Over 400 people gathered in London on Friday (3 November) to celebrate the incredible work of social workers across the country.
The Social Worker of the Year Awards promotes positive stories from the profession and gives recognition to those improving the lives of the people they support.
Established in 2006 by independent social work practitioner, Beverley Williams, there are now 18 categories; each judged by an independent panel of social workers, people with lived experience, and senior figures from the world of social work.
This year’s ‘winner of winners’ was named as Omaid Badar who received the Overall Social Worker of the Year Award and the gold award for Children’s Social Worker of the Year.
Omaid, from Kirklees Children’s Social Care, was born in Afghanistan. He suffered the loss of his father and brother at a young age and spent his early years in a refugee camp. He came to England aged 14 but despite not being able to speak English, he rapidly embraced his life here, and secured 11 GCSEs.
It was through his positive experience in the care system in Bradford and seeing first-hand the transformative power of good social work, that led Omaid to the profession.
Despite it being just four years since he qualified as a social worker, Omaid is not only progressing well in his career, but he is also encouraging and supporting others through his roles as a practice educator and sitting on the Fostering Panel.
The Overall Social Worker of the Year is chosen by the charity’s Board of Trustees, and it was unanimous decision that Omaid should receive the title this year.
Trustee Rob Mitchell, MBE said, “Omaid is everything that the profession is about when it is at its best. He is described by the families he supports as kind, honest, trusting and a social worker who helps families feel safe. Conversely, he is described by those in the social work profession as ‘inspiring, compassionate, engaging, flexible and thoughtful’. Omaid’s approach to social work reflects where we all as practitioners aspire to be.
Fellow Trustee, Sherry Malik added, “I was blown away by this nomination. That someone is able to live through so much and still have the capacity and resilience to dedicate their lives to helping others was very humbling to read. He has been described by his colleagues and by the people he supports as kind, brilliant, compassionate, dedicated and I can’t say it any better than his manager -’I want to bottle what he has and share it with all social workers’.”
Upon winning the award, Omaid said “It’s a dream come true. This award does not only go to me, it goes to all those social workers out there, working hard and changing children’s and families’ lives for a better future, inspiring children with their commitment, their loyalty.”
“I’ve been exposed to a lot of trauma. I’ve overcome it, and I want to help these children overcome their traumas and be the voice that they’ve never been. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s been an amazing night.”
Other awards presented on the night included the Lifetime Achievement Award to Meera Spillett from Kent who was recognised for being a visionary leader with over 35 years’ experience in social work.
Birmingham’s Ruth Hare was named Adult Social Worker of the Year. Having worked successfully in social work in the Birmingham area for a number of years, Ruth spotted the opportunity to create an initiative specific to hoarding. It is now seen as a project which benefits a great number of people across the community.
Team awards on the night included Team of the Year for Children’s Services for Bridges at Devon County Council. As a multi-disciplinary service of 45 practitioners working across the county, Bridges was created just three years ago, to support families and their young people, aged 11 to 18. Each member of the team is focused on ensuring that the ‘whole family’ is heard and understood, and that time is given to provide thorough and empathetic support for all. 86% of young people receiving support from the team have been able to remain living with their families since the inception in 2020.
The Awards were hosted, for the fourth time, by BBC broadcaster and presenter Ashley John-Baptiste. As a care leaver himself, Ashley is passionate about raising the aspirations of looked-after children and fully credits his social worker for helping him get to where he is today. On the night, Ashley said, “I am so moved by every story.”
Peter Hay CBE, Chair of Trustees for the Social Worker of the Year Awards, said “The Awards celebrate the very best of social work. We are so proud of everyone’s achievements. This year we received the most entries ever, over 500, which goes to show organisations and individuals are keen to shine a light on the inspirational achievements of an often-overlooked profession. Well done to every one of our finalists and thank you to our sponsors for supporting the Awards.”