The social work fast-track training provider Frontline has been awarded a contested contract to train 900 social workers, extending the organisation’s social work training relationship with the Department for Education by two years.
The £45 million contract – which was first advertised in April 2018 and will see two cohorts of 450 social workers trained between 2020 and 2022 – was subject to a war of words over the summer, as academics, the British Association of Social Workers and others questioned the need for the contract and demanded more evidence for fast-track training.
Frontline responded to the criticism, and argued it was value for money.
The contract – initially valued at up to £50 million – will keep the number of social workers trained by Frontline at 450 a year, a number that the scheme will reach for the first time in 2019.
Under the scheme, social workers attend a five-week summer school before doing a year placement in a local authority, before moving into their assessed and supported year in employment, at the end of which they qualify with a master’s degree in social work.
Since Frontline launched in 2013, government funding for bursaries for placements on traditional routes has fallen, while the value and number of social work bursaries has been frozen for the past four years.
Announcing the news, education secretary Damian Hinds said: “Children’s social care is only as good as the people who deliver it, which is why we want to recruit, retain and develop the best social workers, so they can continue to offer the much needed lifeline to those who need it most.”
“That’s why the government is supporting Frontline with £45 million to continue their work in attracting and training bright graduates and career changers, who aspire for a rewarding career as a social worker.”
Sally Hodges, director of children’s services in Solihull, which hosts Frontline graduates on their placement year, said the trainees had been “invaluable addition[s] to our team”.
“We welcome today’s news and look forward to continuing our work together to deliver the best services for vulnerable children and their families.”