The Awards recognise students who perform above expectations in both their practical placements and in their understanding of the theory behind social work practice. MA Social Work student Joseph Vanlint won the Silver Award, which means he is an exceptional student. "I am delighted that Joe has won the Silver Award and very proud of him," says Professor Raphaela Kane, Executive Director of the Faculty of Education, Health and Community. "You do not need to spend much time with Joe to know that he is a special guy and is going to be both a truly great advocate for the vulnerable people in his care and a great asset to his profession."
Joseph’s interest in social work was sparked by personal experience, and he started his Masters in Social Work at LJMU in September 2015. In addition to studying, Joseph is an active volunteer, working for three years as a music therapy workshop support worker for Mencap, volunteering with Student Action for Refugees and completing a placement with the ADHD Foundation, Liverpool. He also recently completed a successful placement at Liverpool City Council.
The Social Worker of the Year Awards were founded in 2006 by independent practitioner, Beverley Williams MBE, with the aim of improving the understanding and reputation of the profession. Joseph received his award from celebrity chef and patron Lorraine Pascale in front of an audience of over 400 social workers and other representatives from the profession.
The judges described Joseph as a ‘fantastic ambassador for the profession’ and praised his person-centered approach and understanding of how social policy can impact upon the individuals, families, groups and communities he works with.
"The course was engaging and thought provoking and the staff team was always supportive," says Joseph. "My tutor Andrea Newman in particular has always been incredibly helpful. As part of the course, I had to complete two placements, 70 days in my first year at a voluntary agency and 100 days in my second year with the local authority. My practice educator on the second placement Laura Elliott, who is a Social Worker in a generic Adult Neighbourhood Social Care team at Liverpool City Council, was the person who nominated me for the award. Social Workers are not often congratulated and work in very stressful and oppressive situations, so to celebrate with an evening of such positivity was amazing."
He continues: "It was awesome just to be in the same room as so many wonderful social workers. I am just starting my career and I am really proud to be joining such a hard-working and under appreciated profession. Hearing all the stories at the ceremony was really inspirational and made me all the more motivated to keep doing what we social workers do."
Professor Kane adds: "I was glad to hear Joe acknowledge the work of Andrea and the Social Work team who deliver a well-developed programme addressing the complex societal needs facing social workers. The team works very effectively with employers in the region to ensure that students experience a programme that enables them to develop into effective and well prepared frontline social work practitioners.
"Joe engaged exceptionally well with the teaching and learning opportunities that the MA Social Work Programme provides. The curriculum continues to offer students learning opportunities that reflect the realities of work in the challenging, yet rewarding world of social work practice."
Joseph is now a registered Social Worker with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and is currently working for a Liverpool-based children's mental health charity. Now he’s registered, he is looking to apply for jobs within the local authority again and get back to the 'frontline'.
For more information about the Social Worker of the Year Awards please visit the website.