Social Worker of the Year Awards winners announced

    Seventeen practitioners, managers, teams and organisations earn gold awards, with social worker who volunteers with refugees and team that fought to move woman out of mental health hospital named overall winners

    Social Worker of the Year Awards
    Photo: the Social Work Awards

    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.

    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:

    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

    , , ,

    19 Responses to Social Worker of the Year Awards winners announced

    1. Pauline November 8, 2022 at 7:58 am #

      Disappointed that there was no award for Social Worker Supporting the most Food Bank users. To much to expect perhaps.

    2. Judy November 8, 2022 at 1:40 pm #

      Shame they had to raise about £275,000, of mostly public money just for one night when people are living in poverty.

    3. Becky Salter November 8, 2022 at 7:16 pm #

      Disappointed that you have completely ignored the fact that the Social Work Student Connect with Siobhan Maclean team were nominated for 4 awards, a first in the history of the Social Work awards history, and were awarded a Special Commendation award for their weekly webinars – free webinars for social work students during the initial lockdown through to current times – delivering webinars to social work practitioners, lecturers, practice educators and more across the UK and globe. All voluntary, all free.
      Completely ignored from your write up? Unfair.

    4. Tahin November 8, 2022 at 8:06 pm #

      Yet another year of marginalising good social workers by promoting the narrative that all we have to celebrate is the “exceptional” ones. Begs the question why a profession that is supposed to promote social justice in the context of communities, is so easily seduced by a beanfeast of shiny superficiality validating the supposed singular superiority of individual social workers. In my 34 year experience the best social work happens in the shadows by the never to be heralded team players interested in critical self examination. No awards, no MBEs, no acknowledgement in speeches by so claimed leaders. All loved by the people they serve though. Validation enough.

      • Carol November 9, 2022 at 6:41 am #

        To me. We are all social workers of the year!

      • Sandra Chapman November 9, 2022 at 10:57 am #


        In my 44-year career, I have kept quietly working and my validation definitely comes from those whom I serve.

        That’s enough and of value to me.

        • Beth November 11, 2022 at 5:58 pm #

          I’ve only been working in health & social care for 38 years so you are inspiring.
          Agree my priority is the people I work with there is no greater accolade.

    5. Yorkshire Rose November 9, 2022 at 9:22 am #

      And the award goes to: whoever bothered to nominate whoever craved the temporary adulation of being the “best”. Means nothing to me and I work for one of the chosen elite.

    6. Sandra Samuel November 9, 2022 at 11:17 am #

      So no Social Workers from London were exceptional then?⁉️

    7. Saj November 9, 2022 at 8:03 pm #

      That there London has nowt on us social workers in Bradford. Just look at the congratulations we tweet at each other. That said I believe Camden is in London.

    8. Alison November 10, 2022 at 3:14 pm #

      I don’t follow this very closely so might be off but was there any acknowledgement or commoration of those colleagues who died or are now living with long covid contracted while doing their jobs?

    9. Jennifer Williams November 11, 2022 at 5:55 pm #

      I attended the event & it was absolutely wonderful to be in the company of others from our great profession celebrating the work we do.

      We all know we don’t get the accolade & recognition we deserve & that’s not why we do the job. I enjoyed networking with others & hearing about the great work we do.

      Our profession does very little to acknowledge & promote our many strengths and fabulous us.

      There probably were nominations from London – the programme could only detail those who were shortlisted.

      Thanks community care for your coverage.

      • Pauline November 12, 2022 at 9:19 am #

        This isn’t a celebration of the work “we” do nor is it a celebration of social work as a profession. If it was all of us would get an “award”. This is a part commercially sponsored karaoke night that “honours” individual social workers. If that’s important good for the participants but none of this is in “our” name. It sits on the CVs of the recipients not on anyone elses. Put up a statue outside the offices of SWE or campaign for one on the 4th Trafalgar Square plinth if you want recognition of the fabulous us. The one and only time I attended one of these the buns were stale. That’s a better reflection of social work than a shoddy perspex kinder cut out.

      • Sandra November 13, 2022 at 10:07 am #

        I am glad that the event was wonderful and of course what we do needs to be more widely recognised. But an event like this is not the one for me. I think it is devisive to pit social worker against social worker, to say there are only these winners who excell and the rest of us are mere plodders. There was a time when we would attend regional and national training events where we got to hear from speakers with expertise on their topics and meet and learn from colleagues. I changed jobs after one of those. Please own this for what it means to those who get nominated and those who ‘win’ but it’s not a celebration of social work or practitioners when we applaud named individuals. There is no “on behalf of” in that.

    10. Sara November 13, 2022 at 12:21 pm #

      No doubt the twice baked soufflé, the canon of lamb with jus, the cherry meringue washed down with shiraz and topped off by coffee and petit fours exemplified all of the values so sacred to social work.

    11. Iain November 14, 2022 at 12:28 pm #

      Don’t we deserve a bit of luxury then?

      • Tahin November 14, 2022 at 8:14 pm #

        Well of course “we” do. We are selfless busy bees and nothing else otherwise. Or everything that is wrong with a depoliticised social work beavering away towards irrelevance summed up in one sentence.

        • Brian November 15, 2022 at 3:19 pm #

          Towards irrelevance is an overly generous summation actually Tahin.