Sunday, 28 October 2012

‘Frontline’ – missing the point

I was disappointed to see in the Independent on Sunday that Michael Gove, the Secretary of Sate for Education, has been persuaded to introduce child protection social work’s equivalent of the Teach First charity, to be called 'Frontline'. The scheme, first floated more than a year ago by former Children’s Minister Andrew Adonis, will aim to recruit ‘exceptional graduates’ who will be fast-tracked into social work.

As I said when I discussed this idea before I think this type of scheme misses the point. It is not just a matter of giving people more support and status. The problems with recruitment, and particularly retention, in children’s social work are very deep seated.

People do not fail to stay in child protection social work because of lack of status, advancement or money. Largely they leave because of the unremitting pressure of trying to do a very difficult, and sometimes dangerous, job that is made more treacherous by poor support, bureaucratic obstacles and a continuing blame culture.

Munro has reported and her recommendations have been endorsed. But I still see little evidence of widespread cultural change, either in the higher echelons of the civil service and senior management or at the front-line.

The first step, Mr. Gove, should be to make the working environment less toxic. And don’t deceive yourself into thinking that a few young people from Russell Group universities will somehow prove to be more resilient than the run of the mill social work graduate. They won’t.