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Routes into Social Work

Late last month saw the official launch of Frontline within the North East region. Directors from across the region have been working pro-actively with Frontline over a number of months to shape what the expansion of the programme would look like. As of summer 2016, 40 participants of Frontline will be placed in 8 local authorities in the region who are participating in the programme, ranging from large county councils such as Northumberland, to small unitary authorities, such as my own in Redcar and Cleveland.

For the past year development of the workforce and strengthening the cohorts of students coming into our local authorities has been a key strategic priority for all Directors of Children’s and Adult’s Services in the North East. We have been working with ADCS on their apprenticeship pathways, but also, for the first time, we have been involved in the Step Up to Social Work programme alongside Frontline. We are clear that we do not seek to replace our local universities and other routes into social work, such as work based learning, but seek to build on existing provision to diversify the demographics of those entering our workforce. On top of our pre-qualifying programmes which recruit around 330 social work students a year, we have number of people studying part-time with the Open University whilst they work in local authorities. Frontline and Step Up will add to this regional offer, rather than seek to diminish it.

We already know from those who will be joining us for the Step Up programme from 2016, that the fast paced, full time nature of the course is a real attraction. For those individuals who already have a significant level of experience in working with children and families, being able to work directly within a local authority, supported by a bursary, is the combination that they need to accelerate their learning and practice. As the government are providing some funding for this option, it is natural that we should open this route up to people who want to become social workers in the region. Additionally, for those individuals where a longer period of study is preferable or required, then the BA and MA programmes will still exist and we have some excellent providers within the region. Far from creating a two-tier system, we seek to create multiple routes into a career that is both challenging but also extremely rewarding. The children, families and adults that we work with come with a wide range of issues and challenges. As such, we need a wide range of social workers with the appropriate skills and experience to work for us to help tackle the issues that some of our families face. By providing different routes into social work through Frontline, Step Up, the Open University as well as our local universities, we can ensure that we have the right mix of skills and experience in our workforce to deliver a sustainable service into the future.

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