Today the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan MP, announced further funding for the Frontline programme. As Chief Executive of Frontline - an independent charity which recruits and develops children's social workers - I'm delighted that the government has confirmed its support for the expansion of the programme across the country.
Social work is one of the country's most important professions, and social workers themselves are vital in transforming the life chances of the most vulnerable children. But while there are many great social workers already in practice, we need more of them. Today's announcement is therefore a great opportunity for Frontline to go national in developing even more outstanding social workers to stand alongside those children and families who need them the most.
We have always valued the cross-party support we have received since our founding, and the government's renewed backing will mean that 1,000 new professionals will be available to support some of the most disadvantaged children and families by 2020. Expanding from our existing base in the South East and Greater Manchester, we will launch the programme into new regions each year, in areas where the demand for life changing professionals is greatest.
Our growth means that this year we will be working in our first new region, the North East of England. Social work teams across the region have embraced Frontline and we are working with eight local authorities to place 40 participants who will start this summer. Working with a wide network of local authorities means that we get to see much of the amazing practice and innovation that is already taking place in the social work system. Frontline is proud to contribute to this focus on quality social work practice, and we look forward to forming new partnerships with local authorities as we roll out the programme across the country.
For Frontline, 2016 marks three years since we were established. There's certainly much that has happened in this time. Last year our inaugural cohort qualified as social workers and entered their second year on the programme. Seeing them become newly qualified social workers is a source of great accomplishment for all those involved. The government's endorsement is undoubtedly a reflection of the quality of the work undertaken by them, and we are proud of our many participants who are already changing lives for the most vulnerable children and families.
With our continued expansion, this year will see 180 participants starting the programme in the summer. As we look to the future, further boosting the image of social work as a prestigious career choice and shifting attitudes will become more important than ever. Having placed social work at number 40 in the Times Top 100 list of graduate careers, we have made a start in beginning to tackle the national challenge of getting more top talent into the profession. Yet there is still more work to be done.
If we want a society that is more equal, more mobile, and with people that better understand the nature of the complex challenges facing this country, then we need to change assumptions in the graduate world to ensure that a larger number of talented people leaving university apply their talents to public service. Instead of going into financial services, law or consulting the new norm needs to be that the best graduates pick public service careers like social work. In doing so, they will apply themselves to something that is socially worthwhile, develop new talents, and better both themselves and broader society.
This autumn we'll begin our search for 300 top graduates and career changers to transform the lives of vulnerable children and families. Social work isn't for everyone, but if you want a challenging career, where you can make a life-changing difference to the people who need it the most, then I urge you to consider applying to join one of Britain's toughest and most rewarding professions.
Josh MacAlister is the CEO of Frontline