PSW who has championed human rights-based social work recognised in Queen’s birthday honours

Rob Mitchell given MBE for services to profession, while honours also awarded to former Skills for Care head and ex-Children’s Commissioner

Rob Mitchell, principal social worker at Bradford council
Rob Mitchell, principal social worker, Bradford council

A principal social worker who has championed human rights-based practice has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours.

Rob Mitchell, the adults’ PSW at Bradford council, was awarded the gong for services to the profession.

Mitchell, formerly PSW at Calderdale council and co-chair of the Adults PSW Network, is a renowned champion of human rights-focused practice and critic of paternalistic approaches to social work, particularly in relation to adult safeguarding.

Championing voting rights

When network co-chair he helped organise a Mental Capacity Act call to action in 2016, highlighting the legislation’s potential to empower people, and has also championed social workers’ role in supporting people with learning disabilities to vote.

In 2019, he co-authored Social Work, Cats and Rocket Science, a collection of stories drawn from frontline practice about the impact of adult social work on people’s lives. More recently, Mitchell, a trustee of the Social Worker of the Year Awards, has highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on students and put forward ideas to mitigate this.

Mitchell described the honour as “overwhelming” but said the credit for it should be shared with colleagues.

‘Social work is not done in isolation’

He said: “I think the first thing to recognise is that there is probably not one bit of social work that is done in isolation and without the support of others. So, the award may have my name on but it is genuinely a huge team effort and this includes support from wider council colleagues, such as brilliant admin staff and those who work back office and never get the praise they deserve.

“I have been extremely fortunate to work with some inspirational colleagues in both the local authorities where I have been a principal social worker.”

He also hailed the impact of social media in helping social workers make connections, which he said was instrumental in the development of Social Work, Cats and Rocket Science.

Also honoured for services to social work was Andy Tilden, formerly director of operations and acting chief executive of Skills for Care, who has been awarded an OBE.

Like Mitchell, he paid tribute to colleagues, tweeting: “Anything I did was part of a team effort. I hope it continues to give me the opportunity to state the case for a fully recognised, valued and rewarded skilled social care workforce that enables people who draw on social care to live the best lives possible.”

‘Outstanding contribution’

Skills for Care chief executive Oonagh Smyth said: “This award recognised his outstanding contribution to developing the skills and knowledge of the adult social workforce and, as Andy is keen is point out, it’s also a recognition of the support he has received from colleagues since he first qualified as a social worker.”

The former Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, was awarded a CBE for services to children. In a tweet, Longfield, who stepped down from the role earlier this year, said she was “really honoured and humbled to be recognised” and that it “continues to be a huge privilege to support children & their families & to work with so many other great people to do so”.

Also honoured was Vic Rayner, chief executive officer of the National Care Forum (NCF), who was given an OBE for services to social care. Rayner has been prominent during the pandemic in highlighting the impact of government policies on the sector, including in relation to funding, access to personal protective equipment and testing for care staff and care home residents, and visiting rights for families.

‘Social care champion’

NCF chair Andy Cole said: “Vic is an extraordinary champion for social care. Her passion and dedication have helped shape the whole sector and her tireless efforts during the pandemic have made a massive difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who use or work in social care.”

Among others recognised was Christine McLoughlin, the director of children’s services at Stockport council, who has been given an OBE for services to children and families.

For other social care honours, read the full 2021 Queen’s birthday list.

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12 Responses to PSW who has championed human rights-based social work recognised in Queen’s birthday honours

  1. Carlton June 17, 2021 at 10:18 am #

    Don’t know any of the recipients so nothing personal here but I do know bowing to a Monarch of an Empire that pillaged, stole into slavery, subjugated and degraded ‘other’ people to accept a bauble is not championing human rights. The medal is inscribed British Empire, not Excellence. As a social worker born under Colonial rule perhaps my conviction that personal
    “honours” do not belong in social work is just unresolved bitterness and resentment.

    • NC June 17, 2021 at 9:23 pm #

      be kind Carlton, move forward and take peace. We are the British empire no longer pillaging, or slavery, not degrading move forward like the royal family is trying to do and learning from the good the bad and the ugly.

  2. Amy Grew June 17, 2021 at 11:47 am #

    Well deserved

  3. John Dunne June 18, 2021 at 8:47 am #

    Nobody in social work achieves anything as an individual so actually no single person ‘deserves’ being held above the rest of us. No amount of pretending it is anything other than the a display of the ‘great and the good versus the slacker rest is just the usual wet liberal smoke and mirrors.

  4. Carlton June 18, 2021 at 11:28 pm #

    Is this the same British Monarchy that had a “colour bar” right into the 1970’s, who mocked Asian people, asked a Head of State if he was wearing pyjamas, ‘joked’ about cannibalism with black dignitaries, whose Governmet has saddled their colonies with debt post independence that is still being paid for, stole art and cultural objects to display in the “British Museum” and the rest? I’ll move forward when the British Monarchy is abolished and not before.

  5. Sally June 20, 2021 at 2:02 pm #

    All I know is Benjamin Zephaniah refused one. And that one was an OBE upgrade to boot. “No way Mr Blair”, “No way Mrs Queen” indeed.

  6. Carol June 21, 2021 at 7:49 am #

    Accepting an ‘honour’ is no doubt an ego boost for the recipient and soggy affirmation for those content with crumbs off the high table. But really it’s the equivalent of the supposed anti-establishment activist joining the board of a disreputable business, taking up golf and voting Tory because they have “matured.” Labour ‘firebrand’ MPs ascending to the House of Lords to fight for “fairness and equality” while partaking of the abundance of the trough in an unelected chamber is the template of the well trodden path for the noisy but the never really committed. Still, it’s a day out in that there London I suppose.

  7. Ari June 21, 2021 at 8:22 am #

    When my mam was offered an OBE in 1977 for her ‘leadership’ in “race relations”, she held a party to burn her letter. Raised a toast in solidarity with the striking women at Grunwick and for the abolition of the monarchy too. She wasn’t a social worker though so probably didn’t have a ‘nuanced’ understanding of the merits of an Empire medal in fighting racism.

  8. Stu Cosgrave June 21, 2021 at 11:09 pm #

    Given what a champion of working class Geordies your mam was, she would have made a brilliant social worker Ari. You are right though, her response to anyone buying into this nonsense would have been anything but ‘nuanced’. It was said in our house that apparently she once scolded a city councillor moaning about the grubby clothes of some workers that the dirty finger nails of a grafter was a better sign of good character than the pressed trousers on the man with his nose in the bosses trough. I suspect that sentiment wouldn’t go down too well now.

  9. Hussein June 25, 2021 at 10:06 am #

    Personal rewards are just that, personal. I am not sure why we have to pretend they are of value to us as a social work community though. Even if I knew who these people were I would not be interested in their stories pertaining to such ‘honours’. Please report topics that inform and challenge our practice and reflect our experiences as social workers. I am sure those getting these awards are already acknowledged in their organisations and by their friends so that should be enough ego boost for them. Man bites dog may be newsworthy but social worker gets an award because someone worthy has decided they should is not.

  10. Alison June 28, 2021 at 11:14 pm #

    Not all social workers are competent let alone outstanding so recognising excellence in those who are is we’ll deserved. Criticising because of a distant association with the British Empire is in my opinion envy disguised as anti-racism. A black poet rejecting his OBE does not mean much really does it? Plenty of people of colour have accepted honours with dignity. Our regulator SWE is run by an enobled Asian and that’s good enough for me.

  11. Frances June 30, 2021 at 7:51 am #

    Claiming that getting an MBE is recognition of excellence is akin to claiming baking banana bread makes you a Master Baker.