Tribute was paid to the “life changing” work of social workers at the Scottish Association of Social Work Awards yesterday.
Hundreds of invited guests gathered at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh to recognise the skills and professionalism of frontline practitioners nominated in three categories – student of the year, residential care worker of the year and social worker of the year.
The event was also attended by Scotland’s Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell; Peter MacLeod, Vice President of the Association of Directors of Social Work and director of social work in Renfrewshire and Graeme Rizza, SASW’s Scottish Convenor.
The social worker of the year award was presented to James Berry, a social worker with Fife Council’s Older People’s Service, nominated by a carer who praised his “positive, sympathetic and supportive nature” helping them cope with their elderly father’s health issues.
After receiving the award, he said: “I am very grateful to the carer who nominated me. I have been in social work 28 years and it is just incredible that someone would do that.
“It is important for social work to be recognised in this way. It is good to let the public see what we are doing and hopefully it encourages people to come forward for social work services when they maybe a bit hesitant to do so.”
Highly commended in the category was Victoria Berry, who works for North Lanarkshire Council, a social worker of only three years who impressed with her ability to handle highly complex cases.
Winner in the residential care category was Ruth McDonald, residential care worker with the Aberlour Family Support Service in Glasgow, recognised for her work helping people suffering substance misuse.
Karen Wood was highly commended in the category for her “sensitivity, humour, fun and warmth” working with children with severe and multiple disabilities in a respite care unit in Inverness for Highland Council.
The student of the year award went to Clare Edmondson, described as a “skilful communicator” who is not satisfied by “good enough” working with people with complex health and social are needs for Dumfries and Galloway Council.
Allyson Johnston, an Open University student working with Kaleidescope, a charity for people experiencing mental illness, in Dumfries & Galloway, was highly commended in the category for her professionalism and sensitivity.
Ruth Stark, Manager of the Scottish Association of Social Work, said: “The judges had an extremely difficult task. We would have wanted to give everyone an award but we could only have three winners.
“The richness of the praise we have heard about good practice will not be lost. It is evidence we will take to people like the children’s minister and tell them what social workers do and what they do well and the impact it has on the community. We will use all this information to make people understand what social work does to contribute to the richness of Scottish society.”
Scotland’s Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell said: “As a minister, I visit many services and meet with people in many different contexts. And I am regularly and continually inspired by the dedication, compassion, drive, resilience and creativity demonstrated by those who work in social services.
“Social work is truly life changing work. And it is also one of the most demanding and complex tasks which we as a society ask any group of people to do on our behalf. This ceremony each year provides a particularly positive and uplifting way to hear about the work done by you and your colleagues."