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Edinburgh Castle hosts illustrious social work awards event

Scotland marked World Social Work Day in style this week with an illustrious awards evening for social workers in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle in which Ella Brown, a senior social worker with North Lanarkshire Council, emerged with the major honour of the evening.

Ms Brown won Social Worker of the Year for her work alongside teenagers at risk of being accommodated. Along with two other category winners and a number of ‘commended’ nominees, Ms Brown received her award from Scottish Children and Early Years minister Adam Ingram, who used a speech to the 150 people gathered in the Castle to applaud social workers’ “tireless efforts to improve outcomes” for vulnerable people.

In the other award categories, Greig Bryce, a senior residential worker at East Ayrshire Council’s Sunnyside Children’s House in Auchinleck, landed Residential Care Worker of the Year, and Lara Macpherson, a social worker with South Lanarkshire’s Child and Families Services, won Student Social Worker of the Year. Lara recently completed her Masters of Social Work at Glasgow School of Social Work.

Addressing the event Mr Ingram highlighted the findings of a report by the Social Work Inspection Agency on 12 March, summarising inspections of all 32 Scottish councils, to emphasise the good work being done by social workers across the country. “The messages are clear; the majority of people of all ages who use services and their carers have valued them and think they have made a positive difference to their lives. Staff who provide services are committed and look for ways to improve the services they offer people.”

Mr Ingram went on to laud the “sub-zero heroes”, social workers and social care staff who overcame terrible wintry weather conditions earlier this year to ensure vulnerable people received the support they needed.

The theme for World Social Work Day this year was ‘Making human rights real’, and Mr Ingram stressed the efforts of the Scottish government in tackling abuses in this area, citing SNP criticism of the UK’s treatment of asylum-seekers, its opposition to the introduction of compulsory ID cards and to US rendition flights linked with the alleged torture of terrorism suspects.

The president of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), David Jones, also picked up the human rights theme, emphasising the challenges this agenda presents to social workers on a daily basis. “Human rights are often thought about as a legal issue but the really difficult thing about human rights is to recognise when particular issues are in conflict – a child whose parents want to care for them but the child has the right to be cared for better, or someone with mental health problems who wants to have choices about their lives but may not be able to make safe choices – what a difficult and challenging thing that is for social workers to do each day.”

BASW Scotland manager Ruth Stark, who is also the IFSW’s Human Rights Commissioner, reinforced the human rights focus by endorsing the work of the Scottish government in “listening to and enabling us to comply with our legal obligations, particularly in the work around the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”. She added: “In my international role it is good to be able say to people that we can make changes in our policy and practice to ensure people are treated with dignity, respect and social justice.”

BASW chief executive Hilton Dawson concluded the evening by applauding the winners and nominees, telling the 160 people gathered in the hallowed castle surroundings: “Social work should be celebrated in places like this.”

Nominees Highly Commended in the BASW Scotland awards

Social Worker of the Year category:
Eddie Anderson, until recently social worker for Blind and Visually Impaired People, Royal National Institute of Blind People, Edinburgh

Sharon Ballingall, social worker for young people, Children’s Hospice Association Scotland, Rachel House, Kinross

Residential Care Worker of the Year category:
Tracey Taylor, Unit Manager, Wick Children’s Centre, Highland Council

Student Social Worker of the Year category:
Ann Martin, Social Work Assistant, Argyll and Bute Council – BA (Hons) in Social Work, The Open University

Keeley Mudd – MSc in Social Work Studies, Stirling University

Ellen Smith, Social Care Worker, Glasgow City Council – BA (Hons) in Social Work, The Open University