Celebrating the Social Worker of the Year Awards 2021

By Gemma Raw

Once again, the Social Worker of the Year Awards was a resounding success and a real tribute to the entire social work community. We’re still replaying the moving real-life accounts from practitioners, teams, leaders and educators who were all too happy to share their stories. Delivering social work at any time is incredibly hard work but particularly challenging during a pandemic. As a headline sponsor, we feel honoured to play a key role in celebrating the value and positive impact that social workers are making as communities rebuild.

Celebrating together

Returning as a virtual event for the second time in its 10 year history, the Social Worker of the Year Awards saw teams across the country unite in their celebration of each other. At one point, #SWA21 was trending on Twitter as attendees took to social media to share their well-wishes. The two-hour event (on 17th November) was packed full of personal accounts of people going above and beyond to help others.

Joining Sanctuary’s CEO, James Rook, on the virtual stage to co-present, broadcast journalist Ashley John Baptiste shared his personal connection to social care. Ashley spoke openly about growing up in care and the life chances he was afforded due to an incredible social worker, Rosalind, who supported him on his journey to Cambridge University, where he graduated with a 2:1 before going on to have a successful career as a journalist.

Introducing the 12 different award categories, in turn, James and Ashley announced 24 gold and silver winners.

Social Work Employer of the Year

As a business, we sponsored two categories that mean a great deal to us, ‘Social Work Employer of the Year’ and ‘Overall Social Worker of the Year.’

We’re delighted to say that the Judges awarded Essex County Council as Employer of the Year, and it’s easy to see why. The council responded exceptionally well during the pandemic. A huge effort went into making sure their staff have all the tools and emotional support they need to safely perform their roles. Also, it was heart-warming to hear how the council is helping other local authorities as a Partner in Practice (PiP).

An Outstanding Contribution

Finishing the night with the Sanctuary-sponsored ‘Winner of Winners’ award, Ashley announced Vivian Okeze-Tirado from West Sussex Council as ‘Overall Social Worker of the Year’. The award recognises just how hard Vivian works to bring about social work solutions that can be applied far beyond her own practice. She lives out the values of social justice to support diverse communities and is a real inspiration to others.

Talking of inspiration, one of the most poignant stories of the evening was from Adult Social Worker of the Year winner Melanie Noel, who made an emotional speech about helping adults struggling with destructive behaviours. Referencing Maya Angelou, she said that good social work is “not what you say or what you do, it’s actually help you make people feel.”

If you were unable to attend the event, you can watch the replay.