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Social Care Council congratulate social workers who are shaping the future of social work

28 September 2022

164 inspirational social workers across Northern Ireland are being celebrated today for their contribution to shaping the future of social work through learning and development, at the Northern Ireland Social Care Council’s (Social Care Council’s) Professional in Practice Awards 2022.

The ceremony recognises those social workers who have completed their Professional in Practice Award and reflects on their commitment to learning and dedication to delivering outstanding social work practice across Northern Ireland. Four awards were presented: Consolidation Award, Specialist Award, Leadership and Strategic Award and the Advanced Scholarship Award.

The theme for this year’s ceremony was celebrating inclusion and diversity across the profession of social work and is an opportunity for the Social Care Council, as it reaches its 21st year, to celebrate the richness of people and their life experience. Attendees thoroughly enjoyed an energetic and thoughtful performance provided by the Belfast LGBTQI+ Choir, QUIRE.

The virtual awards ceremony also saw the launch by the Department of Health of the Social Work Leadership Framework. The framework aims to place a focus on professional leadership in the profession and the Social Care Council will be taking a key role in its implementation.

Speaking at the ceremony, Sean Holland, Chief Social Worker for the Department of Health, said:

“I am encouraged to see the standard of award recipients this year. Each award recipient has been on a learning journey and had their practice assessed against the internationally recognised Professional in Practice Framework for Social Work in Northern Ireland. I congratulate all those who achieved awards today. Each have demonstrated excellence and are setting the benchmark in contributing to high quality experiences for people who use social work services.”

Commenting on the Leadership Framework launch, Mr Holland added:

“I am also delighted to take the opportunity to officially launch the Social Work Leadership Framework. This framework will support social workers to plan and pursue careers in a range of areas including practice, corporate management, academia, regulation or policy and will shape the design and provision of professional leadership development opportunities for social workers’ It describes the distinctive leadership roles social workers play and in doing so will enable social workers in all sectors to participate effectively in collective leadership. The Framework is designed to have practical application for developing social work as a profession. I have asked the Social Care Council to take forward the recommendations in the Framework and consider how they might be applied in practice to strengthen social work leadership. It is an exciting time for our social work leaders of the future.”

Patricia Higgins, CEO of the Social Care Council, said:

“The future of the social work profession looks bright with the level of achievement displayed by the recipients of the 2022 Professional in Practice Awards. The Social Care Council are proud to support innovation amongst social work professionals and we congratulate all award recipients or their commitment to excellence and ever-higher levels of service to the public. This recognition is not only well deserved due to the hard work put in by all, but is testament to the difference social work professionals are making across Northern Ireland.”

Commenting on the launch of the Leadership Framework, Ms Higgins added:

“The publication of this framework will help to acknowledge and guide social work leadership development that is compassionate, focused on systems leadership and building our workforce together. We look forward to taking the recommendations within the Framework to the next step.”

Watch the ceremony

Notes to editor

Consolidation Award – For newly qualified social workers or those re-entering the workforce – this award supports the development of in-depth competence, to produce well-rounded, competent and confident practitioners.

Specialist Award – For social workers involved in complex decision-making requiring high levels of professional responsibility and accountability – this award supports social workers to develop high levels of specialist knowledge, skills and expertise.

Leadership and Strategic Award – For social workers demonstrating high levels of competence, moving beyond the detail of their own practice to explore a wider perspective where they influence developments and are thought leaders.

Advanced Scholarship Award – The Advanced Scholarship Award provides the opportunity for social workers to have their learning and development recognised at doctoral level and beyond. The award provides:

  • an opportunity for social workers to progress their professional development beyond the Leadership and Strategic Award, and
  • professional recognition for PhDs and for practice which is commensurate with that level of study.

About the Social Care Council – Together we are raising standards of care

The Northern Ireland Social Care Council (Social Care Council) is a public body established by the Department of Health (DoH) to support high quality standards of social work and social care. Our purpose is to register, regulate and support the development of a strong and professional social work and social care workforce that meets the complex needs of our society.

October 2022 marks our 21st anniversary and the policy objectives set out for the Social Care Council in 2001 hold firm today:

– to strengthen and support the professionalism of the workforce
– to raise standards of practice, and
– to protect the people who use services.

For more information:

Rita Lewtas, Head of Strategic Communications and Engagement