The problem

At least half a million children in England don’t have a safe or stable home. Of these, almost 400,000 are in need of social care services.

Children in need are at risk of a range of serious factors, including drug misuse, grooming by gangs, trafficking, sexual abuse, or having a physical or learning disability, with the most prevalent factors being domestic violence and mental health. This can impact later in life.

Children in care are six times more likely to be cautioned or convicted of a crime than other young people.
Almost a third of the homeless population were in care at some point in their lives
Only 6% of care leavers go to university compared to approximately 40% of all young people.

The solution

A good social worker can make the difference between a child living in disadvantage, and reaching their full potential.

Working alongside families and other professionals including doctors, teachers and police, they ensure that vulnerable children receive the care and support they need to keep them safe from harm.

However, children’s social work is under enormous strain. Demands of bureaucracy, high caseloads and turnover of staff limit the ability of social workers to remain child-focussed, which is vital to ensure the safety of vulnerable children. Social work is also desperately in need of leaders to drive positive changes in the system. The practice of leadership can bring about positive change for families, influence other professionals, improve organisations and tackle deep-rooted problems.

“Social work directly changes lives for the better on a daily basis.”

Work in action

Great social work does make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children, but the social work system urgently needs to change to be truly effective.

Frontline aims to improve life outcomes for children and families, not only by improving direct practice, but also by influencing the profession and growing a movement of leaders who are driving change in social work. There is no other organisation in England carrying out this work.

Through its Frontline and Firstline programmes and Fellowship movement, Frontline is contributing to change in social work by supporting local authorities and children’s trusts across England to:

  • recruit and retain high quality social work staff;
  • improve social work supervision and the management of social workers;
  • improve and evoke leadership in the social work profession;
  • share knowledge and learning within the profession.

The Frontline programme: Frontline recruits, trains and supports people to become social workers through its two-year qualifying programme. This is a unique opportunity for high potential graduates and career changers to make a difference to the most vulnerable children in England.

The Firstline programme: Social work managers are the engines for transformational practice in social work. This ten-month Firstlineprogramme develops social work managers into outstanding leaders, to give the best possible support to their teams and vulnerable families.

The Fellowship: The Fellowship is a rapidly growing movement of hundreds, soon to be thousands, who have all received training from Frontline and are social workers with a range of expertise. Fellows are working together to address social disadvantage.

The Big Changers

Josh MacAlister

Josh MacAlister founded Frontline in 2013. Before this, he was working at a school in Greater Manchester, where he taught large number of children who had social workers in their home life.  He set up Frontline with the bold ambition of transforming the lives of vulnerable children and families by recruiting and developing outstanding individuals to become social workers and leaders.

Frontline has grown to be the largest social work training provider in the country


We’re proud to have backed Frontline to pilot their training programme for social workers. Since being funded by big change, over 100,000 families have received 

support from social workers on the Frontline and Firstline programmes. Frontline estimated that their participants have worked with more than 98,000 children while on the programme. A further 48,000 children have received support from teams managed by Firstline leaders. 

Their work has been recognized by the DfE, and they received funding to train more social workers through this recognition. While the data and recognition speak for themselves, social workers have also confirmed the transformative impact of Frontline’s work:

“The Frontline programme trains you to be positive advocates for change within the social work system – to and make the system work better for children and families. Being part of a network of change-makers through the Fellowship has been really valuable, as has the support offered through the Fellowship.” – Emily, Frontline fellow and social worker

“Frontline has always encouraged me to stay focussed on good outcomes for vulnerable children above all else. This started from my training on the Frontline programme, which gave me a very good grounding in social work theory, practice and intervention and has served as a good foundation for my subsequent career. The leadership content of the programme, particularly the training on tackling complex problems and designing effective, tailored solutions, is so valuable. While I was training on the programme, I initially thought it was a bit early for us to think about leadership within the social work sector, when we’d just started practising. On reflection, though, the leadership skills we gained can be applied as equally to working with families as they can to affect change within the social work system and progressing to more senior roles.” –

John, Frontline fellow and social worker