Shortlist unveiled for Social Worker of the Year Awards

Fifty two social workers, teams and organisations in contention for 11 gongs at annual awards, which will take place virtually in November

Social Worker of the Year Awards
The Social Worker of the Year Awards 2021 took place virtually on 17 November

The finalists for this year’s Social Worker of the Year Awards have been announced.

In total, the judges have selected 52 practitioners, teams and organisations to contest the 11 categories.

The winners will be announced at a virtual ceremony on 17 November.

Peter Hay, the chair of the Social Work Awards, the charity that runs the scheme, said: “Thank you to the hundreds of people who took the time out of their day to nominate a friend, colleague, or team for an award this year.

“And, to everybody nominated for an award, congratulations. Being nominated for a national award, whilst supporting others to navigate through the turbulence caused by the pandemic, is a remarkable achievement of which you should be very proud.”

Awards shortlist

Student social worker of the year (supported by Dorset Council):
Sarah Mail, Kingston University
Carrie Evans, University of Lancaster
Justine Bishop, University of Warwick
Lucy Collier, University of Winchester
Abigail Davey, Anglia Ruskin University

Newly qualified social worker of the year (supported by Waltham Forest Council):
Rosemarie Connor, Devon County Council
Guy Blacklock, Warwickshire County Council
Finn Jarvis, Gloucestershire County Council
Anna O’Brien, Hull City Council
Florina Rice, Devon County Council
Christine Norman, Dorset Council
Michelle Pullen, Shropshire Council
Marie-Anne Holland, Cafcass

Adult social worker of the year (Supported by Wandsworth Borough Council): 

Chris Vass, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
Melanie Noel, Essex County Council
Natasha Karmali, London Borough of Hillingdon
James Thomas, London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Lucy Law, Essex County Council

Children’s social worker of the year (supported by Children’s Social Work Matters):
Paige McMahon, Derbyshire County Council
Marissa Langley, Surrey County Council
Liam Mills, Portsmouth City Council
Alexandra Capitani, Coventry City Council

Team leader of the year (supported by Devon County Council):
Sam Roper, Knowsley Council
Kudakwashe Kurashwa, London Borough of Hillingdon
Dianne Fossey, Richmond and Wandsworth Councils
Amanda Haylock, Portsmouth City Council
Zakia Bouyis Loughead, Birmingham City Council

Mental health social worker of the year (supported by Essex County Council):
Rebecca Owen, Somerset County Council
John Leavy, Achieving for Children
Daniel Wilding, Livewell Southwest
Tulane Chiarletti, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust
Kevin Waggott, Northumberland County Council

Practice educator of the year (supported by BASW):
Laura Lowe, Dorset Council
Elaine Sharpe, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
Claire Skilleter, Norfolk County Council
Anne Cooper, Gloucestershire County Council
Peter Walker, Worcestershire County Council

Social justice advocate award (supported by BASW):
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children team, Norfolk County Council
Aedan Wolton, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS  Foundation Trust
Vivian Okeze-Tirado, West Sussex County Council
Cynthia Minett and Eniola Obikoya, Gloucestershire County Council
Wayne Reid, British Association of Social Workers
Sensory support team, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Team of the year (including MDTs) (supported by UNISON):
Preparation for adulthood service, Bradford Council
Leaving care service, Derbyshire County Council
Keeping families together, Darlington Borough Council
Eden Valley Hospice and Jigsaw Children’s Hospice
Integrated discharge team, Derbyshire County Council

University of the year (supported by Torbay Council):
Durham University
Bournemouth University

Social work employer of the year (supported by Sanctuary Personnel):
Essex County Council
Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

More from Community Care

57 Responses to Shortlist unveiled for Social Worker of the Year Awards

  1. Paula Evans October 11, 2021 at 11:11 pm #

    If Wayne Reid doesn’t win, then something is seriously wrong.

  2. Olu October 12, 2021 at 11:12 am #

    What was that about equality based social work? Good to know some social workers are above the rest of us. It’s not as if we went to work in a pandemic too.

  3. Heather October 12, 2021 at 11:20 am #

    Do the nominees who don’t win become like the rest of us never beens 20 seconds after their name isn’t called?

    • Andy October 16, 2021 at 12:49 pm #

      Yes ! Remember me, didn’t think so 😂 . A former nominee!

  4. Claudette October 12, 2021 at 1:52 pm #

    Alternatively, you could have awards for:
    Social Worker of the Year for referring the most people to a food bank,
    Team of the Year for slogging away with the most vacancy rates,
    Team Leader of the Year who cancelled the most supervision sessions,
    Mental Health Social Worker of the Year for the most pink paper signature,
    Adult Social Worker of the Year with the highest number of incomplete assessments,
    Children’s Social Worker of the Year for most absent due to stress related ill health,
    Practice Educator of the year for consistently being inconsistent,
    Social Justice Award for the sharpest opinion change on proactive anti-racism when offered an MBE,
    University of the Year for the least practice informed course, Student Social Worker of the Year for commitment to qualify despite knowing social work doesn’t exist in the workplace, Newly Qualified Social Worker of the Year award as compensation for imminent disappointment,
    Social Work Employer of the Year: well every worthy event has to have a comedy moment doesn’t it.

    • Mo October 13, 2021 at 9:11 am #

      Love it!!!!

  5. Just a black social worker October 13, 2021 at 12:39 am #

    On the contrary, there is something really gutting that Wayne Reid is prepared to accept an accolade from the very same people he so eloquently exposes the hypocrisy of. And how strange that he is up for an award “supported” by his own employer. If you are serious about social justice you don’t put yourself above the rest of your comrades. Strange kind of justice affirmation that is predicated on affirming some are more worthy than others. 2 plus 2 really does make 5 in social work it seems. The fight for justice and equality is in the grubby edges not at the high table.

    • Emma Grainger October 13, 2021 at 11:26 pm #

      Hmmm, I sense some salty sour grapes here. Based on this twisted logic no-one would ever accept an accolade. Get over yourself and give credit where credit is due.

      • Just a Black Social Worker October 14, 2021 at 8:56 am #

        Based on your reasoning none of should ever criticise anything and just accept whatever the status quo is Emma. Isn’t critical critical thinking a social work principle? No sour grapes, I just don’t think that in a profession where without team work nothing is achieved singling out individuals is insidious. Sorry to be an old tankie. So that I can get over myself, do tell on what basis the nominees are judged to be more exceptional than other social workers? Incidently coming from a wine growing country, grapes are never salty.

    • Derrick Carter October 28, 2021 at 9:04 am #

      This just reeks of jealously for me. Wayne Reid has been a one-man army in terms of his work on anti-racism in social work and you’d deny him this gong? Black social worker or not, I’m unconvinced this is the response of a true comrade or colleague. Hang your head in shame. “Skin folk ain’t always kin folk.”

  6. Jonny October 13, 2021 at 7:14 am #

    Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make yours shine brighter…. Some of these replies make me sad.

    I look at the list and think “good for you” you’ve been recognised for what you do. So many more deserve recognition but it’s only by celebrating social work that we’ll see more of it, locally, regionally, nationally.

    Be proud of your colleagues and huge congratulations to those who were nominated

  7. Andrea October 13, 2021 at 10:34 am #

    Re: Social Justice Advocate Award (supported by BASW.)
    Is this the same BASW that won’t tell us how it protected black social workers when told they were denied PPE by white managers who provided if for their white staff?

  8. Chloe October 13, 2021 at 8:17 pm #

    Wonderful, an evening of smug complacency awaits.

  9. Ruth Hills October 13, 2021 at 9:15 pm #


  10. Faris October 13, 2021 at 10:34 pm #

    Why is not buying into the “some social workers are better then others” narrative blowing out anybody elses candle? We are meant to be a profession that promotes equality not setting some over others aren’t we. What are the criteria for judging that the nominees are more competent, more creative, more valued than the rest of us Jonny? If you want to celebrate social work, value social workers everyday not just for one evening. I bet there won’t be a minutes silence for social workers who died in the past year. Commerating them and remembering them would should mean more than any award. I beleive in celebrating solidarity not some arbitrary individual validation. I am proud to be part of a team of workers all of whom are excellent. What makes me sad is how easily social workers are seduced by baubles.

    • Jonny October 15, 2021 at 7:19 am #

      Why would you think it’s up to you how a competition is run or how it’s judged?

      Why would you want a world where everyone is exactly the same? Celebrate great social work I say… This may be hard to hear but some social workers contribute more than others, some innovate, some do something extra ordinary…..I love reading the nominations and hearing how incredible social workers are

      • Alice October 15, 2021 at 9:41 am #

        Why do you?

      • Just A Black Social Worker October 15, 2021 at 10:33 am #

        Off the mark there Jonny. Actually I don’t want to control how a “competition is run”, I don’t want the “competition” at all. Are you seriously suggesting hat there is an objective way of “judging” who contributes more, innovates and does something extraordinary? If so give us examples. I don’t want a world of dreary uniformity, that’s allready the reality of bureaucracy driven social work., I want a social work of equality and respect not one that regards some of us as never in the game second raters. Why are you so comforted by that? What makes your pals at SW21 so special that only thay can say who is special? The day after the backslapping there will still be a cut to UC, there will still be foodbanks, adults will be neglected, children will be harmed, there will be cuts to services, vacancies will remain real, agency workers will be abused, SWE will still discriminate, black NQSWs will still disproportionately fail their ASYE, managers will bully, service heads will insist on budget led assessments, admin workers will continue to be patronised, AMHPs will still pretend to be third rate medics, money driven service reorganisations and redundancies will still be lauded as new and innovative ways of working. A cheap faux glass asymmetrical ‘trophy’ will make not a jot of difference to that. By all means strive for an Ego boost, but don’t tell us that it’s really all about great social work. Expect us to join in the pretence if you must but don’t insult our intelligence along the way.

  11. An ordinary social worker October 13, 2021 at 10:44 pm #

    I work with a social worker who refused to be nominated because she doesn’t believe she shines brighter then her colleagues. What does that make her Jonny?

    • Jonny October 15, 2021 at 7:15 am #

      Entitled to do whatever she wants……. I don’t get your point… She hasn’t slated the idea, she’s just said she doesn’t want to take part

      • Alice October 15, 2021 at 9:45 am #

        She said its divisive because social workers don’t work on their own, everything takes place in teams. That’s pretty damming in my book. Others ofckurse can get on with the con that there are elite practitioners ploughing away in new and innovative ways.

      • Kesia October 15, 2021 at 2:31 pm #

        Straw clutching…..I am sure its not because there won’t be any canapés.

  12. Dawn October 14, 2021 at 6:53 am #

    Good Luck Anna O Brien x

  13. Chloe October 14, 2021 at 9:06 am #

    Good luck to all you unsung, unacknowledged solid sloggers who turn up do more than you are expected to do but haven’t been nominated and who never will be nominated because you are ‘only’ interested in doing your jobs. No tweets, no blogs, no ‘look at me’ posturing, just getting on with being a social worker. Is this sour grapes too Emma?

  14. Simon October 14, 2021 at 9:15 am #

    Accolade: “An award or privilege granted as a special honour or acknowledgement of merit.” In a profession riddled with racism, bullying, discrimination, scapegoating, when did merit suddenly become a thing?

  15. SW October 14, 2021 at 9:27 am #

    Can you still nominate yourself for an award?…Makes me cringe a bit to be honest

    • Cooper October 17, 2021 at 11:54 pm #

      Yes you can. My colleague did it but unfortunately didn’t get shortlisted. Waste of a fabulous speech never made.

  16. Rohit October 14, 2021 at 9:37 am #

    How dare a black social worker express an opinion. Unless you are with the chosen my friend just stay in your lane. If all you have to offer is sour grapes, you need to listen and learn from your betters. Just get over yourself, we don’t need independent thinking, it spoils the bread rolls.

  17. Maggie October 14, 2021 at 10:07 am #

    I read a “heart searching” justification from a colleague “fighting” to de-colonise social work about why he accepted an MBE. That is twisted logic not what just a black social worker wrote. There are thousands of social workers who merit an award, but awards are not given out on merit are they? Who makes the nomination, who is selected for nomination and who is shortlisted depends on much more arbitrary reasoning than merit. That’s the process of selection isn’t it? Even if I accepted your premise Emma, there is something really unpleasant about ‘celebrating’ supposed individual achievement when every social workers has endured the anxieties of the pandemic and some lost their lives in this period. I think that matters. There’s nothing sour grapes about that. Nor in questioning why a respected anti-racism activist needs validation of an award from practically the same organisations that perpetuate the inequality and discrimination he shines a light on. If debate and difference is unseemly than social work really has become irrelevant.

  18. Keith October 14, 2021 at 10:20 am #

    Marlon Brando refused an Oscar. Not much to ask that we don’t indulge the delusion to excellence of this Razzie is it.

  19. Sallie October 14, 2021 at 10:27 am #

    Is “get over yourself” now the benchmark retort to those of us who are happy to bake our own bread rolls? Virtually or otherwise.

  20. Satire? October 14, 2021 at 11:08 am #

    “Thank you. I accept this award on behalf of my colleagues too, it is they who make me special ( pause to lightly brush left cheek), I would like to thank my parents without whom I could not have achieved so much, thanks for never holding me back from accomplishing my dreams, you know, (pause for a pensive look into the distance), social work is more than tasks, our clients deserve dreamers to give them hope, thank you dreamers, not least I would like to thank my partner for seeing that the real me deserves love and support, (glances at note), every social worker is a winner ofcourse but tonight I am the one who gets the award so thank you for seeing me and thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me this honour. Thank you, thank you.” Muffled noises off as the feed is playing up.

  21. Ali October 14, 2021 at 11:51 am #

    I was nominated for a Hidden Gem award once. I didn’t win. I remain hidden to this day so I’ll never know if I was a Gem then or am one now.

    • Ariel October 15, 2021 at 1:15 pm #

      If you didn’t win then you were not and if you haven’t been nominated for this you still aren’t. We would welcome you into our Social Workers in the Shadows club if that is any consolation.

  22. Hoops October 14, 2021 at 12:53 pm #

    In the real world there is always a winner and a loser, excellent social workers and inept or dangerous ones, those who are articulate and those who can barely express themselves. Address the appaling levels of literacy amongst social workers before you denigrate these fine colleagues. Life is a competition. Frankly if you don’t like excellence you shouldn’t be a social worker. It’s called meritocracy for a reason. Emma is right. Get over yourselves or prove you are worthy of a nomination. You are good or you are an also ran. That’s it.

  23. Neil October 14, 2021 at 1:03 pm #

    Champions of SW21 are almost as amusing as the
    “I agree with Nick” Coaltion Government supporting social workers. Admittedly we do need a distraction but this?

  24. Lew October 14, 2021 at 3:12 pm #

    Goodness, on top of all my anxieties about ASYE, I now have to worry about whether I am seen as a bit useless because no one nominated me for this award. Gutted that I spent hours writing a dissertation about how empowerment is a core principle in social work.

  25. Claire October 14, 2021 at 3:17 pm #

    Is “salty” the new version of “shut up, know your place?”

  26. George October 14, 2021 at 3:35 pm #

    I hadn’t realised that whilst I wasn’t paying attention social work had become Tory land. When did questioning something become synonymous with envy?

  27. Bog Sandard SW October 15, 2021 at 9:52 am #

    “I love hearing about how incredible social workers are” isn’t the same an award that says “all you other folks look at how incredible and better than you this social worker is.” Not that difficult an argument to grasp really is it?

  28. Jimmy October 15, 2021 at 11:08 am #

    I like that this award cuts through the complacency of the cosy narrative of us all being valued equally. That might not be how they want to be perceived though. Lets hear more from the “positivity” gang. Let’s celebrate innovation, going the extra mile, how we made remote working a better experience than visiting people, a big shout about CPD making social work safer, why cuts are an opportunity for creativity, vacancies are just numbers, our inner resources are what motivates us and the rest of the white noise. Time no doubt for fossils like me to shut up with the gloom and embrace the happy, sunny uplands of podcasts and tweets where real social work happens apparently.

  29. Evie October 15, 2021 at 12:33 pm #

    I would rather read about social workers who became ill with Covid, those who died from being infected and collagues who were murdered while doing their jobs. Why the silence about them? I want to commemorate and celebrate all of them not add more to plastic pollution by dishing out these ‘awards’. Apparently about 100,000 social workers are registered with SWE. It’s plainly ludicrous to claim that ONE social worker has done something more exceptional and more extraordinary than the others. If evidence matters statistically it is impossible that there is a social worker so innovative, so dedicated, so skilled that they are a beacon of superior practice. It seems getting over ourselves is the thing so I say stop this nonsense and acknowledge our dead and still suffering colleagues. Granted that might not advance careers or lead to a day out to a Royal residence for a minor bauble but it’s the honourable thing. Atheist though I am, the scripture on worshipping false idols is sound ethics. Compassion starts with loving our living and dead colleagues. That should matter more than any award that tell the chaff who is the more worthy.

  30. TOWIE October 15, 2021 at 1:47 pm #

    I doubt even the “positivity gang” can stop themselves from sniggering over an Employer of the Year award. I work for one of them. My hand still smarts from the Venezuelan coffee I snorted out when I saw the nomination.

  31. Joyce October 15, 2021 at 2:38 pm #

    Could we have a masterclass from all of the winners so we can improve our practice? It seems a shame for the nominees not to have some way of sharing their skills and expertise with us.

  32. Anthony October 17, 2021 at 12:32 pm #

    Why no Social Work Administrator award? Without admin to hide behind I might actually have to speak to awkward and demanding callers. Also how would I claim my mileage allowance?

  33. Annie October 18, 2021 at 11:32 am #

    I read a PSW say reading comments in CC is ever so terrifying. Stepping outside of the Cosy Club can do that to one I suppose. And those that doubt us when we say we are experienced social workers, just reflect on what that cynicism really implies.

  34. Simone October 18, 2021 at 1:02 pm #

    Cosy Club indeed. Spot on Annie. What’s really terrifying is the absolutist convction with which any deviation from prescribed thoughts are denigrated, infantilised, laughed at and generally dismissed as coming from unworthy social workers. Cosy Club pretends that it champions critical thinking and that it values diverse opinions but in truth it cannot tolerate difference nor being challenged. It is the very thing it tries so hard to disguise: authoritarian.

  35. Chloe October 18, 2021 at 1:35 pm #

    Are Cosy Club the Procrustean squad of social work?

    • Kitty October 18, 2021 at 4:01 pm #

      Well ofcourse. Why bother to engage with the argument when you can blighty question the truthfulness of peoples biographies and rubbish their integrity. I imagine if scorn and contempt is the fee that gets you membership to the club, belittling comes ever so easily. Itchy teeth indeed. It must so galling that some of us just don’t know our place.

  36. Toni October 19, 2021 at 12:08 pm #

    I asked a colleague how they were today and they started crying. There is nothing extraordinarily different in our work from the majority of other services so why the tears? We are just tired and disillusioned. This is why awards are do divisive and further corrode any feelings of comradeship. All you are telling us is that some are worthy and most of us are not then tell the worthy that in the end they don’t cut it either as there is a crowned worthy above them. SW21 can dress it any which way they want but none of this ‘celebrating social workers’ stuff reflects our daily reality. Smoke and mirrors with a bit of cut price bread and circuses thrown it doesn’t distract us anymore. Those with no ‘ambition’ specially. Everyone is entitled to see an event in the way they want. In my more moderate moods I am glad that some colleagues derive comfort from these things. Just don’t include us all in the enthusiast corner and brand us sour kill joys if we won’t join in. More than any of this, I too find it distasteful that we are asked to celebrate social workers but there is no commeration for our colleagues who suffer still with covid symptoms and those who died or were killed doing social work. Invite me for that and I’ll be in the queue.

  37. Maxine October 19, 2021 at 4:13 pm #

    Personally I couldn’t take part in any kind of “cosy club” rhetoric but I do agree that it’s a strange kind of social work that advocates not listening to other views. We can never grow nor can we change if we only listen to and nod along only views that support our own. We should value critical thinking however uncomfortable other views makes us.

  38. Geordie October 20, 2021 at 6:21 pm #

    The club most of us belong to is the one where the fee is diligence, committment, hope, empathy, love, coping, respect, striving to do your best in the face of racism, sexism, poverty, transphobia, bullying and myriad dispiriting and humiliating encounters with the permanently convinced that all social work needs is a bit of a tweak and a bit of a celebration. The award is personal pride and unpaid overtime. I can’t actually get animated enough to fret about an arbitrarily decided award but am annoyed that it gets presented as being about all of us. It’s not about all of us. The average social worker is more likely to know who won the National League than the name of a previous winner.

  39. Emma October 21, 2021 at 10:10 am #

    I agree with all the colleagues who commented about how divisive individual awards are in what is essentially teamwork. For me though there is something quite strange that at the same time as criticising the Government for underfunding services, cutting benefits and stealth privatisation, many leaders seem comfortable about an award sponsored from day one by a recruitment agency. How much money is draining out of our services to pay the extortionate fees charged fir agency workers?

  40. Giles October 21, 2021 at 6:36 pm #

    SWE is like the hill walker who so certain of knowing the climb and possessing the skills to sidestep obstacles, gets yomping without a compass. But disoriented, lost and lacking the ingenuity to improvise is ultimately reliant on unsung volunteers to rescue them. We are the mountain rescue but our hearts are increasingly not in it.

  41. frasierfanclub1 October 25, 2021 at 1:40 pm #

    What is needed is a scheme for commendations, similar to that found in the police. We shouldnt be competing against each other for recognition, but should have ackowledgement when our work has been exceptional.

  42. Arthur October 25, 2021 at 9:14 pm #

    How do we decide what is exceptional in social work? How do does my practice in Nothumberland measure up to an inner city team? Are the challenges of organising a mental health act assessment at a hill farm comparable to an assessment by a colleague who has to take account of complex cultural and perhaps language factors? Doing our best to alleviate distress, safeguard and protect from harm is our standard work. How do you measure who is better or more effective? Leave commendations for us to recognise in our own services. We know who does something exceptional when we work with them. No artificially put together national panel can get near that.

  43. Jeremy October 26, 2021 at 4:33 pm #

    Social work is about problem solving so it’s not beyond our leaders to navigate the impact of rural social workers and urban social workers. You might not like it but some are exceptional social workers while most just tread water. I say lets celebrate those who are nominated. I hope Community Care commisions an article from each winner so we can learn from their achievements.