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BASW's Ruth Stark receives an MBE for services to social work

Ruth Stark, the Manager of the Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW – part of BASW) has been awarded a MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list for her services to social work.

Ruth has led BASW’s activities in Scotland since 1999, part of a 40 year career in the profession in which she moved from working as a probation officer to practising as a social worker in Edinburgh. She has always been very active in international social work and is currently Convenor for the International Federation of Social Work (IFSW) Human Rights Commission.

Commenting on the award, BASW Chief Executive Bridget Robb said: “This award is thoroughly deserved for Ruth personally, who has dedicated much of her life to social work and to the people who need social work services. It is also welcome recognition for the social work profession in Scotland and the UK, and for the work of the British Association of Social Workers.

“It offers a welcome demonstration of how successful the Scottish Association of Social Work has been in supporting and developing social workers across Scotland and of how widely admired Ruth is for her work internationally.”

A passionate advocate for children, Ruth’s career in social work has included spells as an assessment co-ordinator for distressed and disturbed children in Lothian, as a social worker for a housing association, and working with people who were returning to the community from prison and psychiatric hospitals. For over 20 years, Ruth has acted as a safeguarding representative for children in courts and within the children’s hearing system – fulfilling the role of an independent person appointed by the court to protect a child’s best interests.

Ruth’s international social work commitment included co-ordinating the International Federation of Social Work (IFSW) European Seminar, Love Law and the Child, held in Glasgow, and authoring an IFSW training manual on the rights of the child.

Commenting on the announcement, Ruth Stark said: “The staff team in Scotland – Johan, Jane and Tim – have been fantastic during my time with the Association, and deserve special praise for their contribution to this award. The members who have given their valuable time and expertise in helping to build up the Association to its present position of strength also deserve great credit. The message from this award is that being an active member of the professional association for social work gives opportunity and influence that cannot be achieved elsewhere.”

Ms Stark's nomination for an award won the support of a number of notabe figures in Scottish politics and social services. Adam Ingram MSP, a former Minister for Early Years in the Scottish Parliament, said: "She certainly made a notable contribution to the Changing Lives agenda, not least through the auspices of the National Social Work Forum which I had the privilege of convening for four years. I was also pleased to support her efforts in promoting good news in social work practice, recognising outstanding achievements. While there is still much to do in changing public perceptions of social work and social workers, Ruth has been at the forefront of the ongoing campaign to ensure the extremely valuable contribution made by social workers to our society is appropriately appreciated and rewarded."

George Kappler, Chief Social Work Officer for the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, said: "I have known and worked with Ruth Stark for nearly 20 years, both as a fellow social worker and a member of BASW. I have always been impressed with Ruth’s thorough commitment to the profession and her belief in the possibility of social workers helping to effect change in the lives of individuals. She has always operated from a sound value base and it is evident in what she has written on behalf of BASW, as well as in her presentations, that she puts service users - be they children, people enmeshed in the criminal justice system or people with physical disabilities or a mental disorder - at the centre of her thinking.

"I feel Ruth has been particularly helpful in promoting the professionalism of Mental Health Officers in their difficult role which, by statute, has to combine the elements of both care and control in assisting people through periods of ill health and/or vulnerability. Mental Health Officers operate in a specialised area of law and practice in which they have to make decisions which can result in depriving a person of their liberty when they have not even been suspected of committing a crime. It is essential that practice in this area is of a very high standard.

"Ruth has established a BASW Mental Health Officer Forum in Scotland which has been very useful in securing frontline feedback on important issues of practice, legislation and public policy affecting people with mental disorder. The Forum has been instrumental in setting up and organising annual MHO practice days which have been universally well received among MHOs, and not only those who are BASW members. She is also instituting an annual practice award for Mental Health Officers. I have no doubt that through Ruth’s efforts BASW has helped support and drive up the standards of MHO practice."