University student wins national essay writing prize

A student from the University of Worcester has won the World Social Work Day Essay Competition, run by the Social Workers Union (SWU).

Jennie Simpson, who has just completed her first year of study on a social work degree at the University of Worcester, won the prize after writing an essay in response to a question set by the SWU: ‘How do working conditions need to change to create the most conducive environment for social workers to provide the best support for service users?’

“I was really shocked to hear that I’d won,” said the 39-year-old from Tewkesbury. “There is a lot of awareness of the difficulties facing social workers, so I wanted to choose an approach to the question that could be implemented without having to tackle the age-old problems of low staffing and high workloads. That’s why I chose staff mental health. Emotional well-being impacts on all areas of working life, which is why it is so crucial that social workers are well supported by their employers.

“Staff are the most valuable assets employers have and any investment given to them will translate into better outcomes for the people we serve.”

John McGowan, General Secretary of the SWU, said: “Both the quality and quantity of entries were high, so this is indeed a great achievement. Jennie’s assignment was excellent and covered the topic extremely well. SWU and the British Association for Social Workers (BASW) will continue to campaign on better working conditions for social workers and it is good to see that future social workers have a deep understanding of this and the importance of getting working conditions right.”

Dr Peter Unwin, Principal Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Worcester, added: “This is a fantastic achievement for Jennie, and it is pleasing to see that the next generation of social workers are gaining the skills they need to tackle the big questions facing the profession in new and innovative ways like this.

“As a lecturer and as chairman of the Worcestershire branch of the BASW, I am also pleased that our close links between the university and the profession are enabling students to mix with practitioners and managers in a professional setting, which helps to develop their understanding of how many of these issues play out in the field.”