Vivian Okeze-Tirado, winner of the 2021 Social Justice Advocate and overall Social Worker of the Year, made an impassioned speech for cultural competence in social work practise to a gathering of past and present winners, sponsors and special guests at a Parliamentary Reception on 7 March held at the Palace of Westminster.
The reception was hosted by Tim Loughton MP, patron of the Social Work Awards charity. Speakers included Dame Rachel de Souza DBE, Children’s Commissioner for England; Gillian Keegan MP, Minister of State for Care and Mental Health; Lord Patel of Bradford OBE; Vava Tampa, Chair of BASW England; Ashley John-Baptiste, BBC broadcaster and journalist; and Clenton Farquharson MBE, Chair of Think Local Act Personal.
As the charity’s first in-person event since 2019, the Parliamentary Reception celebrated winners and thanked sponsors from both the November 2019 awards and 2021 virtual awards.
Believe in children so they can believe in themselves
Dame Rachel de Souza DBE, Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “It was fantastic to be at the Social Worker of the Year Awards reception and to be celebrating social work. Because we don’t celebrate it enough. We talk about the failures; we look at serious case reviews, but we don’t shout enough about the successes. Celebrating what so many of the best social workers do: believe in children so they can believe in themselves.
“They change not just the material conditions in which children live, but the way they see themselves in the world. The best not only make children feel safe, but they also make them feel powerful. It was great to meet some of them and see that motivation is being recognised and rewarded, not least by children who know, and have benefited.”
Cultural competence in social work
Vivian Okeze-Tirado, an Advanced Practitioner at West Sussex County Council, spoke passionately about why she’s proud to be a social worker and how the murder of George Floyd changed how she wanted diversity and cultural competence to be addressed in social work.
Vivian said: “Social Work is a career like no other, that caters to the needs of the most vulnerable in our society. So, if you come with a mindset of how you want to make positive change, then you’re in the right profession.”
Following the murder of George Floyd in June 2020, Vivian sent an open letter to10 Downing Street, her local MP and local newspaper advocating for justice and equality, appealing to the public to have empathy for the lives of Black people.
She continued: “I set up workshops on diversity and cultural competence at West Sussex County Council, delivering sessions across several departments, with the aim of supporting colleagues to address issues of racism with the children they support and to learn how to build their self-esteem.
“For other councils to support their social workers to reflect on diversity and to make changes, I created a diversity acrostic poem, which was published in April 2021, with guidance for culturally sensitive social work and social care. My book continues to help social workers across the country to encourage reflection and suggest solutions for positive progress.”
Passion and inspiration
Peter Hay, Chair of Trustees at the Social Worker of the Year Awards, said: “We receive hundreds of entries to the awards each year. Every one of our finalists is making lives better and every one of our winners has really demonstrated a commitment and a passion for a better, more just society.
“Vivian is a truly passionate and inspirational social worker. She thoroughly deserves huge recognition for the positive impact she has made to the individuals and communities she works with – for standing up and taking action to better the experiences and lives of children from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds.”
The Social Work Awards is a charity founded ten years ago to celebrate social work, promote the positive impact of the profession and share best practise.
Plans for the 2022 awards in November are underway with entries to the awards opening in April.
See the photos from the Parliamentary Reception.