Recognising and celebrating the achievements of social workers - and our profession’s rich diversity as a whole - is something we’re not particularly known for. Perhaps this isn’t surprising given our focus on helping others - it really isn't about us! It's about rights, justice and helping people live the lives they want and deserve. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be telling our story, sharing successes and celebrating individuals who have proven just how valuable and life changing social work really is.
Which is why I am so pleased Dr Adi Cooper has agreed to be my guest blogger this week following her recent elevation to the Order of the British Empire. Dr Cooper has spent 25 years in local government as a social worker, manager and director of adult social services, housing and health and is now Independent Chair of two safeguarding adult boards. She is a care and health improvement advisor (London for LGA), a visiting Professor at the University of Bedfordshire and an adult social care and safeguarding consultant.
"Not so long ago, I had a conversation about adult safeguarding with Prince Charles in Buckingham Palace - slightly surreal!
Recently, I received an OBE for my work in adult social care and safeguarding, announced in the New Year Honours list. It was a good news story for social workers and I'm very proud of my 25 years in this profession and of everyone I have ever worked with in adult social care. I hope they feel this honour positively acknowledges and validates their commitment to this area of work.
Certainly that's the feedback I've had in the congratulation emails, texts, messages and conversations I’ve received or had since the New Year. Recognition comes in so many different ways, and this is a very public form. It's also really something that there are people who see what you do and think it's worth honouring in this way.
So back to Buckingham Palace on a cold, sunny February day. My three guests and I (my civil partner and two daughters) were shown into a room with about 70 other people also there to receive their awards. The walls were covered with fantastic art, including works by Rubens and Canaletto. I was really impressed by everyone I spoke to, all of them having achieved so much in public or community services, above and beyond their day jobs. Like me, they were being recognised for doing what needed to be done, not because any of us were seeking accolades.
Then there were those I didn't get to speak to, like the foster carers who'd looked after hundreds of children. Many of us seemed slightly anxious about the process and formality of the ceremony, but it was all explained and we were prompted throughout to avoid any major mistakes in etiquette.
The music played, everyone lined up and we all took our turn to nod or curtsey, receive the Honour (on a large ribbon pinned to our lapels), have a three minute chat, shake hands and move on. This all took place infront of proud friends and families. Photos were taken outside in the courtyard (none allowed inside, so no selfies with His Royal Highness I’m afraid!). And rather quickly it was all over.
Then, later that day, I enjoyed a celebratory meal at one of the highest restaurant in London, Heron's Tower, looking out over an amazing city - unforgettable."