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Social Work Awards - Our highlights

By James Rook

​For almost a decade, we have been at the forefront of celebrating social work success in England. As headline sponsor of the annual Social Worker of the Year Awards, we’ve not only helped provide funding, but also been an integral part of the organising team and trustees of the Social Work Awards charity.

We know the value of our social work community. We know how you help and support those in need and one of the things we are most proud of is the way that the Awards have helped recognise the work that you do.

This week, the shortlist for the 2019 awards was announced and once again, it’s been phenomenal to hear how more entries are being submitted every single year. It’s a sign that social work teams across England are making huge strides in promoting positive practice.

In honour of this year’s nominations, we wanted to share our highlights of the awards over the past nine years.

Taking the awards to Westminster

It's been great to see the Awards grow over the years. We began working with founder, Beverley Williams MBE in 2010 and the awards were taking place in a hotel in Bedford. As sponsors, we knew we could do better – the next year we were able to invite almost 180 social workers to join us in a debating room at the Palace of Westminster.

For two years, we were able to celebrate social work success in the House of Commons before taking each attendee on a tour of Parliament, then finishing with a drinks reception in the House of Lords. Looking back, it’s incredible that we were able to take so many social workers to such a prestigious venue, but what is more fantastic is that we had to move the Awards away from Parliament as we simply outgrew it!

Support from Jeremy Corbyn and Ministerial backing

Central to our time at Westminster was having the support and backing from members of parliament. For two years, we were able to host the Awards thanks to the efforts of Jeremy Corbyn who supported our room booking and attended on the day, giving a fantastic speech recognising how special social work is.

Adding to the input from Ministers, we were delighted to invite each overall Social Worker of the Year to a personal meeting with the Minister for Children and Families (at that time, Edward Timpson); this really cemented the credibility of the event.

Launching the Parliamentary event

In recent years, all of the winners have been invited to a dedicated parliamentary reception where they’ve had the opportunity to meet the Chief Social Workers and relevant Parliamentary Ministers. The reception was launched after the Awards moved to a hotel venue. We wanted to retain the parliamentary backing and continue celebrating the achievements of winners long after the ceremony itself.

It’s remarkable that we have this opportunity to continue showcasing the work that you do in such a prestigious way. It allows us to promote the importance of social work throughout the year.

Introducing specific categories and peer support

What has always set the Awards apart has been the incredible judging panel and peer support. This year, there are more categories than ever before and it’s fantastic to see them continue to grow as social work evolves and more services are developed.

When we helped create specific categories, we knew that the judging panel needed to be packed full of high profile people who understand the work that you do. Over the years, people such as Eileen Munro, Lyn Romeo and Isabelle Trowler have kindly given up their time to judge these awards. It’s thanks to the judges that each category has such prestigious recognition.

People are proud to associate with the awards

When the Awards first started, Sanctuary was the sole sponsor. It’s been phenomenal to see how much has changed in recent years. There is now a plethora of sponsors who help to fund the work of the organising team and make the night such a success. We know that each sponsor is proud that social work is being recognised for the fantastic profession that it is.

Founder Beverley Williams receives an MBE

The impact of the Awards came to fruition in 2015, when founder Beverley Williams was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list. She was recognised for her impact in setting up the Awards and the way that it has changed the way social work is viewed.

A surprise video message from James Corden

Attendees at the 2018 event will know how electric the atmosphere was when a surprise video message from TV host, James Corden, was played. James’ sister Ruth was one of the nominees and arranged for it to happen. He is a public advocate for social work as both his sister and mother were qualified social workers.

The way the room erupted as soon as he came on-screen on the set of his Late Late Show was truly one of our favourite moments of the last ten years.

Congratulations to all of this year’s nominees; we hope that these awards continue to inspire everyone in the sector to be proud of what they do.