A former nominee in the Social Worker of the Year awards has had her bravery recognised by police after she helped a mother and child following a frenzied knife attack.
Barbara Doh-Nani, a team leader for the 14+ team at Merton Borough Council, happened to be on her way to work in August last year when she saw the mother and boy lying in the road, drenched in blood.
“I had to help. When I got there I saw a man standing in a doorway looking at them and he seemed to be holding a weapon. In some ways my social work skills kicked in. While I called the ambulance, I tried to get as much information as I could about what had happened to them.
“The mother was reluctant to tell me much and I recognised that cultural resistance to telling people information even when their life is in danger. But I eventually found out from the boy that it was a family member.
“The man was still watching us so I started shouting and calling to other people in the area to get them to come over and help. Soon there was a group of people around us and eventually the man slammed the door and went back inside.
“Then I had to try and organise everyone- I had to get things like dry, clean towels for first aid and liase with police and the ambulance until they arrived.
“Afterwards I continued on to the office. I think I was still on automatic pilot really and I felt I had to report it to our safeguarding team.”
The man was arrested at the scene and later pleaded guilty to attacking the family with a 30cm kitchen knife after having bound and gagged the pair with sticky tape. He was sectioned under the mental health act.
The horrific ordeal saw the mother stabbed 17 times, including once through her hand, while both had their eyelids sliced. However Doh-Nani says she heard from the police that neither lost their sight and both are now fine.
“I believe I was meant to be there as I’m not usually late for work, which I was that day, and I don’t usually take that route to work,” she adds.
Doh-Nani has been a social worker for 12 years after deciding that she wanted to do something that would make a difference.
Last year she was one of the finalists in the “Team Leader of the Year” awards because more than three quarters of Merton’s care leavers are now in employment, education or training.
“I’ve been at Merton for 10 years and that means I’ve been able to be a consistent and continuous presence for a lot of the young people. So I’ve seen 16-year old tearaways transform into young pillars of the community and that makes me feel very happy.
“I was really honoured that at the Social Worker of the Year Awards one of my young care leavers insisted on paying for her own ticket so she could come- that meant a lot to me.
“For me social work is not a job, it’s a vocation and if you don’t feel that way you shouldn’t be in it. But at the same time we all have our strengths and weaknesses. It’s about working out why you are in the profession and how to make the most of your strengths so you can help people change.”
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