Afghanistan-born social worker Omaid Badar, who lived his teenage years in a refugee camp, was the overall winner’s prize at this year’s Social Worker of the Year Awards.
Losing his father and brother as a child because of the war, Omaid had to emigrate to England at the age of 14, seeking refuge.
At last week’s awards ceremony, the Kirklees Council practitioner won the children’s social worker of the year prize and, following a “unanimous decision” from the judges, was crowned overall winner.
Out of 96 finalists, the awards recognised 17 other practitioners, managers, teams and organisations with gold awards and a further 22 as silver award winners.
Also, chief social worker for adults Lyn Romeo, who will retire in January after a decade in the post, received an honorary award for her contributions to social work in a 46- year career.
‘A dream come true’
Omaid was named ‘winner of winners’ just four years after qualifying as a practitioner, during which time he has already taken up roles as a practice educator and on a fostering panel.
He attributed his journey into social work to the positive experience he had had in Bradford’s care system.
Upon winning the overall winner’s award, Omaid called the night “a dream come true”.
“I’ve been exposed to a lot of trauma,” he said. “I’ve overcome it, and I want to help these children overcome their traumas and be the voice that they’ve never been. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s been an amazing night.”
He later added in a LinkedIn post: “I will continue with my journey to inspire, encourage, motivate and empower youth with my life story and lived experiences – to give them a better start in life, be their voice and advocate for their rights. Thank you for the national recognition.”
‘Everything the profession is about’
He was described by Rob Mitchell, trustee of organising charity the Social Work Awards, as “everything the profession is about when it’s at its best”.
“Omaid’s approach to social work reflects where we all as practitioners aspire to be,” he added.
In a video shown during the ceremony, Kirklees service director Vicky Metheringham said: “If I ever needed a social worker, I’d want it to be Omaid. He has experienced enough hardship to last 10 lives.”
“I was blown away by this nomination,” added another awards trustee, Sherry Malik. “That someone is able to live through so much and still have the capacity and resilience to dedicate their lives to helping others was very humbling to read.
“He has been described by his colleagues and by the people he supports as kind, brilliant, compassionate, dedicated and I can’t say it any better than his manager – ‘I want to bottle what he has and share it with all social workers’.”
‘The very best of social work’
There were two new awards given out at this year’s ceremony, with Kirsten Bingham, from Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust and Hull City Council, honoured as the first-ever approved mental health professional social worker of the of the year.
Bridget Caffrey, from the University of Chester, meanwhile, took home the social work lecturer of the year award, which replaced the university of the year award.
The lifetime achievement award went to Meera Spillett, a former director of children’s services who is now an associate at leadership training body the Staff College. She was recognised “for being a visionary leader with over 35 years’ experience in social work”.
Following the ceremony, Peter Hay, chair of trustees at the Social Work Awards, said: “The awards celebrate the very best of social work. We are so proud of everyone’s achievements. This year we received the most entries ever, over 500, which goes to show organisations and individuals are keen to shine a light on the inspirational achievements of an often-overlooked profession.”
The 2023 gold award winners
- Overall winner and children’s social worker of the year: Omaid Badar, Kirklees children’s social care
- Lifetime achievement: Meera Spillett, The Staff College (associate)
- Adult social worker of the year: Ruth Hare, Birmingham City Council adult social care
- Mental health social worker of the year: Hannah Dawson, Northumberland County Council
- AMHP (approved mental health professional) social worker of the year: Kirsten Bingham, Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust/ Hull City Council
- Team leader of the year, children’s services: Jane Dunne, Coventry Council
- Team leader of the year, adult services: Wendy Kirkman, Derbyshire County Council
- Social justice advocate: Elaine James, Bradford Council
- Team of the year, children’s services: Bridges, Devon County Council
- Team of the year, adult services: Mental health and wellbeing team, Essex County Council
- Practice educator of the year: Gwen Bryan, University of East London
- Newly qualified children’s social worker of the year: Clare Burnett, Cafcass
- Newly qualified adult social worker of the year: Victoria Veale, Suffolk County Council
- University social work lecturer of the year: Bridget Caffrey, University of Chester
- Student social worker of the year: Aravind Satheesh, University of East Anglia
- Supportive social work employer: Stockton-on-Trees Borough Council
- Supporting children in education: Christina Addenbrooke, Essex County Council
- Digital transformation in social work: Specialist support service, Gateshead Council