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Our local authority partnerships are central to ensuring we deliver a strong and effective development for participants across both the Frontline and Firstline programmes.

Working closely with local authorities, we are attracting more outstanding people into children’s social work, and delivering high quality training and education for both qualifying and experienced practitioners. In doing so, we can provide the best support for children and families in need of social workers.

Watch the video to find our about how we’ve worked together with Manchester City Council, our very first local authority partner.

Benefits of partnering with us

Expand and develop the skills of your staff

Receive new social workers with high potential


  • Rigorous selection process – Frontline participants have a 2:1 degree and undergo a rigorous recruitment and selection process to ensure that they possess the key skills required for children’s social work.
  • High quality training – Frontline participants receive first-class academic and practical training which is grounded in recent, evidence-based and innovative approaches to child protection social work.
Highly skilled newly qualified social workers
  • Ready for practice – After 12 months working in child protection services in your local authority, participants will be newly qualified staff (four per unit), trained in evidence-based practice models, and ready for the challenges of child protection social work.
  • Cardiff Evaluation – An independent evaluation of the Frontline programme by Cardiff University found evidence of the impressive practice skill of Frontline participants, and recognised their ability to develop strong collaborative relationships. Read the report.
Develop and retain existing staff
  • Consultant social workers – On the Frontline programme, each unit of four trainee social workers is led by a consultant social worker (CSW). This role gives your strongest practitioners the chance to remain in a practice-based role, while giving them the opportunity to lead and manage a unit. All CSWs are offered a 20 days CSW development training programme, and have the opportunity to work towards professional qualifications, including the Practice Educator Professional Standards at stage two, and Postgraduate Certificate in Systemic Practice.
  • Social work managers –  The Firstline programme develops good social work managers into high performing, considered and influential leaders. Strengthening the leadership of this important group has a profound effect on the practice systems within which they work, improving the quality of social work supervision and the management of social workers.
  • Centre for Child and Family Research (CCfR, Loughborough University) – An evaluation of the Firstline programme found it had significant impact on social work leadership. Those undertaking the programme gave overwhelmingly positive feedback. Their teams also reported improvements in a number of key areas such as their ability to learn and develop others, hold people to account and exercise resilience and self-relexivity. There are also tangible links to retention of managers; a number who completed the programme, and had been planning to leave their posts, decided to stay, while others had secured or were considering applying for more senior positions. Read the report.
Become part of our network
  • Regional model –  We work closely with our local authority partners, so you will benefit by being part of a wider network across each of our regions.
  • Share best practice – We have developed a range of regional-based research and practice forums, providing opportunities for practitioners across your organisation to come together to share learning and good practice.
  • Be recognised as a pioneer – The Frontline and Firstline programmes are the first of their kind, and have received cross-party support. The charity and a number of local authorities we work with have received positive press coverage and recognition for our work, and we need local authority partners to join us so we can continue to contribute to raising the profile and further developing the social work system. Read our latest news.
Dedicated teams


  • Support – Our dedicated leadership and regional teams support all aspects of setting up and delivering programmes in your local authority.
  • Strong and effective partnership working – We place great emphasis on local authority partnerships, with a strong focus on sharing learning. We work closely with our partner local authorities and share knowledge of regional developments in social work.


About our programmes

Frontline programme

The Frontline programme takes a unique approach to social work training. It combines the teaching of world-renowned academics from leading social work institutions with high-quality practice learning and a clear focus on leadership.

Year 1: Practice learning experience in participant units

After an intensive five-week Summer Institute – and having passed their Readiness for Practice assessment – participants are placed in units of four in a social care service responsible for children in need and child protection work. This practice learning unit is led by a consultant social worker (CSW). In the unit model, the CSW is the named social worker for all the cases worked by the unit. They work alongside the participants: training, supervising and assessing them, and gradually sharing work with each participant, giving them increasing autonomy as the year progresses.

Throughout the year, participants attend recall days. Here they receive additional teaching on the Frontline practice models: motivational interviewing, parenting interventions and systemic practice. In addition to their work in children’s social work, each participant will undertake a short, adult-focussed, contrasting learning experience, specialising in either domestic violence, learning difficulties, mental health or substance misuse.

At the end of the year, Frontline participants will gain a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work that allows them to register as a qualified social worker with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC).

The participant unit model has been influenced by the success of Reclaiming Social Work – an approach endorsed by Eileen Munro’s review of Children’s Services in 2011.

Year 2 – Assessed and Supported Year in Employment

In their second year, Frontline participants become employees of the same local authority in which they trained. In this Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE), they join one of the local authority social work teams as a practice-ready newly qualified social worker. During this year, the participants receive further teaching from the Frontline team and undertake a Masters Degree in Social Work, accredited by the University of Bedfordshire.

Academic input

Frontline is distinct from traditional social work courses due to its unit model practice learning experience which is supported by hands-on involvement from practice tutors. Tutors regularly visit units to ensure that participants are applying the evidence-based practice models that they learnt at the Summer Institute and recall days. Through regular observation and grading of practice, tutors ensure that participants are bringing about positive change for the families with which they are working.


Frontline puts leadership at the heart of its mission. Through our bespoke leadership programme, participants gain the skills and confidence to set out a vision with a family and convince a range of professionals to put this into practice. These leadership qualities also benefit the participants as they work within local authorities and wider organisations.

Firstline programme

Firstline is a leadership development programme that develops good social work managers into high performing, considered and influential leaders. The programme is designed specifically for those managing social workers who work with children and families.


Our curriculum gives those on the programme (Firstline leaders) the tools, reflective techniques and confidence to develop their leadership skills so they can better enable great social work practice. Managers on the programme are strongly encouraged to challenge themselves in areas such as reflexivity, decision-making and influencing others. Drawing on insights from adult learning, we tailor the programme individually to each Firstline leader, but base it on systemic principles. As well as being an excellent complement to other workforce development offers, this flexibility allows Firstline leaders to apply their learning to their individual role and their local authority’s culture.

Firstline impact

Firstline leaders from the prototype programme saw measurable improvement in several leadership capability areas. This has enabled them to improve the climate and culture within their teams, focus on the quality of direct practice and proactively seek to improve their practice system. More recent cohorts have also noted improvement in how they manage and develop their teams, as well as increased ability to influence others and advocate for their teams and for children and families. Read the evaluation and find out more information about the impact of the programme here.

Funding and cost

Firstline is largely funded by the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme, though there is a small cost to partner authorities for each leader (minimum of four) invited to join the programme. Firstline is tailored to strong managers who spend most of their time supervising social workers and those invited will undertake a series of activities to determine whether the programme best suits their needs.

Working with local authorities


The Frontline programme provides participants with high quality and relevant learning experiences to ensure they are equipped with the necessary skills required to work with complex child protection cases upon qualification.

We partner with local authorities, which host Frontline participants as trainee social workers in units for a year and then employ them as newly-qualified social workers for at least a year.

Currently we work with a wide range of local authorities across the North East, North West, Midlands, London, the South East and East of England. We continue to grow the programme each year, and by 2020 we will be working with around 70 local authorities across all regions of England. See our regional pages for more information on our local authority partners.


Firstline is a leadership development programme that develops good social work managers into high performing, considered and influential leaders.

We have worked with a range of local authorities across the country to deliver the programme in a range of regions including the North West, North East and Yorkshire, London, South East as well as the Midlands and East Anglia.

Firstline works with a number of local authorities across England including municipal and shire, urban and rural, and large and small authorities, We work closely with local authorities in tried and tested ways to ensure the programme has maximum impact within the authority, and therefore with children and families.

How to partner with us


At present, Frontline operates in set regions and only partners with local authorities in those regions. The decision to partner is based on need, as well as the capacity of the local authority to provide high quality placements for participants.

While the Frontline practice model is a unit model approach with a focus on systemic practice, we work with various local authorities that have a wide range of practice models. Our local authority partners also continue to work closely with other social work training routes and universities.

If you are interested in partnering with Frontline, the first step is to set up an initial conversation with our delivery director or relevant head of region. Following this, an initial partnership meeting takes place.

This involves a staff survey and a visit by Frontline staff to meet your senior team, team managers, potential consultant social worker candidates and ASYE social workers. The day gives us the opportunity to explore the partnership with you in more detail.

If you are interested in partnering with Frontline, please contact the designated head of region for your area, or the delivery director, for an initial conversation. Alternatively, you can contact us here. This will give you an opportunity to hear more about the Frontline model and decide if you are interested in joining us.




We work with local authorities across England and are continuing to expand our partnerships. If you would like to learn more about Firstline, we strongly encourage you to contact senior leaders within these organisations to find out more about their experience of the programme. If you would like us to put you in contact with a relevant local authority or you are interested in hearing more or would like to request an information pack, contact us.

In order for Firstline leaders to properly benefit from the programme, we ask for the full support of both their line managers and the local authority.


  • We provide a comprehensive briefing for managers within your local authority, so that both Firstline leaders and their line managers fully understand the programme.
  • We work with you to select the best candidates in your local authority – ensuring that Firstline leaders are committed to the programme, open to the challenge and at the right point in their careers.
  • We encourage Firstline leaders to use their learning to contribute to the development of your social work system and we ask that the local authority enables this as much as possible.
  • It is essential for line managers to invest in the Firstline leaders’ development and support them throughout the programme – arranging cover where necessary and allowing them to make changes within their teams and the wider organisation.

Get in touch

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