Seventeen practitioners, managers, teams and organisations picked up the top gold awards at this year’s Social Worker of the Year Awards.
At last week’s awards ceremony, a social work manager who volunteers with refugees and a learning disability team that spent six years fighting to move a woman out of a mental health hospital were jointly named overall winners.
A further 22 practitioners, managers, teams and organisations were recognised as silver award winners from among the 90 finalists. In addition, Social Work Student Connect, a group set up by social work trainer Siobhan Maclean to deliver learning to students during the Covid-19 lockdowns, won a special commendation as well as being nominated in four categories.
Following the ceremony, Peter Hay, chair of trustees at organising charity the Social Work Awards, said: “Our winners show that social work requires attention to learning, evidence and theory combined with real heart. Their work is underpinned by a passionate, unwavering commitment to human rights and the dignity of every human being. Sometimes putting all of this into practice means overcoming real barriers, requiring tenacity over time.
‘Skilled social work that changes lives’
“Our winners have shown skilled and dedicated social work that changes lives by applying their skills, values and determination; they are truly worthy winners of this recognition.”
Central Bedfordshire Council audit manager Kirstie Baughan walked away with the social justice advocate of the year gold award and was also joint overall winner, in recognition of her extensive voluntary work with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and refugees.
Alongside her day job, she is regional lead for the charity Care4Calais, which works with refugees in the UK, France and Belgium, and is also a volunteer assessor for Refugees at Home, which connects people seeking refuge in the UK with those who have a spare room.
Her work has included delivering English classes, including during the pandemic, organising trips, advocating for better food in hotels for asylum seekers and supporting young people to advocate for their needs with mental health services.
Earlier this year, she secured funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research to carry out a PhD on the integration experiences of unaccompanied children leaving care, at the University of Bedfordshire.
‘Volunteering in camps was life-changing’
Kirstie, who intends for her research to result in practice guidance for professionals to support integration, said it was inspired by her experiences of volunteering for Care4Calais.
“Working in the camps was a life-changing experience for me. I saw the difficulties asylum seekers had with integration and becoming part of a community,” she said, in statement for the NIHR. “I reflected on my own career and the vast differences in practice and in our responses to unaccompanied minors.
“I wanted to explore how we, and other agencies, could improve experiences of integration within services and the wider community.”
The Social Work Awards said: “The judges were impressed by how Kirstie has truly committed to improving the lives of asylum seeking children and young people, taking the time to ‘walk in their shoes’ and develop her understanding of this area of practice.”
Kirstie was also hailed on Twitter by her predecessor as overall winner and social justice advocate gold award winner, Vivian Okeze-Tirado, now equality, diversity and inclusion lead at West Sussex council.
I feel very pleased to introduce my successor Kirstie Baughan who not only won this year’s Social Work gold award for Social Justice Advocate but also one of the joint winners of the Overall Social Worker of the year at the Social Work Awards Friday night…https://t.co/93b7Qsodj1
— Vivian (@vivokezetirado) November 6, 2022
The other joint overall winner was “the team around Kasibba”, which also won the gold award in the adult team of the year category. Part of the Camden integrated learning disability service in London, the team has spent six years battling to move Kasibba (not her real name) out of a mental health hospital.
‘Love, hope, anti-racism and persistence’
Kasibba, a black African woman who is autistic, had been inappropriately detained in a mental health hospital all of her adult life and a racist narrative had developed that she was dangerous, said the Social Work Awards.
However, in August, a judge decided she should return home, which the awards said was down to the “huge courage and determination of the multidisciplinary team around Kasibba, who have worked tirelessly for six years to achieve this outcome for her”.
After a clinical psychology assessment identified that Kasibba’s behaviours were linked to her sensory needs, the team were able to put together a plan for her independence.
The team’s work with Kasibba was initiated by the government’s named social work pilot, through which Camden council and Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust allocated a social worker to all people detained in hospital.
Following its award, the team was praised by Camden council’s director of adult social care, Jess McGregor:
Ever wondered what a team who bring love, hope, anti-racism and persistence to work look like? Here they are! The national social work awards think so too! ❤️? @mpratt969 @Georgia_Gould @CamdenCouncil @NHS_NCLICB @NCL_ICS @Alice_CamdenMH @annawrightwho @CI_NHS @1adass @clentonF https://t.co/QEF8SR9FPr
— jess mcgregor (@jessmcparrott) November 5, 2022
New awards for 2022
There were two new awards given out at this year’s ceremony, the first in-person event since 2019.
Devon council’s Charlotte Elliott picked up the gold award for supporting children in education, for her work in a secondary school. Through this she has championed a restorative and relational approach among staff, supported children to attend where they weren’t previously and encouraged them to pursue their ambitions, said the Social Work Awards.
And Hull council picked up the digital transformation gold award for two projects designed to highlight children’s experiences of the care system.
The first, a podcast, explored children’s often painful experiences of a change of social worker. It is being used for staff induction and has led to the development of practice standards for changes of practitioner.
The second, a short animated film created by children and families in the city, tells the story of a child waking up in care for the first time.
Who were the other gold award winners?
- Lifetime achievement: Sarah Lowe
- Children’s social worker of the year: Annmarie Nero, Achieving for Children
- Adult social worker of the year: Bhavna Maher, Leicester City Council
- Mental health social worker of the year: Tara Mitchell, Leeds and York NHS Partnership Foundation Trust
- Team leader of the year, children’s services: Cheryl Grazette, Hertfordshire County Council
- Team leader of the year, adult services: Lucy Hunt, Devon County Council
- Supportive Social Work Employer of the Year: children’s social care, Durham County Council
- Team of the year, children’s services: Families First Fostering
- Practice educator of the year: Carolyn Smith, Wakefield Council
- Newly qualified social worker of the year, children’s: Amy White, Essex County Council
- Newly qualified social worker of the year, adult: Helen Southgate, Suffolk County Council
- University of the year: University of Chester
- Student social worker of the year: Solomon Tugbiyele, Anglia Ruskin University