‘My social work career has been a long but brilliant journey’

The winner of Practice Teacher of the Year at the 2013 Social Work Awards reflects on nearly twenty years with the profession

Brian Mitchell won Practice Teacher of the Year at the 2013 Social Work Awards

When Brian Mitchell qualified as a social worker in 1995, he wanted to change the world with a profession he believed could right wrongs. Nearly twenty years later, his passion for social work remains unwavering. He has an impressive record of supporting social workers through practice education and was crowned Practice Teacher of the Year at last year’s Social Work Awards, in recognition of his achievements.

Social Worker of the Year Awards 2014

The awards were founded by independent social worker Beverley Williams in 2006 to give greater recognition for the achievements of qualified social workers.

This year’s event includes three new categories among its 17 awards: Student Social Worker of the Year; Mental Health Social Worker of the Year; and Principal Social Worker of the Year.

The deadline for entries is Friday 5 September and the winners will be announced on 28 November at an awards ceremony at the Lancaster London Hotel. Download an entry form to enter.

“I’m still quite speechless about winning the award if I’m honest,” says Brian. “I don’t think it will ever sink in, but it is a lovely validation of all the work that you do.”

Brian was nominated for the award for his work with Calderdale Council’s workforce development team, where he is credited for setting up and leading on a partnership with Bradford College. This initiative helped to fund four places for prospective social workers within the council’s adult social care teams.

“Essentially Calderdale came up with a notion of a grow-your-own-social-worker scheme,” says Brian. “As you can imagine, in this current economic climate, that was very positive for us.”

Brian started out as a youth worker but decided to pursue a career in social work following a conversation with a colleague at a training session, which left him with a new enthusiasm for working with adults with learning disabilities.

“I decided that’s the area I wanted to go into and that was where I was probably going to make the most difference – treating adults like adults and helping them to live a real life,” he says.

“I don’t profess to have a specialism but if I did a lot of my experience has been around working with adults with learning disabilities.”

Since winning the award, Brian has moved into a role as curriculum lead of social work at Bradford College, a position he describes as the “most fantastic” he has ever been in: “I am dead proud that I’ve got here and made it from essentially volunteering as a care worker to a curriculum team leader of social work, it has been a long journey but a brilliant one.”

The cut and thrust of discussion and debate around social work education is Brian’s main motivation, and his new role allows him to be right at the heart of it. “One of the beautiful things about the profession for me is that there is no typical day,” he says. “There are just these days where you’re involved and immersed in the debate and discussion around social work and what constitutes good practice.”

Adding a word of encouragement for prospective nominees of this year’s Social Work Awards, he says: “Just go for it – the more people that are nominated the better because it redresses the balance of the negative press. The awards are a really lovely way of celebrating and a real acknowledgement of the brilliant practice going on out there.”

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