BASW Cymru awards social work excellence

Social workers from Wrexham and Cardiff were the big winners at the first ever BASW Cymru Awards.

Mary Ward, a hospital social worker from Penarth in Cardiff, won the Spirit of Social Work Award and Brenda Bishop from Wrexham landed the Innovative Social Worker category. A second Wrexham social worker, Karen Hammond, received the Practice Teacher Award.

Receiving her prize, Ms Ward, who began her career as a nurse and has worked as a social worker at the Royal Gwent Hospital for over 20 years, said the Spirit of Social Work Award was recognition of the work done many social workers across the country. “This is about people who don’t have a creative or innovative bone in their body but they turn up week after week and they give of themselves, using the qualities of understanding and acceptance that allows them to help people in the most dire and difficult circumstances to make changes in their lives.

“We have to be prepared to go the extra mile and use the skills we have to help our clients. If we do that every day, even if we don’t feel like it, the spirit of social work will burn bright.”

Brenda Bishop received the innovation award for her efforts with the NSPCC in north Wales, working directly with children referred to a counselling service she helped develop, and mentoring young people who have experienced difficult home lives. Karen Hammond was honoured for her work supporting student practice teachers in Wrexham Borough Council.

Held in the National Assembly Building, overlooking Cardiff Bay, the awards evening was attended by a number of assembly members, including BASW patrons, Bethan Jenkins, Mark Isherwoo and Darren Millar.

Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for social services, also attended, telling those gathered that the inaugural awards was an important event for the social work profession. “I don’t have to point out to this audience the ease with which bad news about social services reaches the press. All of that makes it all the more important we grasp opportunities to tell positive stories about social work and social care.”

She added that work would continue to raise professional standards and promote better career paths for frontline social workers.

The evening also saw Lifetime Achievement Awards presented to two longstanding BASW activists, Penny Lloyd and Robin Moulster, for their careers in social work and in supporting the Association’s efforts to improve the status and standing of the profession.

BASW Cymru chair Keith Drury, who helped develop the awards initiative, told the gathered audience about the motivation behind the idea. “As a proud social worker, I wanted to develop an awards scheme to act as a platform to promote the great work social workers carry out in our communities.”

Hilton Dawson, BASW chief executive, also addressed the event, calling for social work to be spared in the coming round of public spending cuts. He also explained his vision for the development of a College of Social Work in Wales following a strong yes vote in BASW’s referendum on establishing an independent college across the UK.

“Thousands of social workers gave us a very strong message that they didn’t want to follow a model developed in Whitehall or to follow on from an English model of a college but one that developed from the grassroots up in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I will work with BASW Cymru to make sure that we advocate, with members of the Wales Assembly and government in Wales, for a College of Social Work in Wales led by and accountable to social workers, and potent in its influence on excellence in social work practice.”