Update on coronavirus (Covid-19): Frontline is working hard to ensure that we can continue to deliver our programmes and other work, while keeping the safety and wellbeing of our staff and stakeholders at the forefront of our decisions. To learn more about our response and how it might affect you click here.


Got a question about the Frontline or Firstline programmes? Find answers to common questions below. If you have any further queries then get in touch with us directly.

Coronavirus (covid-19)

Will current Year 1 and Year 2 Frontline participants still be able to complete the programme?

Yes, both Year 1 and Year 2 of the programme will continue.

Inevitably, the current situation requires significant adjustments to the programme, to protect our participants during the pandemic. For example, we have already successfully moved academic recall days and unit meetings online.

Some participants may not complete certain elements of the programme due to current restrictions, for example the contrasting learning experience. We are working closely with Social Work England, the University of Bedfordshire and our local authority partners to implement modifications that will ensure participants will be able to complete programme and are in no way disadvantaged.

How will the current situation impact the practice-based and academic work of participants on Year 1 and 2 of the Frontline programme?

Frontline is governed in line with rigorous academic regulations. As such, it is not possible for Frontline to make changes to academic assignments without sign off from the University of Bedfordshire. We are pleased to announce that the University of Bedfordshire now approved of our requested assignment modifications, including extensions to deadlines for assignment submissions where required.

We are also working closely with Lancaster University as we transition to our new academic partnership with them for the 2020 Cohort.

About Frontline

How does Frontline select local authorities to work with?

We carefully assess each of our partners to ensure they can meet the expectations and requirements of the Frontline and Firstline programmes. 

When a local authority or trust expresses an interest in a partnership, we consider a variety of factors. These include the need for social workers in that area, the capacity of the local authority or trust to support participants, and any challenges specific to that local authority or trust.  

Due to logistical requirements, the Frontline programme only operates within set regions. Whereas, the Firstline programme operates throughout England. Wherever viable, we encourage local authorities to invest in both the Frontline and Firstline programmes, to achieve the greatest possible impact for the children and families they serve. 

How is Frontline funded?

The funding for our work is divided between central government, partner local authorities and donations from philanthropic partners.  

Given the national priority placed on the recruitment and development of social workers, the Department for Education fully funds the training of new social workers through the Frontline programme and part-funds the training of existing social work managers on the Firstline programme (this programme is also funded by partner local authorities).  

Philanthropic donations fund the areas of work that fall outside of government-funded activity and are also a central part of our larger theory of change. This includes the Fellowship, our extended leadership development programme, our work to raise the status of social work and 10% of the Firstline programme. Philanthropic funding allows us to remain an independent organisation and achieve our mission to improve the lives of vulnerable children. Click here to find out more. 

What is Frontline?

Frontline is a social work charity. We recruit and develop outstanding individuals to be social workers and leaders to transform the lives of the most vulnerable children and families.

Why do you call social work a leadership profession?

Good social work involves a range of leadership behaviours. Social workers work directly with children and families, influence a wide range of agencies, balance competing needs within a family, and encourage and support them towards a shared vision. In each of these examples, they draw on their personal leadership capabilities.  

The ability to deal with change, factor in other’s perspectives, set clear priorities, make considered decisions and keep the needs of children at the fore, all in a pressured context, are the hallmarks of a good leader.  

We focus on developing these leadership capabilities throughout the Frontline and Firstline programmes. The Fellowship enables our alumni to continue to develop their skills in this area once they have completed either of our programmes. 

Why is Frontline needed and what are you trying to change?

Outstanding social workers can transform life chances for vulnerable children. This transformation can last a lifetime and often makes the difference between a child struggling against disadvantage or reaching their full potential. Children and families are at the heart of everything we do at Frontline. By equipping more individuals with the skills and tools they need in the social work profession, our aim is to transform the life chances and opportunities of the most disadvantaged groups. 

There are thousands of inspirational social workers doing a great job. There just aren’t enough of them. Through the Frontline programme, we recruit and train career changers and graduates to join the next generation of children’s social workers. 

We also know that social workers need the best possible support to have the greatest impact on the life chances of the most vulnerable children. That is why our Firstline programme develops good social work managers into outstanding leaders. 

Once an individual finishes the Frontline or Firstline programme, or completes one year as a consultant social worker, they join the Fellowship. This national movement allows fellows to continue striving for change, both in and outside of social work, for the benefit of vulnerable children and families.


Frontline Programme

About the programme

How is the Frontline programme different to other routes into social work?

We offer you an exciting practice-based route into social work that combines an innovative curriculum, five-week Summer Institute, 12 months of supervised on-the-job training and a world-class leadership development programme. By the end of Year 1, you will have undertaken more than 200 days of on-the-job training – more than in any other route into social work – and almost 46 taught days of study.

You will work in teams of four and benefit from the full-time supervision of a consultant social worker – an advanced and experienced social worker trained by Frontline. This unit participation model was recommended by the Munro Review in 2011.

The programme also includes a 30-day placement working with adults to give you experience in a contrasting environment.

What qualifications will I gain on the programme?

In your first year you will work towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work which will be awarded at the end of year subject to meeting all the requirements. In your second year, you will also work towards a master’s degree.


 Why do I need to provide more than two references? 

It’s important that your references cover the full two years leading up to your assessment centre date. If there are gaps of a month or more, we’ll ask for additional references. In addition, if you have significant work experience with children within the last 5 years, we will also seek to obtain a reference from this position.

Am I eligible to apply?

To apply for our leadership development programme you must have:

  • A 2.1 (or equivalent) or higher in an undergraduate honours degree (predicted or obtained) OR a 2.2 (or equivalent) in an undergraduate honours degree plus a level 7 (i.e. Master’s degree) qualification (predicted or obtained).
  • At least grade C in English Language and Maths at GCSE (or equivalent qualifications) – higher qualifications will not be accepted in lieu of GCSEs.

In addition, you will be required to:

  • Demonstrate competence in IT and written and spoken English
  • Declare any previous offences and undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.*
  • Complete a health check questionnaire and give permission for Frontline to contact your GP or other medical professions, if necessary, to confirm your suitability for social work training.*
  • Live at an address in England by the time the summer institute starts and be eligible to reside and study in the UK for the duration of the programme (including access to public funds for non-EEA applicants). Please note Frontline cannot sponsor Tier 4 students.
  • Provide at least two (more may be requested) satisfactory references covering the last two years.

*This will only be required for applicants who are successful at assessment centre stage.

Unfortunately, we will not make any exceptions for applicants or consider mitigating/extenuating circumstances in place of academic qualifications.

For more details about our eligibility requirements, please see here.


Am I still eligible if I am already qualified/part-qualified in social work?

Unfortunately, we are unable to accept applications from those who are already part or fully qualified as social workers. Our course expectation is that our participants will qualify in social work on the programme.

English is not my first language. Can I still apply?

Yes, we welcome applications from a diverse range of candidates. If English is not your first language, you may be required to provide proof of Academic IELTS (UKVI Academic IELTS is not a requirement) with an overall score of 7.0 with a minimum score of 6.5 in each section – speaking, reading, writing & listening (n.b. a score of 6.5 in all four categories will be insufficient to give an overall score of 7.0).

Where IELTS is required, the certificate must be valid (i.e. within two years from the date it was taken). No other English language examination will be accepted.

For the self-declaration of health form, do I have to register with a general practitioner (GP)?

All applicants’ self-declaration of health forms will be required and this must be signed by a GP who holds your medical notes. In some cases, medical practitioners will need to liaise with your GP in regards to your medical history. You cannot enter social work unless this is done.  Please make sure you are registered with a NHS GP and try to avoid moving to another during the recruitment process.

I am a non-UK citizen. Am I able to apply?

We accept applications from non-UK citizens providing you have the right to work and study in the UK for the full duration of the programme, and you have access to public funds. Unfortunately, we are unable to support work and student visas.

For more information about your eligibility to work in the UK, please ensure you check your visa conditions before submitting your application. More information can be found on the Government website here.

We also accept international qualifications providing they are recognised by the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) as being equivalent to the required UK qualification. Applicants with international qualifications should ensure they have obtained a statement of comparability from NARIC before they submit their application.

I consider myself to have a disability. How would I be supported if I applied to Frontline?

We welcome applications from candidates with disabilities and will make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your needs in the assessment process. If you are successful and we offer you a place on the programme, we will discuss with you any adjustments that need to be made throughout the programme.

I do not meet your academic eligibility criteria, can I still apply?

Unfortunately, we are unable to accept applications from those who do not meet the necessary academic criteria. This is in line with the government’s standards and comparable to other social work degree routes. For more information about becoming a social worker, please see the UCAS website.


I don’t have an undergraduate degree but I have a foundation degree/postgraduate qualification/relevant experience instead, can I still apply?

Unfortunately, to qualify and practise as a social worker on the Frontline programme, you must have completed an undergraduate honours degree. We are therefore unable to accept applications from those who do not meet the 2:1 honours degree criteria. This is in accordance with the government’s standards and comparable to other routes into the profession.

We appreciate that you are interested in becoming a social worker and can suggest a couple of options:

I have a previous offence (caution, reprimand, formal warning or conviction) or previous disciplinary matter, can I apply?

Frontline aims to recruit a wide range of individuals. We do not wish to exclude those who have been subject to disciplinary procedures or have a criminal record, but you must inform us if this is the case. You will be prompted to provide this information at the appropriate stage of the application process. Offers made to candidates will not be automatically withdrawn on the basis of this information, but are conditional to satisfactory eligibility and suitability checks. There is no simple criterion pertaining to suitability checks and Frontline will need to consider each case individually. You will receive further information relating to each of these areas if your application is successful and you are invited to attend one of our assessment centres.

For more information, please see our university training provider’s website: https://www.beds.ac.uk/howtoapply/departments/appliedsocialstudies/reforms-in-social-work-education/the-health-and-care-professions-council-hcpc

I have extenuating circumstances that mean I have not met the eligibility criteria, can I apply?

We are unable to accept applications from those who do not meet our main eligibility criteria. Therefore, we will not make any exceptions or consider extenuating circumstances for applicants who do not have a grade C or above in GCSE English and Maths or a 2:1 or above (predicted or obtained) in an undergraduate honours degree.

I will not be in the country during this autumn/winter. Will this affect my ability to apply?

All applicants will be required in person at the full-day assessment centre in order to gain a place on our programme. We will be running these on a rolling basis from September until mid-January. If there are specific dates where you know you will be unavailable please detail these in your application form.

I’m not a recent graduate, can I still apply?

We are looking for outstanding individuals regardless of when they graduated. Many Frontline participants are career changers, and we do not have an age limit on the Frontline programme.

If I agree to retake my GCSE Maths/English to become eligible for the programme can I still apply now?

You must have completed and have proof of the required grades for your GCSEs or equivalent at the point of application. The only qualification we accept where the result has not yet been obtained is an undergraduate honours degree, if you are applying whilst still in your final year.

If I have been rejected, can I apply again?

There is no limit to the amount of times you can apply. However, if you are rejected you must wait until applications open for the following year’s cohort before you reapply.

Application, recruitment and selection process

Am I able to receive feedback on my application?

Due to the high volume of applications we are unable to provide feedback to those who are unsuccessful at the application stage. However, feedback will be available to candidates who reach assessment centres.

Are all Frontline assessment centres in London?

As a growing charity with a small recruitment team, we are only able to hold assessment centres in London (near King’s Cross). The assessment centre involves a large number of resources which would be very difficult to transport to different locations around the country. Our bespoke space allows us to offer candidates an organised and professional experience. We appreciate that this may mean longer travel for some of our applicants, however, we are able to reimburse reasonable expenses for those travelling to the assessment centre.

Can I defer for a year?

Unfortunately Frontline are unable to provide a deferred place as an option at the point of application.

How do I apply? And when?

Applications for our 2019 Cohort are now closed. Applications for the 2020 Cohort will open in September 2019.

How many people have applied to the Frontline programme?

Frontline has attracted over 10,000 applications since recruitment began for our first cohort in 2013. Each year we receive around 10 applications for every place on the programme. We assess individuals independently against a required standard – should we experience a surplus of applications, we will close the application window early. We recommend you apply as early as possible.

I believe I have a condition that requires an adjustment during the assessment process. What adjustments can be made?

There is an opportunity on the application form to outline any adjustments that may be needed. We will contact you in advance of the online test and assessment centre to discuss these.

I have a medical condition or a disability – what do I need to think about in the admissions process?

Social work involves contact with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in society and situations with high levels of risk. If you have a medical condition or disability this may not be a problem in terms of ‘fitness to practise’ provided you can manage your condition.  You should think carefully about how you would manage this in the workplace. Frontline are committed to creating an environment where you can be successful, but we must consider individual health needs before we confirm your place and complete an occupational health process where necessary. This will involve assessing whether you will be able to practice as a social worker for which you’d need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council and be ‘fit to practise’. For more information, see here http://www.hcpc-uk.org.uk/complaints/fitnesstopractise/

I have answered one of the registration questions incorrectly and can no longer carry on with my application, what should I do?

Please email recruitment@thefrontline.org.uk and we can reset your email address so you can register again. Please do not register with a different email address as this will result in you showing up in our system twice and could lead to this duplicate account being deleted.

I have missed the deadline to apply, can I be placed on a reserve list to start next summer?

Frontline does not operate a reserve list so you will need to apply when applications open again in the autumn.

I haven’t submitted my application yet but when I go into the portal it says I have already applied, how do I continue?

When you re-enter the portal you should see the message “you have already applied to this”. On the left hand side of the screen there will be a grey box with the words “my application”. Please click this to continue with your application form.

I would like to give feedback or raise a complaint about the recruitment procedures – what should I do?

We are always looking for ways to improve our recruitment process. Email us with your feedback at recruitment@thefrontline.org.uk.

We try our hardest to treat every applicant equally and fairly but if you feel that we could have done better, then please put this in writing to us. We take any complaints seriously and will investigate these carefully. Please send details of your complaint FAO Graduate Recruitment Director to recruitment@thefrontline.org.uk.

I’m worried about how I’ll cope in the role – what’s it really like?

Children’s social work is an exciting and rewarding job but also extremely demanding: mentally, physically and emotionally.  It involves working with families and children in situations of high levels of abuse and neglect, as well as working long hours at short notice.

Social workers have to be responsive to the issues happening in families and any crises that arise, and there is therefore a high level of unpredictability in the role.  At times this can be very challenging. This will be the case in your second year when you’ll have responsibility for your own caseload, but also to some extent in the first year as well.

What do I do if I have made a mistake on the application form?

If you realise that you have entered anything incorrectly, including academic details, please notify the Recruitment team immediately so that the information can be updated. You can do this by emailing us.

What does the recruitment process involve?

The recruitment process starts with a self-selection questionnaire on our website, to help you determine if Frontline is right for you. If you wish to apply, you will complete an online competency based application form, followed by a verbal reasoning and situational judgment test.

After this, successful applicants take part in a short video interview. If successful, you will then be invited to our assessment centre where you will participate in various exercises. These will consist of a group exercise, role play, written exercise and interview. The assessment centre will give you the opportunity to experience real situations that social workers encounter on a day to day basis.

When do the assessment centres take place?

Assessment centres run from late September until January. If you are invited to attend an assessment centre, you can book a date via our online portal. Dates are released frequently but we urge you to book the earliest date possible. We reserve the right to cancel upcoming assessment centres if we recruit the required number of candidates for the programme.

Assessment centres take place in the morning (08.45 – 12.45) or afternoon (13.45 – 17.45). If you have any queries about booking an assessment centre, please email recruitment@thefrontline.org.uk

Joining the Frontline Programme

Does Frontline offer work placements?

Unfortunately, we don’t offer work placements because the leadership development programme lasts for two years and participants need to apply for and complete the entirety of the programme. This is our agreement with our local authority partners.

Does the five-week Summer Institute include weekends?

The five week Summer Institute will be full-time Monday to Friday so your weekends are free to spend as you wish.

How many people will join my cohort?

Almost 400 participants joined our 2019 Cohort. We are recruiting up to 452 participants for our 2020 and 2021 Cohorts. 

How will the two years training be spent?

  • 5-week residential Summer Institute
  • 12 months’ placement in a local authority alongside up to four other participants to form a participant unit led by an experienced social worker. You will attend academic sessions to gain a postgraduate diploma by the end of the year.
  • 12 months working as a qualified social worker and the opportunity to complete a fully funded masters.*
  • Throughout the course you’ll be completing a leadership development programme.

*Subject to timely HCPC registration and enrolment to the local authority’s ASYE programme.

See our Programme Details page for more information.

Is it compulsory to complete both years of the Frontline programme?

Frontline is a two-year Leadership Development programme, therefore completing both years is compulsory. The first year qualifies you as a social worker through direct work with children and families. In the second year you will work as a newly qualified social worker responsible for your own caseload, while completing a fully-funded master’s qualification.

What does the Summer Institute entail?

The Summer Institute will provide you with the academic grounding for social work where you will learn key theories. You will also have the opportunity to take part in experiential learning and meet a wider network of professionals who all work together to ensure that children and families are being supported. It is your first part of the Frontline journey and you will work as a cohort of up to 452 participants.

Click here to find out more. 

What local authorities are Frontline working with?

Frontline is working with a number of local authorities across the North West, North East, Midlands, London, South West and South East.

Click here to find out more.

What will the course cover?

The curriculum encompasses all aspects of social work, with a specific focus on children and families. The guiding principle of the academic programme is to prepare participants for real frontline practice by developing the interactional skills and intervention methods to work with families to effect real, positive change. The programme will cover the theoretical bases that underpin work with children and adults, and these will be continually interwoven into their direct work with families during the programme. 

Where will I be based, and for how long?

Your first five weeks will be a residential summer institute at the University of Warwick. You will then be placed with a local authority for the following two years in one of our regions; the North West, North East, Midlands, London, South West and South East. See our locations page for more information.

Who will deliver the curriculum and training for Frontline?

The curriculum and training will be designed and delivered by The Frontline Organisation.

Will I be able to meet the other people I am joining with before I start?

There will be plenty of opportunities before the programme starts to meet the participants. This includes at the Summer Institute and during shadowing days in your local authority where you will also meet your consultant social worker.

Pay and Employment Terms

How much will I be paid?

In Year 1, all tuition fees and Summer Institute accommodation costs are met by Frontline. In your first year you will receive a tax and NI exempt bursary which is paid to you quarterly in advance.

  • London: Bursary of £20,000
  • Other regions: Bursary of £18,000

In Year 2 you will earn a newly-qualified social worker salary – up to £34K depending on local authority and location.

You will be responsible for paying for and organising your own accommodation when placed in local authorities in Year 1 and Year 2.

How will the programme enable participants to transfer to different areas of social work?

The Frontline programme gives you a generic social work qualification. The experience of contrasting placements in Year 1 will give you the opportunity to explore different areas of practice. The Frontline programme will ensure you have transferrable skills that you can apply to in any other areas of social work.

What pre-employment checks can I expect to be done?

You can expect:

  • Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) – Frontline will cover the cost of this check
  • Occupational health checks – Please note, you will need to cover the cost of a doctor’s note to accompany your health check.
  • Academic qualification (university transcript)
  • Reference checks

Will I be entitled to annual leave during the programme?

You will be entitled to 25 days’ annual leave in your first year of placement within the local authority. In Year 2 you can expect to receive the standard annual leave entitlement from your local authority.

After Frontline

Am I guaranteed a job at the end of the programme?

Your local authority will make a decision at the end of the two years on whether to offer you a permanent contract. In completing the masters alongside the leadership development programme, you will be highly attractive to employers.

How will participants be supported in placement?

Day to day, participants will be supported by their consultant social worker who will be leading their unit within a local authority. You will also receive ongoing support from your practice tutor and from members of Frontline’s Programme team.

What are my career prospects after Frontline?

The wide range of skills and experience you’ll gain on the Frontline programme means that there are a range of career choices open to you. See our After Frontline page for details.

What happens after I complete my two years on the programme?

At the end of the two-year placement, you will have successfully completed the Frontline programme. Frontline hopes that alumni from the programme will continue their work to support our mission wherever they are.

Once you have completed the Frontline programme you will be part of the Frontline Fellowship, a movement of outstanding individuals who are applying themselves to addressing social disadvantage in many different ways. All those who are part of the Fellowship will have attended an extended training programme run by Frontline. By 2020 there will be over 1,500 Frontline fellows in the movement. Read more about potential career journeys here.

Will Frontline participants be ready for the challenges of social work?

Being a frontline children’s social worker is one of the most challenging professions. Preparing individuals for that work is a huge responsibility which we take seriously. We want great people to take up this challenge, and we’re realistic about what it involves.

Frontline’s selection process is rigorous and provides applicants with a good awareness of what social work entails. This gives Frontline confidence that participants on the programme have a strong understanding of the challenge they are taking on, and are well-equipped to meet this. You will have more days in practice before qualifying than in any other route into social work. You will also benefit from expert supervision throughout the programme.

As a result of this, more than 90% of participants have successfully completed the first year of the programme and obtained their Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work in each cohort since the programme began in 2013.

Will Frontline’s qualification allow me to practise as a social worker in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?

You will be able to practise social work in other parts of the UK. However, you may need to complete additional training or have your practice limited to children and families social work until you undertake additional training with a focus on working with adults.

How did the regulators reach their decision?

We do not believe that these regulators have considered evidence from the Frontline programme in reaching their decision, as we have had no requests for our course material and they have not taken evidence from anyone who has undertaken the programme. Alongside HCPC, we will be seeking clarification from these regulators in the coming months.

Will there be any exceptions?

Each council will consider post-qualifying experience in addition to qualifications to determine whether an applicant meets the requirements for registration.

Who will this affect?

This information is only relevant for those of you intending to practise outside of England.

Firstline Programme

How do I get involved?

Firstline works with a number of local authorities across England.

For first line managers: You must work for a Firstline partner local authority in order to take part. If you are unsure whether your local authority is taking part, please contact us for more information.

For local authorities: If you are a senior manager within a local authority and would like more information about the programme, please contact us. We will send you an information pack and further details about next steps.

How is Firstline funded?

Firstline is mainly funded by the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme. There is also a contribution from our partner local authorities per Firstline leader on the programme.

What does the programme involve?

The programme consists of a number of elements that all complement each other. Ranging from small group work and one-to-one sessions, to residentials where you can share your learning with others across the country. The Firstline programme is tailored to your own learning.

See About Firstline for further information about what the programme involves.

What if I can’t attend the residential modules?

The residential modules provide an essential learning platform for the whole programme. As such, being unable to attend the residential will impact upon your development during the programme. If you are interested in applying for the programme and are concerned that you will be unable to come to the residentials, please get in touch.

What research is the programme based on?

Our programme is based on extensive research into what constitutes great social work leadership. You can read the report here.

When does the programme happen?

We have two cohorts running each year, one starting in the spring and one in the autumn. Each programme lasts around 10 months and most sessions throughout this period will happen in your local authority; their exact timings will be flexible and work around your schedule. The only fixed dates will be the residential modules, and we will ensure you know these well in advance of committing to the programme.

Where will the residential modules be based?

Our residentials currently take place at a four-star hotel in Sheffield. The residential modules run over two weekdays (Tuesday and Wednesday) but we invite all Firstline leaders to arrive on the Monday afternoon so that they can enjoy an evening with their colleagues and fully engage with the learning. As we grow and work with new local authorities, we will continue to review the location of the residentials.

Which local authorities have you worked with?

We have worked with a number of authorities in England. Please see below for a full list of past and current partner authorities:

North West
Cheshire West and Chester

North East and Yorkshire
North Tyneside
North Yorkshire
South Tyneside

London, South East and East Anglia


Who is Firstline aimed at?

Firstline is unique in that it is a leadership development programme solely for those managing social workers. To be eligible, you must spend the majority of your time managing social workers who work directly with children and families on an ongoing basis.

Who will support me on the programme?

Throughout the programme you will be supported by a number of people including the Firstline team and the senior leadership team at your local authority. Your key support during the programme will come from your leadership development advisor (LDA) who will work with you throughout your one-to-one and group sessions. They will help to unlock your own thinking regarding your development, provide insight from their own experience and challenge you to think differently about your leadership journey. You will be matched with your LDA at the beginning of the programme.

Will I have to do any written essays?

Firstline is a demanding programme and you’ll get out of it what you put in. There aren’t any written essays involved, though early in the programme we will ask for a brief summary of your development focus. In addition, towards the end of the programme you will be expected to put together a short presentation.