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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.

About Frontline

How does Frontline select local authorities to work with?

Frontline operates in set regions and only partners with local authorities in those regions. Local authorities express an interest in a partnership and Frontline assesses their suitability as a partner. Criteria include the need in the area, the capacity of the local authority to support participants, and the challenges and expectations of both parties.

How is Frontline funded?

The cost of the Frontline programme is split between the Deparment for Education, partner local authorities who fund participants’ second year salaries, and donations and support from philanthropic partners.

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 abilities. 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, requires leadership qualities. We focus in some detail on developing these leadership abilities throughout our leadership development programmes and provide you with the awareness and insight to continue to develop your skill in this area beyond the Frontline and Firstline 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 Frontline Fellowship. This movement allows fellows to continue striving for change, both inside and outside 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.


Am I eligible to apply?

To apply for our leadership development programme you must have:

  •  A 2:1 or higher in an undergraduate honours degree (predicted or obtained).
  •  At least a C in GCSE English and Maths (or equivalent).

In addition, you will be required to:

  • Demonstrate competence in IT and written and spoken English.
  • Declare any previous offences.
  • Undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.*
  • Complete a health check questionnaire and give permission for contact with your GP or other medical professional, if necessary, to confirm your suitability for social work training.*
  • Have the right to remain and work (including recourse to public funds) in the UK for the duration of the programme.
  • Provide at least two satisfactory references covering the last two years.

* This will only be required for applicants who are successful in the application process.

Unfortunately, we will not make any exceptions for applicants. Neither are we able to accept a postgraduate qualification, master’s degree or relevant experience as a substitute for any of our main eligibility criteria. If you do not meet these requirements, and are still interested in applying to be a social worker, please refer to for further information on courses.

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 to Frontline?

We accept applications from non-UK citizens. If you are from within the EEA, you are able to apply given that you have permission to work in the UK. For more information, please click here.

For non-EEA citizens, you are able to apply as long as you are eligible to work in the UK for the duration of the programme (from the start of the Summer Institute). You should also have recourse to public funds. Unfortunately we are unable to support work visas.

For more information about your eligibility to work in the UK, please check your visa conditions meet the UK Government requirements by clicking here and here.

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?

We are unable to accept applications from those who do not meet the 2:1 honours degree criteria or the grade C in GCSE Maths and English; this is in accordance with the government’s standards and comparable to other social work degree routes. If you do not meet these requirements, and are still interested in applying to be a social worker, please refer to for further information on other courses.

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:

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 with which you can apply before receiving your result is your 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.

Which equivalent qualifications apply?

If you were educated in the UK…

Any qualification that meets Key Skills Level 2 in Maths and English meets our requirement of a minimum GSCE Maths and English at grade C. You can find a full directory of recognised qualifications within the national framework here. Please review this register before contacting us directly.

With regard to the 2:1 undergraduate honours degree, if you have completed an equivalent qualification, you can indicate this on our application form. This will be considered on a case by case basis dependent on the qualification and level of achievement.

If you were educated outside of the UK…

Frontline recognises that applicants educated outside of the UK are likely to have equivalent qualifications from the country in which they completed their education. It is your responsibility to research whether your qualifications are likely to meet our criteria. Certain qualifications can be calculated on the UCAS website. If your application is successful, your qualifications will be checked for equivalency through the NARIC process. International students may be required to pay a fee to determine equivalency. More information can be found here.

If English is not your first language you must be able to communicate to the standard equivalent to level 7 of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), with no element below 6.5. If offered a place, applicants are required to provide evidence of attainment of level 7 IELTS or an equivalent qualification at that stage. The test is valid for two years from the date it was taken and must be valid at the point of application.

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

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

Please email 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

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

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 28 September through to the end of January. If you are invited to attend an Assessment Centre, you can book the date of your choice through the candidate portal. We release Assessment Centre dates on an ongoing basis, so if you are not available on the dates shown, check back at a later date to see more options.

Assessment Centres take place in morning (08.45 – 12.45) or afternoon (13.45 – 17.45) sessions. If your availability is limited during this period and you are concerned about your ability to make the Assessment Centre, please email

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?

340 participants started in the 2018 Cohort and we will be recruiting 452 participants for the 2019 Cohort.

How will the two years training be spent?

  • 5-week residential Summer Institute
  • 12 months’ placement in a local authority alongside three 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 with approximately 340 participants.

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.

What will the course cover?

The curriculum will encompass all aspects of social work with a specific focus on children and families. The guiding principle of the academic programme is that participants be prepared for real front line 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 year in the local authority.

Where will I be based, and for how long?

Your first five weeks will be a residential summer institute. 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.

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.

  • Inner London: Bursary of £19,591
  • Outer London: Bursary of £18,544
  • Other regions: Bursary of £16,756

In Year 2 you will earn a newly-qualified social worker salary – around £30K 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.

More information on bursary payments

In the event that you exit the Frontline programme early, you will be required to pay back any advanced funds already disbursed to you that were intended to support you for the time period after your subsequent withdrawal. You will not be expected to repay any earlier disbursements of the bursary that were intended to support you for time periods prior to your withdrawal.

To receive the bursary you must remain enrolled in the Frontline programme. You must ensure your attendance meets the requirements of the course. You must submit all assignments, attend all recall days and engage in the academic teaching. You must abide by the procedures and regulations of the local authority as they apply to you.

Please be aware that if you fail to achieve the Postgraduate Diploma award following 12 months in the practice learning setting, and an extension of the practice learning experience is required, you are unlikely to receive further bursary funding.

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
  • 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. Participants will have more days in practice before qualifying than in any other route into social work. They 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.