How does Firstline relate to Frontline?

Firstline and Frontline both share the vision of transforming the lives of vulnerable children and families through outstanding social work practice. Whilst Frontline recruits and develops individuals new to social work practice, Firstline is aimed at developing existing first line social work managers - regardless of whether they have any involvement with Frontline. Firstline targets managers working across the full range of children’s social services, while Frontline is focussed on child protection work.

Frontline’s leadership team developed the Firstline concept and secured funding to run the prototype, and the Frontline board oversees the implementation of the programme. However, Firstline is being run independently by a team based in Frontline’s head office, while taking advantage of the body of knowledge already gained and the efficiencies to be made from sharing support services.

How will Firstline be evaluated?

An evaluation of Firstline is being undertaken by the Centre for Child and Family Research (CCFR) at Loughborough University, using a mixed methods approach. CCFR will work closely with Frontline to explore the implementation and effectiveness of Firstline in participating local authorities. An Action Learning approach is being applied to ensure that the ongoing development of the Firstline prototype is informed by the findings from the evaluation.

How is Firstline funded?

The development of the Firstline prototype has been funded by the Department for Education through their Innovation Fund. This means that managers can participate at no cost to the local authority.

Who is Firstline aimed at?

Firstline is aimed at first line managers within children’s social work – in other words, individuals who manage social workers. This could include Consultant Social Workers, Team Managers or Assistant Team Managers spanning the full range of children’s services.

During the prototype phase, Firstline is working with a limited number of social work managers within selected partner authorities.

Which local authorities are participating?

The following local authorities in Greater London, Greater Manchester, and the North East are participating in the prototype programme:

How many people will be on the prototype programme?

We anticipate 40 Firstline Leaders will be taking part in the prototype.

When is the programme running?

The prototype programme is running from October 2015 to February 2016.

How did you decide who to offer a place to?

Participants on the programme (‘Firstline Leaders’) are recommended by senior leaders in partner local authorities. They undertake a series of exercisesspecifically designed to identify the managers who will benefit most from the programme. They are invited to join the programme subject to their performance throughout the exercises (which include a written case exercise and a reflective group discussion).

What does the programme involve?

Participants will take part in a range of activities that have been created to achieve maximum impact while not taking managers away from their day-to-day work for extended periods. These include three two-day residential modules, individual leadership development sessions, facilitated action learning sets, and an individual project.

The curriculum has been designed to cater for a range of different learning styles, and is predicated on the insight that enhancing self-awareness is crucial for effective leadership and creating change. It covers elements such as:

  • Creating a personal vision for leadership
  • Understanding the internal and external barriers to change
  • Influencing others and navigating complex systems

What is Praxis?

Praxis is a new diagnostic tool which is a core part of the Firstline programme. It is designed to provide insight to help local authorities create the best working environment and support Firstline Leaders, as well as enabling excellent social work practice leadership more broadly.

Praxis allows Firstline to make an assessment of the organisational context at the local authority - specifically their trajectory and commitment towards creating an ideal working environment - before deciding whether to put individuals from each authority on the Firstline programme.

The word ‘praxis’ means “the process by which a theory, lesson or skill is enacted, embodied or realised”.

What sort of research did you do to inform the programme?

The design of the programme was informed by extensive research that explored:

  • What ‘great’ first line leadership looks like in children’s social work
  • What helps or hinders first line leaders in the local authority context
  • What organisations can do to improve effective first line leadership

Will Firstline carry on after the prototype phase?

Discussions about the future of the programme are ongoing, but we anticipate that it will be scaled up over the coming years. If you are a first line manager who is interested in attending future programmes, or a senior leader who wants to nominate managers from your team, please contact us to register your interest.