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Cornwall Council social worker scoops silver Social worker of the year' awards

By WBJLock  |  Posted: December 07, 2013

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A social worker from Cornwall Council has been recognised at the national Social Worker of the Year Awards.

James Sawford, who is based at the Council's Liskeard offices, won silver in the ‘Newly Qualified Adult Social Worker of the Year’ category as a result of his outstanding work with adults. He received his award at a ceremony in London on Friday 29 November.

James said: "I was very humbled to be put forward for the award, so coming second was a lovely shock. I was even happier that I could share the evening with Maggie Browne (Senior Practitioner) and Wendy Lloyd (Practice Educator and my mentor) who put me forward for the award. The evening was amazing; it was great to network with other social workers from around the UK and really celebrate social work as a profession."

The award is particularly significant, as social work is a profession that is increasingly difficult to recruit people to, and Cornwall faces a growing shortage of qualified social workers.

James explains: "I’ve always enjoyed working with people, whether that’s been on a tour of duty or volunteering with disabled people. As I’ve learnt more about what makes a difference to people’s lives, I wanted to do more to help them achieve their goals.

"Social workers work with the most vulnerable people in society. While the NHS and other statutory services might be involved in dealing with particular issues, we’re with them long-term, making sure they stay well and can live as independently as they wish.

"Every day you’re presented with new challenges. I really enjoy it and it’s a good feeling when you’ve made a difference to someone."

James had a variety of work experience before choosing a social work career. This included six years in the armed forced, during which time he embarked on two tours of Iraq and one of Afghanistan, training exercises to Belize and Norway and the Brecon Beacons. When James was discharged, he volunteered for Autism Care, progressing to a Community Care Officer within the Social Inclusion Team for Nottingham City Council.

James graduated from Derby University with a 2:1 in September 2012, and returned to Cornwall to join the Council’s Adult Ongoing Care Team, where he works with people from the age of 18 with physical disabilities, dementia, chronic long-term medical conditions, Autism and mental ill-health, and their carers.

Senior Practitioner Maggie Browne, James’ manager, made the nomination. She said: "James is passionate and enthusiastic, and has a positive effect on the team and all those who meet him. He is eager to expand his knowledge and does not shy away from difficult discussions or situations. He has demonstrated the flexibility and resilience which are so important for newly-qualified social workers in their first, demanding year."

Councillor Judith Haycock, Cornwall Council Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Care, added: "I am proud that in Cornwall we have many excellent social work practitioners, which James’ award represents. At a time when we are finding it difficult to recruit social workers, it is increasingly important that we encourage and develop people who have recently gained their qualifications and offer them a good career path for the future."

The Social Worker of the Year Awards is organised by a registered charity. They were established in 2006 by independent social work practitioner Beverley Williams, with the aim of recognising and celebrating the challenging work of qualified social workers and highlighting the good work they do.

Beverley Williams, the awards’ founder, added: "These awards are about recognising the best work in the profession and to reach the finals is an outstanding achievement in itself. The awards aim to raise awareness of the challenging and diverse work that social workers do and they are helping to improve the reputation of social workers everywhere."

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