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Former nightclub bouncer wins top social work award

A former pub and club bouncer who went on to become a social worker has been recognised with a prestigious lifetime achievement award for his work with disadvantaged people.

Speaking after an awards ceremony at Stormont, Ciaran Traynor (46) called on more men to become social workers.

Ciaran was presented with the Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW) Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony in the Stormont Parliament building today in an event timed to coincide with World Social Work Day on 20 March.

Originally from Newry, Ciaran now lives in Belfast and works as learning and development programme manager at Extern, a charitable organisation that works directly with children, adults and communities affected by social exclusion throughout Ireland.

After graduation, Ciaran began his working life as a bouncer before a favour for a friend developed into a professional passion. Explaining how he came into social work, he said: “I was asked to help out with a children’s summer play scheme. I enjoyed working with the children but was shocked by the social deprivation in the area and the challenges some of the families had to make ends meet. This made me stay on as a volunteer, then get a job as a childcare worker with the organisation and, ultimately, train as a social worker”.

Ciaran’s work with Extern has only reinforced his decision to become a social worker, and he feels that more people, particularly men, should consider it as a career.

Ciaran commented: “When I look at the excellent people I work with, I always think I made the right choice. Making a positive contribution to someone’s life is the best thing we can do. The current climate means that social work needs more skilled people who are committed to social justice than ever before.

“I’d like to see more men join the profession, it is a tough job, but I get real kick out of seeing people I have worked with achieving even little successes. You get a chance to change people’s lives for the better”.

Speaking after the awards ceremony NIASW chair Lesley McDowell said: “Ciaran has been a significant influence within the voluntary sector for many years and has worked tirelessly to promote the sector. With his enthusiasm and love for his work, he sets a great example for both his colleagues and services users.”

The NIASW Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2010 to recognise social workers who have worked steadfastly to improve social work services or practice. To win, social workers have to demonstrate leadership or innovation over a period of 15 years or more.