Josh MacAlister is the Chief Executive at Frontline. A former teacher, he taught in secondary schools across Greater Manchester and was a head of department before leaving the profession to set up Frontline. As the charity releases its first annual report, Josh reflects on the situation facing social workers today and the challenges ahead for his team.
“Record levels of children are coming into care, social work practice is still inconsistent and too many families continue to be assessed and referred time and again. Bureaucracy continues to steal social workers away from families, and there is still a lack of public understanding about the job social workers do.
“The breadth of change needed both inside and outside the social work system is so huge that it’s sometimes hard to know where to start. The enormity of it can sow seeds of doubt, and it can be all too easy to say it’s too much. Yet the way the system works is not predetermined -– it can be redesigned.
“The scale of the problems in social work and the nature of disadvantage facing families should humble us, but it should also give us focus and resolve. We need to remember that change takes time, and most importantly it can be led by those on the front line.
“Systems matter, but individuals matter more. Individuals can make a difference. Change can happen one family, child or conversation at a time.
“There are 500,000 children and young people in England at risk of abuse or neglect, in need of life-changing support. Social workers are among the most important people in our society. There are many inspirational social workers who are true leaders to some of the most vulnerable people – there just aren’t enough of them.
“At Frontline we have reached a significant milestone. Our very first cohort of 86 participants graduated the Frontline programme in December, we currently have 263 participants in training and are recruiting another 300 to begin this year. An independent evaluation of the Frontline pilot has rated the quality of our practice higher than other routes into social work. And, we are very pleased to be able to share with you our first Annual Report as an independent charity.
“This is a proud moment for us and an important time to pause and reflect. We are enormously grateful to everyone who has helped and encouraged us to get here.
“The year ahead will be our most challenging year yet. It will be the largest expansion of the Frontline programme, partnering with new regions and local authorities. And we will launch two cohorts of our new Firstline programme working to develop social work managers.
“It won’t be easy, but we are confident that with continued belief – in our programmes, in our social workers, in children and in making change happen one conversation at a time – we will carry on.”
You can read Frontline’s Annual Report here.