Social work scheme will fast-track top graduates

Girl on stairs High-profile failures have prompted attempts to improve the performance of social workers

Related Stories

Graduates on a new fast-track scheme for trainee social workers will help manage caseloads after just five weeks of intensive training.

The "Frontline" scheme aims to attract top graduates into the profession.

Government funding for a pilot for 100 trainees has been announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

The British Association of Social Workers has voiced concern that the timescale will not prepare the trainees adequately for safe practice.

The new scheme follows high-profile cases such as Victoria Climbie and baby Peter Connelly when social workers failed to spot signs of abuse. It has cross-party support. Improving the standing and performance of social workers has been a goal for successive governments.

The pilots, in London and Manchester, will begin in September 2014.

'Toughest job'

After a five-week residential summer school at a leading university, students will go straight into hands-on work in a local authority for the next two years, along with further university-based study.

They will qualify as social workers at the end of the first year with the chance to do a masters degree in the second year.

Trainees will be paid on the job and will earn the same as a qualified social worker after their first year. The scheme promises intensive leadership training.

Josh MacAlister, chief executive of Frontline, said the two years of placements would be run along similar lines to the clinical training of hospital doctors when they first go on the wards. Small teams of trainees will help manage caseloads, heavily supervised by senior social workers.

The Frontline scheme aims to "bring the best people into one of Britain's toughest jobs", said Mr MacAlister.

He added that it would be "totally focused on recruiting and developing outstanding social workers to lead change for disadvantaged children".

Some local authorities say the new scheme is needed.

Start Quote

We are reliant on higher education courses which have not moved with the times and are not able to provide students with the right practical experience or give them the right kind of skillset they need in the job.”

End Quote Andrew Christie Children's services director

Andrew Christie who runs children's services in three London boroughs said: "We don't have enough social workers arriving in the workplace who are properly qualified and fit to practise. We are reliant on higher education courses which have not moved with the times and are not able to provide students with the right practical experience or give them the right kind of skillset they need in the job."

'Great practitioners'

Cllr Dora Dixon Fyle of London Borough of Southwark said it was time to challenge "the traditional perception of this underrated profession.

"This isn't about saying what was done in the past was wrong but recognises that we must be progressive and consider how things can be done differently."

However Harry Ferguson, professor of social work at Nottingham University, defended existing social work training.

"My research into day-to-day practice shows that social workers already do exceptional work in often bewilderingly complex cases. These great practitioners have come off the very courses that some people are arguing have failed to produce graduates fit enough to do the work.

"A key reason why these social workers are so effective is that they have been given the time in university to develop by acquiring the theory, skills and self-knowledge that are essential to working effectively with children and families."

Bridget Robb of the British Association of Social Workers said that while Frontline offered the potential to attract new talent into the profession, she was worried about trainees going straight into hands-on work after only five weeks of training.

Start Quote

There continue to be enormous challenges in the proposed timescale to prepare people with sufficient academic and practical experience for safe practice”

End Quote Bridget Robb British Association of Social Workers

"There continue to be enormous challenges in the proposed timescale to prepare people with sufficient academic and practical experience for safe practice."

She added that the workload and conditions of social workers had to change so that skilled staff remained in the profession: "We cannot go on ignoring social workers when they speak of excessive caseloads and paperwork - and no time to see the service users including children - or resources to help families."

In another move to strengthen social work the government has announced that Isabelle Trowler who reformed children's services in the London Borough of Hackney, has been appointed England's first Chief Social Worker.

Ms Trowler who will take up her post later this year said: "I know the best social work can transform lives but too often we only hear about the things that go wrong."

She said her new job was a chance to "champion social work as well as challenge the profession, its employers and educators too, to deliver the very best for families".

Mr Gove said: "Good social workers literally save lives; the bad can leave them in ruins. I am delighted that Isabelle Trowler has agreed to lead our reform programme; to challenge as well as to champion the profession so that vulnerable children and families are better protected."

"I am also very pleased to announce our support for Frontline, an exciting proposal and a real challenge for the brightest applicants who will have the privilege and satisfaction of helping improve the lives of the most vulnerable children in the country."

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said the scheme had his full support, calling it "an exciting opportunity that could play a major role in reforming children's social work".

"Getting great people into one of Britain's toughest jobs to lead change with children and families is one of our top priorities."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Absolutely dreadful road to ruin at the cost of the lives of the vulnerable. Take a good look at Fast Track schemes in other professions, specifically the Police. Damaging to moral, poor quality management and badge collectors taking control of a service. Michael Gove is turning out to be Public Service Enemy Number One. He certainly does not understand the life experience of ordinary people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    It seems from the sad evidence of the past few days the most important thing to learn is how to say " I`m sorry, incredibly sorry. We could have done something but we didnt. I`m sorry .Lessons have been learned . I am truly sorry but I see no reason to resign"

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    There should be no social workers at all. Because the amount of social clients are directly proportional to the amount of social workers

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    @86 The crux of what saying is a bit more common sense is needed, many mothers that have been through the system and fathers also need to be part of the solution with Children's Social care.

    How can Social Care strike a balance for children when it is nearly 90% women, sadly we never hear this on the equality radar. It simply has to change because children are suffering I have seen it myself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Social workers seem to me to be damned if they intervene, and damned if they don't.I would think that the wisdom of Solomon would be needed to act correctly in every situation. I don't think that newly minted graduates should be let loose. I think that this will probably make social services a bit cheaper though, but like everything that is too cheap, it won't work very well or last very long.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    The social workers are out in force. Point out that they have not got a clue and get a negative rating. Social workers just like police officers should be representative of the community they serve. At the moment that simply is not the case. It is just being assumed that graduates are your social betters, so make them social workers. It's wrong, it fails, over and over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Knowledge: Gained by learning from others

    Experience: Gained by starting at the bottom

    Ability: Judged after time in the two previous categories.

    21 years of age, a degree (In whatever) and 5 weeks in an overworked and understaffed organisation won't quite achieve that.

    Allow experienced front line staff to shape the decision making not the desk jockeys hidden away out of sight!

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Does the fast-tracking include lessons on lessons to be learned?

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    We already have demoralised, overstretched social workers. I cannot see that it will help them to have younger people fast-tracked to to management, removing any hope existing workers have of career progression. Yes, bring in the brightest & best (do they really want to do this job?), but also provide high quality in-service training & development for the existing workforce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    "Ex offenders work with prisoners, ex addicts work with drug addicts, why for goodness sake don't we employ parents that have seen it all first hand?"

    While this is true, most companies will have some (~25% obviously varies) staff that have not been addicts or offenders. It is useful for the clients to see people who have had a different life as well as ones who have come through their life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Five weeks training? That's about 4 weeks, six days and 11 and a half hours longer than you need to train to be a Secretary of State for Education secretary isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Yeah, great idea, the proverbial hits the fan and then social work is privatised by the government as it will be shown to be failing. The Bullingdon Club friends can then cash in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    LOOK, this is Michael Gove! He'll be wanting to get rid of more of the useless, benefit grabbing, scrounging, cheating, lazy plebs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Fast tracked scape goats to the slaughter morelike

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    I have the utmost respect for social workers. We don't need new recruits being fast tracked into jobs, we need councils with sufficient budgets to ensure they can employ enough social workers to devote enough time to each and every case they have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    This is whyu7 it does not work, far too many academics who are trained and shown the latest studies, figures etc but don't have a clue about children and the parents that manipulate them social workers lying to them.

    Ex offenders work with prisoners, ex addicts work with drug addicts, why for goodness sake don't we employ parents that have seen it all first hand?

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    The weak link in social work is social workers, though it is not the fault of the individuals, it is the entire system that is a fault. So what's next?
    Maybe we could just have a GCSE in social work and have an army of 16 year olds dealing with the worst that our society has to offer. Well, who needs experience when a classroom and a bit of paper will suffice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    The social problems created by the tories will not be dealt with effectively by this plan.The tories fast track prisoners out of jail,today we hear they are going to cut firefighters,they fast track disabled people off dla to lower benefits,now they fast track a few graduates who cant get other jobs.

    Lets fast track them out of government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    51.Chris London
    .. more inexperienced people to help the inexperienced and troubled..
    Makes you wonder why people vote for politicians (Tory and Labour both) who are inexperienced in having real jobs in the real world, and expect them to have any useful ideas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Is there a correlation between high academic achievement and being an excellent social worker?

    Please provide proof of this correlation, before experimenting with people's lives.


Page 14 of 18


More Education & Family stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.