An independent trainer credited with raising safeguarding standards among thousands of practitioners has been named UK social worker of the year.
Dee Jethwa, 52, from London, was honoured in the fourth annual social worker awards for her “passion and energy” in delivering training for the NSPCC and other children’s services organisations over the past 12 years.
The celebration of outstanding practice in social work, one the UK’s few national events of its kind, was started in 2006 by Milton Keynes-based social worker Beverley Williams, who relies on private sponsorship.
This year’s event, held on Saturday in Bedford, attracted more than 300 people including Tim Loughton MP, the shadow children’s minister, and Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas.
Jethwa was chosen as the winner from a total of six nominations. The judge, Susan Cranie, an independent social worker, praised her “long-term and tireless commitment to raising a wide spectrum of best practice standards in social work, and raising them again and again”.
Originally from Kenya, Jethwa arrived in London aged 14 and began her career as an unqualified social worker at the London borough of Barnet in 1984.
After 14 years as a local authority social worker, she left full-time practice to become an independent trainer in 1998, and estimates she has trained between 6,000 and 7,000 people in the UK, Singapore, India, and Middle East.
Jethwa told Community Care she was “in a state of shock” after winning the award, but described it as testament to the potential of transforming service users’ lives through her work, which “brings me a lot of satisfaction and happiness”.
“If you empower other social workers then the reach for change in children and families is greater,” she added.