Outstanding Social Workers who won Gold in the Social Worker of the Year Awards 2022 were individually congratulated by government Ministers at an exclusive Parliamentary Reception in the House of Commons during Social Work Week.
The winners included Kirstie Baughan from Central Bedfordshire Council, who was named one of the ‘Overall Social Workers of the Year’ and Kirstie won the Social Justice Advocate Award.
Kirstie Baughan has been inspired to help others since a young age. Since completing her social work training, Kirstie has immersed herself in promoting the rights of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Outside of her day job as audit manager at Central Bedfordshire Council, she volunteers for Refugees at Home and as the regional lead for Care4Calais. She is also currently undertaking a Doctorate, with her research focused on how local communities welcome and support asylum seekers.
Speaking at the event, Kirstie said “I want to take this opportunity to emphasise the importance of each and every one of us standing alongside those that are not being heard, advocating for fair and equitable treatment of asylum seekers and refugees and remembering that every person who comes to the UK has a unique, personal story. As Social Workers, MPs, government officials, we all have a responsibility to be role models and treat every individual with compassion, care and welcome.”
The Camden Integrated Learning Disability Service, who won the Team of the Year for Adult Services Award and were named ‘Overall Social Workers of the Year’, also spoke at the event. The multidisciplinary team are a partnership between London Borough of Camden and Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust. The team were recognised for their efforts spanning six years in supporting Kassiba*, a Black African autistic woman who came into care as a child, at a time when there was little understanding of the condition, and her behaviours were met with racism. The team worked together to achieve Kasibba’s release from a mental health hospital, where she has been inappropriately detained all her adult life and into her own home.
Andrew Reece, Head of Integrated Learning Disability Services, said “Our work to support Kassiba to escape her 40 plus years of detention was made possible by three factors. Firstly, the total dedication and commitment of all the staff across the service, secondly Camden’s senior health and social care managers for their support and recognition of how important this work was and thirdly, NHS England and the resource they put into this.”
“What was most disappointing was having to fight a system of detention and the narrative of dangerousness that was constructed through a systematic or institutional praxis of careless racism across the NHS, the local authority and the legal system; Kasibba was failed by all of us for many, many years. As a system we saw her as a ‘savage’ not a person and used discriminatory, derogatory and racist language to describe and demonise her. As a system we failed to find a way to hear the voice of Kassiba; we need to hear people’s voices and to respond to them.”
Minister of State for the Department for Health and Social Care, Helen Whately MP and Baroness Tyler of Enfield met personally with the winners to hear about their practice.
Charity patron and sponsor of the Reception, Tim Loughton MP, referred to Social Workers as the “fourth emergency service” and thanked those attending for their outstanding work and commitment.
Shadow Minister for Education, Helen Hayes MP attended and said, “Often the best social work goes entirely unseen by most people. Social Workers work in a context of enormous pressure. Today, we celebrate your brilliance, we celebrate your commitment, the vitally important work that you do and the critical difference that you make. Thank you and congratulations.”
BBC broadcaster and host of the 2022 Awards, Ashley John-Baptiste shared his experience of being a care leaver. “For a long time, I didn’t have aspirations and I didn’t have a sense of optimism for my future. But Social Workers made such an indelible impact on my life. It’s both my lived experience and journey but also my work as a broadcaster that makes it such a privilege to host the Social Worker of the Year Awards and to celebrate your incredible achievements. Often Social Workers are not in the media for positive reasons, which is why today is so special. We get to hear first-hand the incredible work that you do day-to-day, and we can shine a light on how you are making a difference to vulnerable young people and adults across our communities who need your support.”
This year’s Awards will open for entries on Monday 3 April 2023. In total there are 19 different categories across both children’s and adult services.