Social workers of the year 2012: in their own words

Winners from the 2012 Social Worker of the Year awards share their thoughts on the profession and reflect on their achievements.

Social workers from across the country gathered in Parliament for the awards ceremony

Children’s Social Worker of the Year and Overall Social Worker of the Year – Estelle Thain, Peterborough City Council

Proudest moment: “Sometimes it’s about being able to pick out that little glimmer of change in parents, then being strong enough to stand up to everyone and say, ‘I know the plan was this, but there’s a possibility of keeping these children with their parents, let’s explore this’. I’ve done that a few times and I’ve managed to change the plan. When the children were rehabilitated home it really worked and it was lovely.”

On relaxing after work: “It’s real highs and lows this job and it is 24/7 work. Often the responsibility of what you’re doing weighs quite heavily. I don’t think there’s ever an hour in the day when you’re not worrying a little bit about a child on your caseload, asking yourself, ‘have I done this, have I done that?’ Obviously you get on with your life, but I do think that’s an important skill social workers need to be learnt during their careers – how to manage that anxiety so you can go home and get on with your own life.”

Team of the Year (Children’s Services) – Children who are Disabled Team (East), Dorset County Council

Team member Mary Walsh, social worker: “I started my career as a chef, then I became a young carers’ worker. I was sponsored by the council to become a social worker, which I’ve been doing for 5 years. The best thing about this job is working with other agencies.”

Tanya Hamilton-Fletcher, social work team manager: “It’s an incredibly difficult job, but if you’ve got a supportive team and good colleagues, it helps immensely. Our team includes occupational therapists. When you’ve working with children with severe impairments, working in a multi-disciplinary team makes a huge difference to families.”

Practice Educator of the Year 2012 – Nicholas Barrow, Gloucestershire Council

How I got into social work: “I worked in residential care for a while as an unqualified worker. I knew I was good at getting through to the people I worked with and I wanted to take it further, to try to understand their behaviour. I realised there was a lot more to learn, from social work theory to legislation.”  

The best thing about my job: “I started practice teaching a couple of years after qualifying as a social worker and it’s great, because I never lose sight of social work development. I’m feel like I’m doing the degree every year! I constantly get fresh ideas from new people coming into social work.”

Team Leader of the Year – Norma Barnes, London Borough of Islington

Best thing about social work: “Seeing children’s lives turned around.”

Message to those thinking of going into social work: “It’s worth it!”

Best Social Work Employer – London Borough of Islington

Cllr Richard Watts, Islington Council’s executive member for children and families: “Congratulations to Islington’s social workers on their well-deserved awards.  Our social work team do some of the most difficult jobs in the council with dedication and a real determination to change children’s lives for the better. It’s important that awards like these ones recognise that hard work and raise awareness of the challenges that social workers often face.”

Team of the Year (Children’s Services), silver award – Family Support and Child Protection Team, London Borough of Lambeth

Team member Korrine Williams, on the best thing about being a social worker: “Getting to the heart of people’s problems. A lot of my cases involve mental health or substance misuse issues. Some have had social workers in the past that they haven’t trusted so they can be quite resistant to me in the beginning. But overcoming that and building a relationship moving forward becomes really positive. I like that change the most.”

On relaxing: “I do Bikram yoga! I go to a class at 6.30am every morning. It’s costing me and arm and a leg but it’s worth it as it’s really relaxing.”

Team of the Year (Adult Services) – Safeguarding Adults Unit, Leicester City Council

Ruth Lake from Leicester City Council: “I’m really proud of the fact that adult safeguarding has been recognised, as there is not enough public awareness of it. Hopefully this award will help raise awareness of the challenges that we face and I’d like to congratulate the team on their excellent achievements.”


Lifetime Achievement Award – Dorothy Bone, Portsmouth City Council

“This is a fulfilment of all the years that I’ve worked. It’s been a positive experience working with local children and families in Portsmouth and every day has been a pleasure. I’m absolutely thrilled to have won this award.”
Joan Franklin, chair of category sponsors, the British Association of Social Workers, added: “We would like to congratulate Dorothy on her award win. She was nominated for her compassion, warmth and devotion to social work and it is clear that she has inspired many of her colleagues within the social work profession.”
Team Leader of the Year (Adult Services) – Christine Jones, London Borough of Southwark

 “I feel very privileged and honoured to have won this award, and it is down to the team that I work with. I wouldn’t be here without them; it’s a celebration of the hard work that we all do. I’m absolutely delighted as not only does this acknowledge our achievements but it is great to see adult social care getting the recognition that we can all embrace.”


Newly Qualified Adult Social Worker of the Year – Olivia Mason, Wakefield Metropolitan District Council

“I feel really pleased to have won this award, I wasn’t expecting this at all! The award is down to working with a really supportive team and we’ve had a fantastic day!”


Newly Qualified Children’s Social Worker of the Year – Nicola Lewis, Birmingham City Council

“I am absolutely delighted to have won this award and I’d like to say thank you to everyone that I work with. I’ve had a fantastic day and it’s been a great way to meet other social workers and share everyone’s successes.”

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