Awards countdown celebrates shortlisted nominations
Practice Teacher of the Year
Social Worker and Practice Teacher of the Year, Glasgow Health & Social Care Partnership
Alison was nominated by a 4th year social work student, who writes passionately about the impact Alison made on her 4th year assessed practice placement experience.
Alison is described as very supportive in her role, specifically in terms of her emotional intelligence in picking up and acting on indicators of students’ emotional wellbeing and confidence, and because of her ability to guide students in a very constructive manner. Alison has a knack of focusing on strengths and the positives of the work, and her knowledge base is grounded within both practice experience as a social worker as well as an up-to-date knowledge of research and literature. Although she has only recently started working with students from Strathclyde University her support of students has been impressive both in her approach to creating positive working relationships and in ensuring that her assessment of the students’ practice is fair and transparent.
Practice Learning Development Officer
Learning Network West nominated Eddie McAuley, who has a rich and diverse background and interest in social justice, initially as a worker in the shipyards where he became a shop steward, and later as a social worker in North Lanarkshire Council, where he also became a practice teacher. Although he retired from the Council 9 years ago, he has continued as an Independent Practice Teacher, where he has made a significant mark through developing and sourcing innovative practice learning placements, especially in the third sector. He also developed a Practice Learning Toolkit for use in voluntary organisations and managed to nurture significant practice placements in North Lanarkshire secondary schools. Eddie has displayed a lifelong commitment to social work values and has consistently promoted the importance of human relationships within various settings for students in his long career.
Independent Practice Teacher
Sarah is described by students and the placement agency as a robust and resourceful independent practice teacher who is excellent in supporting and challenging students to get the most out of their learning opportunities. She cares about people and has worked very well with placement agencies. Her approach with students is very empathetic, she pays close attention to developing and establishing good working relationships . She also ensures they are fully involved in the assessment and feedback of their performance and learning. Her use of “self” through building relationships and the knowledge and sharing of her expertise and experience is invaluable to students. One student said she was calm but fair, and always made time in weekly supervision. Her commitment goes above and beyond.
Student Social Worker of the Year
University of Strathclyde
Calum is a BA Hons Student at the University of Strathclyde, where he has already made an impact, as the nomination from his practice teacher and University tutor is based on his very first practice placement in 2018. The quality of his work was outstanding, it was hugely complex work and his clients had been through extreme trauma and precarious asylum status and were facing extreme poverty, ruthlessness and destitution. One client described him as “a godsend, of different grace and character”, he said he had encouraged him to keep fighting, and managed to get him through. This was the only agency and the only person that had shown him “love” in an appropriate sense when he needed it. Calum was referred to as “an agent of change” in people’s lives who were in dire circumstances. He was calm and brilliant with people and a genuine pleasure to have in the office. He displayed a real commitment to social justice, and always worked in a culturally competent and anti-oppressive way, considering gender, culture, racial considerations and issues around disability and mental health. His work with a range of people of different cultural background was described as “outstanding”.
University of Strathclyde
Rosie was nominated because of her commitment to not only her own learning, but also that of others, her vibrant presence in the classroom, her confidence and solid commitment to promoting respect and dignity and the inclusion of others. She was exceptional in her ability to build relationships with young people and their families, and in a manner that was inclusive, recognised power imbalances, and was committed to minimising these through honesty and being non-judgmental. Her skills in understanding the needs of service users and agencies and getting them all to work towards positive outcomes were particularly highlighted. People who used services who Rosie worked with described her as “easy to talk to” and felt they were “genuinely listened to”. Her positive attitude helped people she worked with to feel positive too. Rosie is also involved within the Independent Care review as co-chair of the “Love” workstream, where she is also using her experiences to help work towards Scotland achieving a better care system.
University of the West of Scotland
The nomination for Edward as Student Social Worker of the Year was truly exceptional in that it was anonymous, but entirely from the heart of the person who had used his services. The nominator started his/her letter with “where I come from, we don’t do something like this”. Initially the writer claimed he/she “did not take to him” and “did not want him messing around in my life or in the life of my family”. However, Edward did not give up and simply persisted in coming around, and “unlike every other person he was the only one who did not talk at me- he talked to me. He was always upfront with what was right and did not judge me or my family”. The nominator writes they were shocked as they did not have great experiences with social workers, but found they liked him, as did the family. The writer concludes by saying: “I wanted him to know just what kind of impact coming into my life has meant. He will make a good social worker” and signs off as “Yours sincerely: a family that feels much better for having this guy come into our life”.
Social Work Team of the Year
Glasgow Infant & Family Team (NSPCC)
The GIFT in Glasgow is a multi-disciplinary team within the NSPCC, and approximately half of the team are social workers. This team does fantastic work in providing appropriate preventive support so families stay together and early intervention is on a basis of agreement, mutual agreement and warmth. The principal clinical psychologist in the team is nominating the social workers as she believes that they should be recognised and commended for forging respectful, compassionate relationships, keeping the child in the centre while also considering the family, having courage in vulnerability by providing therapeutic support to families by working with other agencies by providing information and learning from each other, and connecting with people meaningfully by breaking down the “them and us” walls.
We also received a nomination for the GIFT from a consultant social worker in the NSPCC, who says the talented social workers in the team respect each other’s skills and opinions and communicate effectively with families and others, intrinsically demonstrating the value of relationship-based practice.
Fife Council's Adoption Service
This specialised team are said to put relationships at the heart of their practice. The team has many years of experience as qualified social workers, who also have personal experience of adoption, fostering and kinship care. Their personal and caring approach is applied from the outset of every prospective adopter’s journey and continues through the assessment process. Adopters are also able to join support groups and fun days. These less formal relationships are crucial to the ongoing support that adopters receive when times get tough.
As well as supporting adopters the team offer personal support to adopted adults to trace their birth families; one such person who linked to their birth family after 50 years supported this nomination by highlighting the determined and competent support offered.
People who have received services comment on them being a great team who ensure relationships in the process and beyond are key to the work.
The M.A.D Group
North Ayrshire Council
In Criminal Justice social work it is rare to find service users shaping services, so social workers in the Making A Difference team have had to work hard to build trust and mutually respectful relationships and encourage participation. The work of this team is challenging and has required courage and commitment from social workers and service users in chartering unknown territory. M.A.D. meet in a local welcoming community centre where food is provided, and activities from football to book and film events have been developed and agreed on with the people who use services. There have been opportunities for consultation and feedback as well as an imaginative use of social media to keep the conversations going. There is mentoring as well as peer support. One social worker said: “The level of excitement and potential felt by both service users and staff alike now drives me. It has broken down some barriers, and it has helped relationships improve, leading to better outcomes for service users”.
Intensive Family Support Team
The IFS team is a short life project integral to Dumfries and Galloway’s Anti- Poverty strategy. The workers help families living in poverty and struggling with several difficulties, with the aim of making sure they can make and sustain changes so further social work involvement is avoided. The support is agreed, not imposed, and tailored to individual family circumstances. It can be very practical input such as de-cluttering homes, making packed lunches to helping people to sort out finances to emotional support and providing space to talk, such as having a coffee or a walk on the beach. Promoting the importance of human relationships is a key thread through all activity, one person said: “I honestly feel that this is the only support that made me feel normal again and believe in myself”. Someone else said “She spoke to me nicely and taught me how to be nice to others”.
The team is deemed worthy of the nomination as their dedication and willingness to support families and colleagues in busy child care teams, they can make and form relationships maintaining professional boundaries despite working so closely and intensely.
Family Change Team Consultation Service
Perth & Kinross Council
FC is a small social work team that offers children and families therapeutic support to aid recovery from trauma. The service started 22 years ago when it was quickly realised that the small team would not be able to undertake all of the direct therapeutic work, and they began to receive requests from workers asking for guidance and support on working with some families. A formal consultation service for workers and carers was set up, where time and space were available for consultation about the identified child and family – a safe space where the importance of relational social work could be modelled, encouraging all consultees to put the child at the centre, (but within its family and community) and to find ways of strengthening their relationships with children. As well as other social workers, there has also been a significant growth in the number of kinship carers, foster carers, birth families and adoptive parents accessing the service on a regular basis. The focus has continually been on strengthening relationships. In the face of resourcing issues, it is fantastic that the part-time service has continued to demonstrate real impact and can continue to offer the service.
Social Worker of the Year
Rebecca Mathers & Lynsey Clark
East Ayrshire Council
This joint nomination was in recognition of work in a complex child protection case. The workers not only formed an excellent working relationship together, but also (more importantly) had begun to build a remarkable relationship with the children in the family. Unfortunately, the adults’ shifting situations and risks did not improve, despite lots of support offered, including of a practical nature. Both workers explained in age-appropriate ways what was happening, supporting the children when distressed and being there for them. When they were accommodated Rebecca and Lynsey were a constant appropriate presence for them in every day occurences in order to ensure known faces in turbulent times. They also continued to advocate for stable permanent homes and did an extensive piece of work with relatives who came forward which helped ensure a positive way forward for the children and the family.
The depth of their relationship with the children and carers and their passion for positive outcomes made a real difference to these children’s lives.
Asylum & Roma Team, Glasgow H&SC Partnership
Lorraine was nominated by her co-facilitator for a peer-mentoring project for young unaccompanied Asylum seekers and Refugees. Lorraine is the inspiration behind this group, recognising that these young people are the experts and in a unique position to help other newly arrived people. Consultation took place with 40 young people to see if they thought it was a good idea too. The group has now been running for over 18 months and has achieved things like speaking at conferences for social workers and other workers, organised welcoming events, and devising a mental health First Aid kit for all new arrivals, both in English and the languages they speak. At the heart of the group’s progress is Lorraine’s determination and belief in the power of building a relationship with young people, her team and other professionals. She brings compassion and empathy to each encounter while also being able to engage with humour and a light touch.
Morag is a social worker in Fife Council at Cowdenbeath’s Children and Families Team 2. She is intelligent and curious, always ready to ask why some families feel they need to hide the truth and tries to get to know people, so they are able to talk about very difficult and traumatic life experiences. Morag is always willing to hold a metaphoric hand and walk through hard times with families, even when this is not welcomed. She has walked side by side with many young people, is compassionate and kind; one young person was ably supported during problems in her looked after care placement, Morag listened to the young person and carer, then mediated so they were able to resolve their issues. This young person managed to overcome some major challenges and Morag helped her with her daily routine so , so she was self-confident enough to cope on her own. Morag practises in a non-judgmental manner, is calm in difficult meetings while not unflappable but if she believes there is an injustice is not afraid to challenge. She demonstrates respect to families, and her relationship with them allows her to be there with them during good and bad times.
East Renfrewshire H&SC Partnership, Youth Intensive Support Services
Katie was nominated by a young person who has been looked after by the local authority from a very early age onwards. The contact with Katie came at a difficult time in this person’s life and added to that the experiences of people coming into his/her life and disappointing by leaving again made him/her hesitant to talk and connect with Katie. It became apparent over time that this was a different relationship; while boundaries between personal and professional were not crossed, the practical support in helping with housing but also listening to rants as well as happy achievements are testament to a very constructive working relationship. Katie has enabled the nominator to have success through believing in themselves, but the nominator states that one of the most important things is also Katie’s honesty in saying “That’s enough” and be one to say: “you know, that wasn’t the best thing to say”. Not giving up on people she is working with is what makes Katie stand out, she is regarded as a role model and a great asset to social work. Her work with many people and the relationship she develops with them is brilliant.
South Lanarkshire Council
Keira is nominated by a team leader and described as a consummate professional who is a great advocate for social work. She has been pivotal in establishing a culture whereby newly qualified social workers are supported and mentored. She is extremely person centred and professional social work values are at the core of her decision making.
Her work in child protection shows an ability to engage with families as well as statutory and other professionals in an exemplar fashion. Keira’s professionalism in work with children and families and in managing risk is done by collaborating with all involved. She has evidenced persistence and patience as well as great people skills, while maintaining a steely determination of support, highlighting the uniqueness of the social work role in managing risk by engaging and supporting.
It was highlighted how working in such a manner can avoid the need for legal orders while staying focused on potential risk as well as supporting and enabling families to make the changes necessary for them and their children.