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Why I became a Consultant Social Worker

This September I took up a position in my local authority as a Consultant Social Worker. This means I’m now leading the in-practice learning for four Frontline participants who are training as social workers over the course of 12 months. I’ve been a social worker for almost five years and I’m excited to be taking the next step forward in my career.

There are a range of reasons why working with Frontline participants as a Consultant Social Worker is so appealing. I’ve listed three of the most important below.

Working with units and continuing on the front line
I really like the idea of the participant unit model – especially as a similar model worked well in Hackney. Morning Lane Associates have been supporting Frontline’s implementation of the model and this was a big draw for me. The participant unit model is practice-led with university professors coming into the units, giving participants the theory ‘on the ground.’ The fact that participants are working collaboratively is also positive. A problem shared is a problem halved in social work.

Crucially, the model also gives me the opportunity to develop my career whilst remaining on the front line. I never wanted to be a manager, but I wanted professional and personal development and something to push me. Here I’m effectively mentoring four participants who will work with me on my cases. The Consultant Social Worker role is an amazing step up where I have more responsibilities but can still work with children and families every day. 

Training and development opportunities
The training and coaching available to us is amazing. We benefit from 10 days training and 2 hours per fortnight of coaching. In addition we also each receive support from a ‘Frontline Specialist’ – a really experienced practitioner – who makes regular contact with us. The quality of this training is phenomenal, with therapeutic skills that can actually be practically applied to your social work. It’s a ground-breaking model, but it’s all thoughtful, considered change which is straightforward to implement. It’s not about processes, but about how we can better help children and families.

Frontline’s academic foundations
My four Frontline participants undertook five weeks academic study prior to joining me in my local authority, and are benefiting from 20 recall days throughout the year. ‘The Frontline Academy’ as it’s known, is led by Professor Donald Forrester. I’ve done a lot of reading around Donald’s research and the more I heard the more impressive Frontline sounded. Donald’s work with resistant families and focus on motivational interviewing techniques seems very sensible, measured social work research. It’s all so logical and you have to ask why we have not been thinking about this all the way through. I really like the tone and direction of his research. You can’t look at a child in isolation, you have to look at the whole family, so the systemic models make sense. This is a very positive development.

I’m really enjoying my first few months in the Consultant Social Worker role and I’m excited about the new challenges the job will bring. It’s a fantastic career step for me and a great opportunity for any ambitious social workers who want to remain in frontline practice.