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You cannot buy experience: BASW concerns over new Frontline management scheme

BASW has raised questions over the allocation of £1.8m from the Department for Education children’s social care innovation programme to Frontline for its ‘Firstline prototype’ training scheme for first-line managers in children’s social care.

The scheme will initially be trialled with 40 managers from existing Frontline local councils. Frontline says Firstline will explore such questions as:

•    ‘what does great first-line leadership look like in children’s social work?’
•    ‘what helps or hinders first-line leaders?’
•    ‘what must organisations do differently to enable more effective first-line leadership?’

Writing in the Guardian, Education Secretary Edward Timpson said the “diagnostic tools, curriculum and other materials” generated by the Firstline scheme will be made “widely available to lift standards right across the social work profession”.

“Along with our new approved child and family practitioner status for social workers dealing with the highest-risk areas of child protection, additional accreditation for supervisors, and the introduction of social work practice leaders, we’re engaged in fundamental challenge and reform to frontline practice in children’s social work, from top to bottom,” Mr Timpson said.

Commenting on this latest round of funding for Frontline, BASW England Manager Maris Stratulis said: “BASW has adopted a watching brief with Frontline and we will be taking close interest in the evaluation of Firstline. We have met incredibly enthusiastic members of the Frontline scheme who have spoken very openly about their participation.  

“That said, you cannot put a price on experience. Given that the scheme involves those local authorities supporting the Frontline programme, we would query where these Firstline managers will be recruited from.

“In addition, we trust the scheme is not a means of fast-tracking former Frontline graduates into management positions before they have gained sufficient experience as a practitioner. Nor should non-Frontline graduates be disadvantaged from progressing up the management ladder.

“Investment in workforce development and training for all social workers and social work managers has to be both a national and local priority for ministers, elected members, policy makers and employers.

“Leadership development is key to the future of the social work profession and leading by example, even more so.  Frontline has already secured significant funding from DfE and has now received an additional grant over the next 18 months.

“Surely, we should be embedding leadership development in all social work training and continuous professional development opportunities. There should be investment at a national level to provide additional opportunities for all managers to enhance their skills and knowledge.”

“It would be helpful if the Firstline bid to the social care innovation programme could be explained in more detail. What makes this scheme different to the leadership development programmes already in existence?”