Social Worker of the Year Awards winners unveiled

'Passionate and inspirational' fostering practitioner who has championed cultural competence and diversity in wake of George Floyd murder wins overall award

Vivian Okeze-Tirado, overall winner at the 2021 Social Worker of the Year Awards
Vivian Okeze-Tirado, overall winner at the 2021 Social Worker of the Year Awards

‘A passionate and inspirational’ social worker who has championed cultural competence in the wake of George Floyd’s murder was the overall winner at this year’s Social Worker of the Year Awards.

Fostering practitioner Vivian Okeze-Tirado was among 11 social workers, teams or organisations to win gold awards at the event, which was held virtually yesterday. She also triumphed in the social justice advocate category, one of two new awards this year, which was judged solely by people with lived experience of social work.

The gold award winners were among 52 shortlisted entrants from among hundreds who had been nominated for the awards, which did not take place last year due to the pandemic. They were joined by 13 silver award winners, for runners-up in their categories.

Gold award winners

Overall winner and social justice advocate: Vivian Okeze-Tirado, West Sussex County Council
Adult social worker of the year: Melanie Noel, Essex County Council
Children’s social worker of the year: Alexandra Capitani, Coventry City Council
Team leader of the year: Kudakwashe Kurawasha, London Borough of Hillingdon
Team of the year: Keeping Families Together, Darlington Borough Council
Mental health social worker of the year: John Leavy, Achieving for Children (Kingston, Richmond, Windsor and Maidenhead)
Practice educator of the year: Claire Skilliter, Norfolk County Council
Newly qualified social worker of the year: Anna O’Brien, Hull City Council
Student wocial worker of the year: Lucy Collier, University of Winchester
Social work employer of the year: Essex County Council
University of the year: Durham University

‘So many incredible social workers’

Peter Hay, chair of trustees at the Social Worker of the Year Awards charity, said: “It is so inspiring to discover so many incredible social workers dedicating themselves to improving the lives of others every year that we hold the awards. Social work is a demanding and emotional job and both our gold and silver winners are shining examples of people who go the extra mile, who work tirelessly to achieve change for individuals, families and in the profession.”

In the wake of Floyd’s murder, Okeze-Tirado, an advanced practitioner and practice educator,  combined local and national campaigning against racism with holding workshops on cultural competency and diversity awareness with colleagues across West Sussex council. She went on to publish Diversity Acrostic Poem (VOT Training), providing guidance for culturally sensitive social work practice.

She said: “Thank you so much to the Social Work Awards for this honour and for creating this award to recognise the amazing humanitarian work that social workers do. Well done and best wishes to all the finalists, I feel we are all winners. Social work is a career like no other. I am indeed humbled.”

Hay added: “Vivian is a truly passionate and inspirational social worker. She thoroughly deserves huge recognition for the positive impact she has made to the individuals and communities she works with – for standing up and taking action to better the experiences and lives of children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.”

West Sussex’s principal social worker for children, Darlington Ihenacho, said of her: “Her passion is radiant, she goes above and beyond in what she does and the feedback that we get from foster carers, care leavers and the children in care that she’s worked with is amazing.”

The Social Worker of the Year Awards has produced video case studies of all the gold award winners.


The silver award winners, other finalists and award sponsors are listed below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social justice advocate award (supported by BASW):
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children team, Norfolk County Council (silver)
Aedan Wolton, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS  Foundation Trust (silver)
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 (silver)
Leaving care service, Derbyshire County Council
Eden Valley Hospice and Jigsaw Children’s Hospice
Integrated discharge team, Derbyshire County Council

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

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

3 Responses to Social Worker of the Year Awards winners unveiled

  1. sandra. sweeney November 22, 2021 at 10:31 am #

    disappointed no Scottish contenders for awards

  2. Clarke November 24, 2021 at 10:23 am #

    A ceremony that could not bring itself to acknowledge the death of social workers while diligently doing their jobs, is not capable of an inclusive mindset. English exceptionalism regards the other nations of the UK the same way as Imperial Britain saw us in the colonies: the invisible, the nameless, the unacknowledged an the less worthy. No different for SWA21. The irony of an Social Justice Award dependent on sponsorship from an employment agency is just depressing.

    • Symone Harper November 25, 2021 at 12:47 am #

      Agreed. Initially, I was disappointed that Wayne Reid had been overlooked. On reflection, I’m glad his exemplary work hasn’t been blemished by this unsavoury corporate shagfest.

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