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I just want to become a really good social worker

Many Frontline participants are career changers, joining the programme alongside graduates coming straight out of university. They often choose to make a significant career shift into social work, driven by a passion to transform lives. We recently spoke to Charlie who has left the City of London to join the 2015 Cohort who have started their local authority placements this week.

Charlie graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2010 and then completed a Graduate Diploma in Law. He subsequently began work as an analyst at a Bank in 2012, which he says was “relatively high-pressured, although I expect that Frontline will be just as, if not more challenging”.

Like many of those in the 2015 Cohort, Charlie has had an interest in social work for a long time. He tells us that “I had the idea of going into social work in my first year of university but disregarded it as an unfeasible career – then I got caught up in the standard rush of Russell Group students to city jobs”. Despite enjoying work in the banking sector, Charlie came across Frontline and took it as a chance to make a leap into one of Britain’s toughest jobs.

Charlie prepared for the Assessment Centre stage of Frontline’s recruitment process by making sure he knew exactly why he wanted to go into child protection. “I read a couple of books about social work – Hackney Child was one of them – which helped reaffirm that it was something I was committed to. I reflected on what my motivations were, what I wanted from a career; the sort of questions that everyone should be asking themselves before they apply”. Charlie saw that Frontline’s focus on transforming the lives of vulnerable children matched the principles he sees as most important. “If you can provide a safe and stable place for children to flourish then the whole of society benefits”, he says.

Once you are offered a place on the Frontline programme, we work to ensure a smooth transition into the local authority that you will be placed in. For Charlie, this began with a day of shadowing social workers in East London, just a few miles east of his old office. “There was a large variety of cases for the day, with home visits to three different families”, Charlie recounts. “What really hit me was that people faced challenges far beyond what I had ever experienced, but when you talk to them they just describe things in such a matter of fact way. It makes you realise that it’s just such a big part of everyday life for many people. It confirmed for me how deeply ingrained these problems are.”
 
Following this, Charlie completed his initial training at the five-week residential Summer Institute with the rest of the 2015 Cohort. Here, they learnt both the academic background to child protection, as well as how to apply this to their on-the-job training in their local authorities.
 
This week, 2015’s participants will be starting their first day in practice. Charlie is looking forward to the experience – “I really enjoy taking an academic approach, however, it’s more the practical side I’m really looking forward to. You can study theory a lot, but more important is how you put it into practice.”
 
Participants complete the two year Frontline programme as a qualified social worker with a Masters, equipped with the skills to have a transformational impact on people’s lives. Charlie does not see his time in child protection stopping after Frontline though. “Before I move into any other roles I just want to become a really good social worker”, he says. “I will hopefully get a solid grounding from the Frontline programme and then continue to progress. If I still feel like I am making a difference as a social worker then I can really see myself sticking with it for the long term.”

Interview  by Luke Miller.