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Children’s social work charity Frontline is delighted to have been awarded the new social work leadership development contract by the Department for Education, following a competitive tendering process.  

The Social Work Leadership Pathways programme is being developed by, and for, leaders immersed in local authority practice. It consists of multiple bespoke pathways for four different levels of leadership: practice supervisors, middle managers, heads of service and practice leaders.  

Frontline will be delivering the programme over the next two years in partnership with What Works for Children’s Social Care and North Yorkshire County Council, and with the support of Hertfordshire County Council. The charity will also work alongside and in partnership with local authorities across the country to draw on their experience and wealth of knowledge, and to recruit their social work leaders on to the programme. 

The Pathways programme will launch in late 2022, with the aim of 1,000 social work leaders completing one of the pathways a year. It will replace Frontline’s current Firstline and Headline programmes, with the final cohorts completing these programmes by November this year. The design and curriculum of the Pathways programme will build on Frontline’s experience and learning from these and other existing leadership programmes.  

Lord Tony Hall, chair of Frontline, said: “We feel privileged to have won this bid, particularly knowing the quality and experience of those who have been delivering these leadership programmes so far and the highly competitive process. We are confident that, alongside our partners, we will deliver a high-quality and effective programme that will make a real difference.” 

Mary Jackson, CEO of Frontline, said: “This national investment in the development of over 1,000 social work leaders is both crucial and positive; we know that excellent leadership empowers people at all levels to navigate their roles and contribute to creating a culture which prioritises children and families above all else. That’s why a focus on supporting leaders to equip social workers with the skills to deliver the best possible support and improved outcomes for children and families sits at the heart of each pathway.” 

Anna Bacchoo, director of practice at What Works for Children’s Social Care, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Frontline on the exciting new Social Work Leadership Pathways Programme. Our mission is to bring evidence-based practice to the heart of children’s social care, and this programme is a fantastic opportunity to embed that approach in each pathway. We’re excited for this opportunity to improve outcomes for children and families by supporting high quality leadership, based on an understanding of what works.” 

Martin Kelly OBE, assistant director for children and families services at North Yorkshire County Council, said: “It is crucially important that social work in the UK is invested in, so that the sector can recruit, retain and champion the best – children and young people deserve nothing less.  

“We welcome this programme and Government investment, which recognises the importance of this focus.”

El Mayhew, director of children’s services at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “Hertfordshire Children’s Services have an established track record of supporting and developing future social workers, social workers and social work leaders to deliver excellent help and support which makes a tangible difference to the lives of children and families. We understand the importance of developing great social work leaders who can create the conditions for social workers to learn, flourish and strengthen their practice. We are delighted to be expanding our existing relationship with Frontline as they take forward their Pathways programme and look forward to supporting more social workers and social work leaders in their development journeys.” 

For more information, please contact Ellie Foreman – 

Notes to editors 

  1. Frontline is England’s largest social work charity. Everything we do aims to make life better for children who need a social worker, to help keep them safe from harm and to give them every possible chance to fulfil their potential, through developing excellent practice, leadership and innovation. 
  2. Since launching the Firstline leadership development programme in 2015, Frontline has worked with local authorities and sector leaders to develop their skills and create environments that allow social workers to thrive. Over 600 social work managers and leaders have completed the Firstline programme, with this number increasing to 750 by the end of the year. 
  3. The Pathways programme will replace Frontlines existing leadership programmes – Firstline and Headline. The aim is for 1,000 social work leaders from local authorities across England, working within different contexts at different stages of their career, to complete the Pathways programme each year. The Pathways programme therefore consists of multiple bespoke pathways for four different levels of leadership: practice supervisors, middle managers, heads of service and practice leaders. Throughout their pathway, leaders will participate in a range of learning experiences, all embedded in the 4C leadership capability framework, that provide opportunities for shared learning as well as access to bespoke content for their experience level and particular needs. 
  4. Social workers support around 700,000 children and their families in England each year. These children frequently live in the toughest circumstances, often because their family is struggling with multiple challenges like mental ill-health, domestic abuse, poverty or other external pressures. This means that these children don’t always get the love, care, and protection they deserve, and might experience abuse, neglect and trauma. This not only harms them in the here and now but, without help, can do long-term damage too. Social workers can change this. The support, commitment and protection they give to these children, and their families, can enable them turn things around and give them hope for a brighter future.  At Frontline we want to empower social workers to do their best work by reducing the challenges and barriers they face on a day-to-day basis, working alongside local authorities. Only by all working together to overcome challenges in the system can we ensure children get protection and support they deserve.