Essex leading the way at Social Worker of the Year Awards

Essex County Council is celebrating after an incredible ten nominations in the Social Worker of the Year Awards – making up more than 10% of the shortlisted entries nationwide!

Of the 81 finalists, Essex County Council’s flagship approach to social work has secured nominations in eight categories, including children’s social worker of the year, team of the year and best employer.

Among the nominees are Essex’s Social Care Academy, which is recognised nationwide, and the Virtual Dementia Tour training team, who offer a unique and emotive insight into what it is like to live with dementia.  Individually there are two newly qualified children’s social workers, a mental health practitioner as well as two children’s team leaders nominated. 

Cllr Dick Madden, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, said: “We’re serious about social work in Essex and our approach focuses on supporting and empowering our residents to achieve the positive outcomes they want.

“The Social Worker of the Year Awards are a fantastic way of celebrating the contribution all our social workers make, as well as a chance to highlight the specific skills and experience they use to improve the lives of local people.

“I am delighted our social workers and teams are receiving the recognition they deserve. To make up more than 10% of the shortlist nationwide is testament to their dedication and innovative approach.”

The Social Worker of the Year Awards 2017 will take place in November, in London.

Servelec is sponsoring this year’s Championing Social Work Values category in partnership with Essex County Council.

Alan Stubbs, Chief Executive Officer of Servelec said: “We are delighted to jointly sponsor the Championing Social Work Values award category alongside our partner, Essex County Council, at this year’s Social Worker of the Year Awards.

“The annual awards recognise and celebrate the valuable work that social workers do in society today, to help transform the lives of children, young people and vulnerable adults. We would like to wish all the nominees the best of luck on the awards night in November.”

For more information about the Social Worker of the Year Awards please see


Children’s Social Worker of the Year – Hannah Tull

Newly Qualified Children’s Social Worker of the Year – Becky Taylor, Susan Hook

Raising the Profile of Social Work – Essex Social Care Academy

Mental Health Social Worker of the Year – Barbara Cooley

Team of the Year, Children’s Services – The Children in Care Specialist Team

Team Leader of the Year, Children’s Services – Sarah Carter, Sharon Turner

Creative & Innovative – Virtual Dementia Tour Training Team

Social Work Employer – Essex County Council – Children and Families


Hannah Tull, Children’s Social Worker of the Year

Hannah is a social worker in the children in care team based in Basildon. She has been in this position for the last 3 years after completing her AYSE programme with Essex County Council as a Newly Qualified Social Worker. Hannah has been working with children and families for ten years in different capacities, i.e. Personal Advisor in the Leaving and After Care service before she started her studies for social work.

She is undertaking her Master’s Degree whilst in full time employment and has completed her Practice Educator training this year. She has been involved with the Children in Care Council and always ensures that the children’s voices are heard.

Becky Taylor, Newly Qualified Social Worker of the Year

Becky is a newly qualified Social Worker in the Assessment and Intervention (A&I) Team in Harlow. Becky attended University where she attained a 2.1 Degree in Sociology and Criminology.  During her time at University, Becky volunteered for Victim Support for a year, and volunteered for a Youth Centre for six months working with the most vulnerable people in society. This is where her desire and passion was ignited and she made the decision that she wanted to become a Social Worker.

Becky has demonstrated working in partnership with families and other agencies to ensure a ‘joined’ up, child focused approach. In her own words, “Cut me open and you will find social work running through my DNA.”

Susan Hook, Newly Qualified Social Worker of the Year

Susan initially began her career as a Targeted Youth Advisor for the connexions service before making the decision to return to education to study for her Master’s Degree in Social Work. She returned to the team in August 2016 as a Newly Qualified Social Worker. Susan has ensured that she has continued to use theories and approaches to help her understand the complex issues she has encountered within her case work and brings a wealth of experience to her role.

Essex Social Care Academy, Raising the Profile of Social Work

The Essex Social Care Academy (ESCA) was established in 2012 and is described as ‘the engine which drives the service’ or ‘the blanket that wraps itself around the service’. While the history of ESCA lies in the workforce development/training team, ESCA has become so much more than this.

ESCA is a team of 14 employees within the Children and Families Social Care function of Essex County Council. Within the team there is over 46 years of social work experience at a practitioner and management level, project management, residential management, recruitment, personnel, early year’s management not to mention experience of working within frontline teams. ESCA is not an add on, it is integral to the workforce and everything the organisation stands for, our vision, values and behaviours.

Barbara Cooley, Mental Health Social Worker of the Year

Barbara is a Senior Practitioner employed as a Mental Health Co-ordinator (MHC) within the Leaving and After Care Team in West Quadrant, Essex. Barbara was involved in setting up the Mental Health Coordinator role to meet the mental health needs of young people in care or preparing to leave care, the original aim being to bridge the gap of support for young people aged 16+.

The role was established approximately 11 years ago and has since grown to encompass all four quadrants in Essex with eight practitioners offering therapeutic support not only  to all young people in the care system but also training and support to staff, carers and placements providers.

The Children in Care Specialist Team, Team of the Year, Children’s Services

The Children in Care Specialist Team based in West Essex is not only a “mainstream” Children in Care team but also specialises in the care of unaccompanied asylum seeking minors, providing a county wide service as the only team that covers all the referrals that arrive in Essex.

The team is made up of a variety of expertise, experience and roles which makes the team dynamic. There are three support workers and six social workers all managed and supported by one team manager.

Sarah Carter, Team Leader of the Year, Children’s Services

Sarah has been Service Manager for the Adoption Service in Essex for five years. The focus of the work is to find families for children referred to the service as well as assessing and preparing adopters who have the capacity to parent an adopted child. Sarah is responsible for all aspects of work carried out within the adoption service, ensuring at all times that best practice is followed and children are at the forefront of all we do.

Sarah manages a very large adoption service and has raised the profile of Essex throughout the country through representing the service at national level. She is a hands-on and very visible Service Manager and is admired and respected by staff within the service and by the other professionals she works alongside.

Sharon Turner, Team Leader of the Year, Children’s Services

Sharon Turner is the Team Manager for the Children in Care Specialist team in West Essex. She first joined social care in 1999 as a family care worker for a LAC team and in 2002 took her Diploma in Social Work. She later returned to the same team as a qualified Social Worker in 2004, working for three years before joining the newly created ‘Specialist” Asylum LAC Team. Within three years she was promoted to Senior Practitioner and then Team Manager a year later. Sharon has been in the team from its creation, moulded it and developed it.

Sharon currently manages a team of nine retaining some staff in her team for over 10 years whilst she has nurtured others to bigger things. Three senior practitioners have now gone on to become successful team managers for other teams within the authority. She is always pushing her staff to be better, to develop, to learn new things and to take on challenges and risks. They all feel confident in doing this as they know she will support them every step of the way.

Virtual Dementia Tour Training Team, Creative & Innovative

The Virtual Dementia Tour gives you an opportunity to walk in the world of someone who has dementia. The training forms a short tour, where the participant is equipped and asked to undertake simple tasks, followed by a debrief on why they behaved like they did. It also teaches participants about environment, equipment and personal changes they can make to help people living with dementia have a less challenging life.

Over 350 employees have undertaken the training across Essex County Council, including the Chief Executive. The tour is one of the most popular CPD opportunities we deliver. The scientifically proven experiential learning is a uniquely personal and powerful experience that will continue to benefit staff.

Essex County Council – Children and Families, Social Work Employer 

Essex County Council Children and Families service (formally known as Family Operations) is no stranger to the Social Work Awards having been shortlisted in the Employer category for three years running. Essex Children and Families maintain consistent high standards and practice and seek to continue to improve no matter what the additional challenges that are faced. As the second largest local authority in the country, Essex Children and Families includes around 1522 positions of which 844 are qualified social work posts.

Our practice is the most important aspect of our work. The impact we have on Children and their families is absolutely central in everything we do.  Our culture of honesty, role generosity, transparency, support, constructive challenge, innovation, high aspirations and positivity is now firmly embedded within the organisation and creates an environment where employees are able to focus on being the best practitioners they can be.

For more information about the Social Worker of the Year Awards please visit: