Social worker commended for defending her professional judgement

This year's Social Worker of the Year award goes to a family support social worker who demonstrates outstanding dedication and commitment to helping vulnerable children and families, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

Estelle Thain, pictured left, wins Social Worker of the Year 2012

A social worker described as an “outstanding role model” for the way she manages sensitive child protection cases has been named Social Worker of the Year 2012.

Estelle Thain, who works in Peterborough Council’s family support service, was pronounced the overall winner after triumphing in the Children’s Social Worker of the Year category. She was presented with her awards at the Palace of Westminster today.

Thain impressed the judges with her dedication and commitment to the job and her ability to develop solid, healthy relationships with families, gaining their respect and trust. She qualified as a social worker three years ago and has since gained “solid experience” in a number of complex child protection and care proceedings, the judges found.

She was also commended for her ability to stand up for her professional judgement in difficult situations.

“Social work is an amazing job; every day you get to meet new people and experience new things,” Thain told Community Care. “Often you’re involved in people’s lives when they’re at their lowest and most vulnerable, when they’re desperately in need of help and support. The best thing is getting to know those people, building relationships with them and trying to affect change that will make life better for children and families.”

John Goldup, deputy chief inspector of Ofsted, who was one of the judges, said: “It is fantastic to see such clear evidence of a social worker who is prepared to stand up and work in the best interest of the child. Estelle’s dedication to the best interests of the child – and nothing but the best interests of the child – is an inspiration to us all.”

James Rook, managing director of awards organiser Sanctuary Social Care, added: “These awards are about showcasing the excellent and diverse work undertaken by social workers across the country. Estelle clearly embodies a social worker who goes above and beyond to support those in need and is making a significant difference to her local community.”

The award for Outstanding Contribution to Social Work Award was presented to Annie Hudson from Bristol Council for her bravery in allowing TV cameras to film her department for the BBC’s Protecting our Children documentary.

The full list of winners is as follows:



  • Overall Social Worker of the Year and Children’s Social Worker of the Year – Estelle Thain, Peterborough Council
  • Adult Social Worker of the Year – Ben Ross, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Newly Qualified Children’s Social Worker of the Year – Nicola Lewis, Birmingham Council
  • Newly Qualified Adult Social Worker of the Year – Olivia Mason, Wakefield Council
  • Practice Teacher of the Year – Nicholas Barrow, Gloucestershire Council
  • Team of the Year (Children’s Services) – Children who are Disabled Team (East), Dorset Council
  • Team of the Year (Adult Services) – Safeguarding Adults Unit, Leicester Council
  • Team Leader of the Year (Children’s Services) – Norma Barnes, London Borough of Islington
  • Team Leader of the Year (Adult Services) – Christine Jones, London Borough of Southwark
  • Overall Leader of Innovative Practice – Kim Lawson, London Borough of Islington
  • Best Social Work Employer – London Borough of Islington
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Dorothy Bone, Portsmouth Council
  • Outstanding Contribution to Social Work – Annie Hudson, Bristol Council

The Social Worker of the Year Awards are organised by a registered charity with the aim of improving the understanding and reputation of the social work profession. The panel of judges included Community Care editor Ruth Smith.

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