22 March 2023
CNWL socials workers gathered at Prospero House in Central London on Tuesday 21 March to mark World Social Work Day 2023.
The theme of the event was ‘Identity’ and this thread ran through all the presentations through the day.
Colleen Simon, Head of Social Work, set the tone when she spoke about how her background and upbringing has been a driving force throughout her career.
“I didn’t grow up wanting to be a social worker,” she said. “I was from a single parent household and I felt the inequalities and oppression. I was the first person in my family to go to university.
“This is my twentieth year in social work but its only in the last few years that I’ve started to use my identity more. We can influence communities and bring about change.
“It fills me with joy to know we as a profession that help people to be their full selves. Today is about developing you as individuals within our organisation and we want you to feel like part of a community.
“Happy Social Work Day!”
Colleen was joined in chairing the event by Elizabeth Folarin, Deputy Head of Social Work and Social Care, who said: “Today we are here to celebrate ourselves. We may even break into a dance at the end of the day”
CNWL CEO Claire Murdoch then addressed the audience via video recording – you can view this back here – and Dr Ryan Kemp, Director of Therapies, spoke about the importance of having a sense of self in caring for yourself.
“It helps to hold you together and allow you to be effective in the work you do,” he said.
“Relationships are the most important factor in health. Isolation kills more people than smoking so working on your relationship is incredibly important for physical and mental health.”
Then Daniel Opila spoke about how many people struggle to balance their faith with their jobs as social workers. He explained how it is important for all of us to respect each other’s different religions and beliefs and also not to be embarrassed to ask our patients, clients or colleagues about their views.
As well as speakers from CNWL, there were several fantastic guest speakers. Jason Brandon from the Department for Health and Social Care who discussed mental health and social work and the importance of approved mental health professionals.
We heard from Dr Jason Schaub from University of Birmingham, who spoke passionately about how the field of social work is lagging behind other areas in the NHS on LGBT awareness.
“Social work education has too little about LGBT issues,” he argued. “Sexuality is often missing from social work texts.”
Madi Beau Fortune, CNWL Social Worker and Clinical Practitioner in Personality Disorder, then turned the spotlight on trans and gender diverse rights.
Madi revealed that transphobic hate crime reports have quadrupled over the past five years in the UK and, drawing on their own lived experience, explained that, while these issues might be difficult to understand sometimes, it is the job of social workers to make sure their patients and clients have then best possible experience in their care.
The keynote speaker for the day was Jacqui Dyer, NHS England National Mental Health Equalities Advisor and Chair for the Advancing Mental Health Equalities Taskforce, The PCREF Steering Group and the PCREF Feedback Mechanism Group
She discussed the implementation of the Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework (PCREF) – legislation that has been written to support NHS trusts to improve ethnic minority community experiences of care in mental health services.
Jacqui talked about how she is a carer and how it has shaped who she is as a human being.
“Mental health provision completely failed to meet the needs of my siblings,” she said. “And it is with an urgency that I am asking you to join hands to move this forward.”
“We need to make sure there is no geographical difference to the ease of accessing mental health services.”
Emma Nicklin, Associate Director of Allied Health Professions and Trust Head for Occupational Therapy spoke about how social workers can adapt their approach when working with people with sensory differences.
She said: “We are all sensory beings and as a sensory practitioner we need to embed this idea that we are all sensory beings.
“Many of us have sensory preferences and most of us can live without our preferences having very little impact on our daily lives.”
She then showed the audience a video that took the audience through a sensory experience seen through the eyes of an autistic person with sensory difficulties.
She asked attendees to “see behaviour, think sensory”. Could a person’s behaviour be explained by the fact they are having sensory difficulties?
Sam Diaz Hernandez then gave a social worker’s guide to Quality Improvement, encouraging his colleagues to get in touch with the QI Team if they have barriers or challenges in their everyday processes that they feel could be removed.
Finally, Sam Buluwela from the Westminster BAME Staff Support Network discussed how we can all do more to support our BAME colleagues.
He said: “It’s not about putting a wedge between BAME and non-BAME staff – it’s about bringing people together. What’s good for us is good for everyone.”
Social Worker of the Year winners
At the end of the day awards were handed out to the those who have gone above and beyond in their social worker roles. The winners and runners up are listed below – as voted for by their peers.
Social Worker of the Year
Runner Up: Shenelle Mckenzie
Social Work Team of the Year
Harrow Community Mental Health Hub
Social Work Team Manger of the Year
Runner Up: Roger Elliot
Social Work Practice Teacher of the Year
Runner Up: Jaroslaw Tkaczyk
Innovative Social Worker of the Year
Newly Qualified Social Worker of the Year
Runner Up: Adeola Opatola-Oshodi