm #

    Training social workers isn’t the answer. Teams throughout the country have been reduced to nothing! Advertise the posts and increase the teams!

  14. John O'Gara April 11, 2018 at 1:58 pm #

    Where will all the practice educators be found? Its an undervalued but important role in social work education.

  15. Nora Duckett April 11, 2018 at 5:35 pm #

    It is truly shocking that
    a) at a time of swingeing cuts to public sector services 50 million pounds can be found to
    b) train a slew of people without necessary vocation to be future social workers and managers.
    c) Division in the profession is being encouraged by Government and those advising them and
    d) as June Thoburn says huge expenditure with massive implications without sound research evidence base.

    What is going on? Why are they doing this to this to our already weakened profession? What does this mean for service users? What are we doing about it?

  16. Ruksana Chowdhory April 12, 2018 at 2:40 pm #

    Graduates have little opportunity to compete fairly with Frontline recruits as the latter are guaranteed statutory placements and jobs thereafter, upon successful completion of the programme. Employers assume all of these recruits are capable of practicing social work because they are enrolled on a so-called “elite” training programme, whereas those embarking on traditional routes have disproportionately more hurdles to get through. Not suprising the government is pushing this scheme; it wants to create a two-system, with Frontline workers climbing the mangagerial ladder in a dangerously quick manner and traditional graduates remaining in front line work with little opportunity for promotion in comparison to their “elite” counterparts. There are also talks of introducing social work apprenticeship schemes without the balance of academic knowledge. Are doctors and nurses allowed to qualify without a holistic set of knowledge and skills? These moves by the Government are doing nothing to raise the standards of the profession or earn the respect of the public, which it deserves.

  17. Nigel Horner April 12, 2018 at 5:31 pm #

    As someone fortunate and privileged to be involved in the planning and delivery of nursing, midwifery, occupational therapy and physiotherapy education – alongside that for social work- the differences are painfully palpable and tragic. A strong regulator such as the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council), or a strong professional body such as RCOT (Royal College of Occupational Therapists) could and would not countenance such divisions to emerge as we have witnessed over the past few years in Social Work. Whilst Nursing recovers from the long shadow cast by the old divide between SRN and SEN, and is moving ever closer to one generic qualification of equal standing, social work hurtles in the opposite direction, towards specialisms and divisions. So we now witness the spectre of standard undergraduate or postgraduate students feeling eclipsed by those accessing fast track routes, whilst those on such programmes feel compelled to defend themselves against the charge of elitism. What a sad story.

  18. Sw111 April 15, 2018 at 1:28 am #

    Training social workers is not the answer, but the organisations should have the ability to retain the workers by supporting them
    There are loads of workers who are leaving the profession simply because of needless bureaucracy and incompetent management.
    Such deplorable condition. Really sad.

  19. Anita Baines April 17, 2018 at 5:13 pm #

    There are numerous newly qualified Social Workers, who are looking for employment but being told they do not have enough experience!! Why not take them on train them and put them to working for children and families?!!

  20. David T April 23, 2018 at 8:22 pm #

    As a LA social worker who has come through the traditional route, I was sceptical about Frontline and step-up. However, over the years I have had more and more conversations with the students, worked alongside them and some of them have become friends of mine. Every one I have spoken to has spoken with the same passion to make a difference to families as no do. The quality of their work has been excellent and children and families have loved them. It’s been 4 years since the first lot arrived in my LA and not one has gone into management, they are not interested in that and want to remain on the ground. I had to question my initial anger to this process and accept that we all came into social work because of our passion and the families come first.

    The social worker who come through this route do not see themselves as elite or better than others. They just want to be social workers like the rest of us. Who wouldn’t take up the option of a paid degree and a guaranteed job if they could? Just trying to offer some perspective and help think about what is it that brings us all together as social workers rather than focus on what divides us.