Social Worker of the Year Awards open for entries

18 awards up for grabs, with new categories including gongs for AMHPs and university lecturers, as 2022 winners highlight the importance of championing oppressed and unheard people

Social Worker of the Year Awards 2022, overall winners, pictured at parliamentary reception
2022 overall winners, 'the team around Kasibba', from Camden, and Kirsty Baughan (second from right), pictured with James Rook from headline sponsor Sanctuary Personnel (right) (credit: Social Work Awards)

With the Social Worker of the Year Awards launching for nominations, do you think awards schemes are good for the profession?

  • No, they are divisive and elitist. (38%, 68 Votes)
  • Yes, they celebrate and recognise good practice. (37%, 66 Votes)
  • They make very little difference. (24%, 43 Votes)

Total Voters: 177

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The Social Worker of the Year Awards 2023 has opened for nominations, with 18 category prizes up for grabs, alongside the overall winner’s gong.

New for this year is an award for approved mental health professionals, while the previous university of the year prize has been replaced by one for lecturers.

The scheme is open to registered practitioners in England, self-nominations and third-party nominations are accepted and entries must be submitted through the awards’ online portal by 2 June 2023.

The launch came as the overall winners from last year’s awards addressed MPs and peers on the importance of championing oppressed and unheard people, at a parliamentary reception last week.

Central Bedfordshire Council audit manager Kirstie Baughan, who was garlanded last year for her extensive voluntary work for asylum seekers and refugees, raised the issue of how the group was treated, in the wake of the government’s controversial Illegal Migration Bill.

‘Need to show compassion, care and welcome to asylum seekers’

“I want to take this opportunity to emphasise the importance of each and every one of us standing alongside those that are not being heard, advocating for fair and equitable treatment of asylum seekers and refugees and remembering that every person who comes to the UK has a unique, personal story,” she said.

“As social workers, MPs, government officials, we all have a responsibility to be role models and treat every individual with compassion, care and welcome.”

Kirstie shared the overall prize with the team around Kasibba, part of Camden’s integrated learning disability service. The team spent six years battling to move Kasibba (not her real name) – a black, autistic woman, who had been inappropriately detained in a mental health hospital for decades – into the community.

Also addressing the reception, Andrew Reece, head of integrated learning disability services, paid tribute to “the total dedication and commitment” of all the staff who had supported Kasibba, as well as the support of health and social care managers across Camden.

‘We need to hear people’s voices and respond’

However, he added: “Kasibba was failed by all of us for many, many years. As a system we saw her as a ‘savage’ not a person and used discriminatory, derogatory and racist language to describe and demonise her. As a system we failed to find a way to hear the voice of Kassiba; we need to hear people’s voices and to respond to them.” 

MPs attending the event paid tribute to social workers, with former children’s minister Tim Loughton describing practitioners as “the fourth emergency service” and Labour shadow children’s minister Helen Hayes adding: “Often the best social work goes entirely unseen by most people. Social workers work in a context of enormous pressure. 

“Today, we celebrate your brilliance, we celebrate your commitment, the vitally important work that you do and the critical difference that you make. Thank you and congratulations.” 

Awards categories

  • Children’s social worker of the year
  • Adult social worker of the year
  • Newly qualified children’s social worker of the year
  • Newly qualified adult social worker of the year
  • Team of the year, children’s services
  • Team of the year, adult services
  • Team leader of the year, children’s services
  • Team leader of the year, adult services
  • Mental health social worker of the year
  • Approved mental health professional of the year
  • Social justice advocate award
  • Lifetime achievement award
  • Student social worker of the year
  • Practice educator of the year
  • Supporting children in education award
  • Digital transformation in social work award
  • Supportive social work employer award
  • University lecturer of the year
  • Overall winner

Find out more about this year’s awards.

The launch of nominations the awards follows news of the shortlist for four of the gongs at this year’s inaugural scheme run by social work charity Frontline.

In the practice category, the line-up is:

  • Kym Chalmers, social worker, Essex council
  • Josie Hall, advanced practitioner, Solihull
  • Diana Katoto, social worker, Dudley
  • Lyndsey Moore, social worker, Coventry
  • Antonia Ogundayisi, service manager for Anti-Racist Practice, Essex council
  • Arthur Scott, restorative social worker, Portsmouth council

The nominees for the leadership award are:

  • Hannah Bedford, family valued programme manager, Coventry
  • Theresa Kambani, consultant social worker, Northamptonshire Children’s Trust
  • Charmaine Malcolm, principal child and family social worker/head of professional practice, Bromley council
  • Sarah Okoye-Eni, consultant social worker, Bromley council
  • Oyeyinka Olaniran, service manager,
  • Michelle Ziregbe, practice manager, West Berkshire Council

The team of the year choices were:

  • Staying Together team, Bexley council
  • Family group conference team, Darlington
  • Duty and assessment team 2, Manchester
  • Social work academy, Northamptonshire Children’s Trust
  • Learning academy team, Tower Hamlets council

The innovation award shortlist is:

  • Roseanna Freiburghaus, Journey with an Unaccompanied Child
  • Tooba Malik, Thrive
  • Elizabeth Vecchione, Care to Dance
  • Blackpool Children Services, Blackpool Families Rock
  • Coventry, Reunification

The winners of those awards will be announced at a ceremony next month.



2 Responses to Social Worker of the Year Awards open for entries

  1. Christian Kerr April 6, 2023 at 8:40 am #

    The poll accompanying this piece doesn’t capture the breadth and complexity of the issues surrounding these awards. The awards in their current corporate/industry awards iteration play in the privatisation and commodification of social work and social support. The proximity of one of the largest and growing social work recruitment agencies, Sanctuary Personnel, via its decade-long sponsorship of the Awards, is uncomfortable and raises questions about who really benefits (see: BASW’s continued support, despite the majority of nembers calling for an end to the association’s involvement at the 2021 AGM, in light of these things is problematic.

    And now we have the Boston Consulting Group-founded and backed social work training scheme, Frontline, mounting what can only be construed as a rival awards scheme, clearly designed to promoting its own brand – and those of its corporate-philanthropic backers within the sector, a quite cynical move. (Interesting that the Social Work Awards have this year introduced an award for University Lecturers…)

    Many will argue that there should be no problem with celebrating a misunderstood and maligned profession. It is hard to argue against something which is framed so positively, and critics are often cast as cynical naysayers. But any such celebration must surely avoid promoting the brands and interests of organisations that work counter to the interests of social workers and the people they hope and aim to support (see: The entry of Frontline – backed by BCG which supports the Saudi regime and has been implicated in the alleged illegal aquisition of Angolan state assets, not to mention the scandal-prone Credit Suisse – into the awards arena further underscores the compromised position such corporately backed awards put our profession in. How. can we credibly advocate for a fairer society while allowing ourselves to be used to launder the images and reputations of organisations engaged in morally and ethically questionable activities that harm the interests of people in vulnerable and marginalised situations via such celebrations of social work?

    It doesn’t have to be like this. Such celebrations should reflect the values, principles and missions of the profession, and certainly not serve the interests of private wealth.

  2. Simon Cardy April 6, 2023 at 3:19 pm #

    All is not what it seems as Christian accurately sets out above. Frontline have set out to ‘contest’ local authority and HEIs based on ‘disruption theory’ suppressing and holding back more than capable social workers and leaders to develop social work for itself draining resources. Yes it’s ideas and social work approaches have some merit but now’s the time to integrate these into social work and wind down Frontline rather than help them expand their growing influence and who continually like to put themselves on a pedestal. Frontline do nothing to contribute to the retention crisis or help share the limited funds for student bursaries frozen at £3k since 2014. And now rather than join in with the existing social work awards already in place, stripped largely of its corporate sponsors such as G4S. Frontline have now set up rival award system designed to promote themselves. Social work needs to wake up to the fact that Frontline is a cuckoo organisation funded by a politically corrupt government and shadowy philanthropy. Social work and social workers have a choice as to whether it want to allow the Cuckoo into the nest or stand on its own two feet?