A social work career specialising in child protection is not for the faint-hearted – it's a challenging field that involves working with children and families experiencing high levels of abuse and neglect. It's also a rewarding role in which you can change the lives of some of the most vulnerable people you'll ever meet.
The Frontline programme is a fast-track scheme that recruits graduates from all degree backgrounds and trains them to undertake children's social work for two years. To get onto the scheme, you'll need to show a good understanding of what the work will involve and demonstrate the right attitude and skills.
What degree do you need to be hired by Frontline?
You need a 2.1 or higher (predicted or achieved) in any degree subject, or a 2.2 plus a masters (again, in any subject) to be eligible for Frontline. You also need a grade C/4 or above in maths and English GCSE.
The skills and personal qualities you need to be a Frontline social worker
Frontline's recruiters look for competencies in three key areas: commitment to children and families, the ability to work with people and strong leadership and judgement.
Commitment to children and families
Motivation – you'll need to show commitment to Frontline’s mission and programme and the communities you work with.
Self-awareness – you'll need the ability to reflect on situations and the impact of your interactions so you can learn and work more effectively.
Resilience – you'll need to be able to overcome challenges, respond to feedback constructively and bounce back when things don’t go as planned, so you can move forward with maturity and confidence.
Working with people
Communication skills – you'll need to be able to draw on your verbal, non-verbal and written communication skills to establish your credibility and work effectively with children, families, colleagues and others.
Empathy and relationships – you'll need an attitude of respect and humility towards others. Your colleagues and the families you are working with have knowledge and experience that you don't, so it's important that you don't make assumptions or work in ways that don't consider other people's views. You’ll also need to be able to build relationships with a wide range of people and respond with empathy to their emotional states while remaining professional.
Leading with sound judgement
Analysis and adaptability – you’ll need to be open-minded, able to adapt to new evidence, and systematic in your approach to understanding complex problems and evaluating hypotheses.
Leadership – you'll need to be able to inspire and persuade others and bring out the best in them. Can you use your initiative to overcome challenges and encourage others to contribute?
You’ll also need to show that you can manage your time effectively and demonstrate professionalism in how you present yourself and how you relate to others.
How you can show you’ve got what it takes
Work experience will help you demonstrate that you have the right skills and personal qualities. This could be paid work – for example, working as a carer or support worker – or voluntary work.
You could volunteer through a charity such as the NSPCC, Action for Children, Barnardo’s or The Prince’s Trust to support vulnerable young people. You could also look for opportunities through Volunteering Matters, which runs the Volunteers Supporting Families initiative. The VSF recruits and trains volunteers to mentor families with complex needs, such as alcohol or substance misuse, where children are at risk of significant harm through neglect.
Another option is volunteering through City Year, which provides full-time volunteering opportunities in schools in England.
You can gain experience of working with families by volunteering as a mentor through Home-Start UK or Family Action. You could also support vulnerable people by volunteering for organisations that support members of your local community who are in need. Volunteering for Childline or your university's Nightline service will help you to develop your communication and counselling skills.