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It’s just under two weeks away until the Social Worker of the Year Awards opens for entries (Tuesday 29 March). As headline sponsor of the awards, which are now in their sixth year, we thought we would share with you what winning an award means in an interview with Social Worker of the Year 2014, Zahraa Adam. 

How has winning last year made a difference to you in your position as a social worker at Essex County Council?

“As passionate as I am about the actual practice of social work, for me social work is always about a much bigger picture. I came into social work to raise awareness, wherever I could, about how it can change people’s lives for the better. The ceremony has just enhanced my passion for the work I do and given me that reinforcement that I am making a difference.”

How have you shared your ideas with others since this time last year? 

“I’ve presented at a number of events. At The College of Social Work Annual Reception, ‘Think Social Work, Think Changing Lives’, I read a poem I wrote about social work. I’ve also delivered a TED-inspired speech at ‘Innovation in My World’, exploring what smarter citizen engagement looks like, using creativity to engage with people who find it difficult to communicate. 

Within Essex, I’ve featured on radio and attended many networking events and workshops to share practice ideas and inform others about the specific work I do with unaccompanied asylum seeking minors. This has included networking with other organisations linked to the field, informing them of the amazing work happening on the frontline.”

Can you tell us more about how you use creativity in your role within the council’s Children in Care Specialist Team?

“It is at the core of my practice. Most of my visits involve direct work and I use a lot of art and craft techniques to engage young people in activities, which explore different aspects of their lives and enables them to talk about difficult matters. 

Some of these are the typical direct worksheets like ‘the 3 houses’ but I make them fun by turning them into 3D houses, building them with the young people and getting them to fill the houses with their wishes or worries. 

One of the resources we have is called a ‘worry eater’, which is a soft animal toy that has a zipped mouth. We ask young people to write down any worries, place them inside the toys’ mouths and zip them up. This can then be shared with the social worker or foster carer. 

Sometimes though, it’s the simplest things that work, like going for a drive to McDonalds, painting each other’s nails, or kicking a football in the park; it gives us time to talk about difficult issues.” 

To read the full interview, which includes reference to some of the techniques Zahraa and her team uses to engage young people, you can view Sanctuary Social Work News online. 

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