Three social workers from Kirklees Council have been shortlisted for prestigious awards.

The Social Worker of the Year Awards are the only major national event for social work in England, attracting hundreds of entries every year.

Omaid Badar and Vicky Doolan have been shortlisted for Social Worker of the Year, while Christopher Smith-Whicker is shortlisted for Practice Educator of the Year.

Clr Viv Kendrick, Cabinet member for children, said: “It’s a fantastic achievement for Kirklees that three of our team members have been honoured in this way.

“Children’s social care in Kirklees has made tremendous progress in recent years and we’re so proud of the people who have driven that change.

“Kirklees is a brilliant place to be a social work practitioner and our primary focus is always on improving outcomes for children, young people and families.

“The highest possible standards of social care are absolutely central to giving our children the best start in life.”

Omaid Badar became a social worker after going though traumatic childhood experiences. He lost family members at home in Afghanistan and spent his formative years in a refugee camp before arriving in England alone at the age of 14.

At the time he spoke no English, but Omaid’s drive and determination earned him a place at university. He has been a qualified social worker for five years, inspiring the families with whom he works and sharing his experiences with social work students.

Omaid said: “I have been in care throughout my life and have had good and bad experiences. The bad experiences made me strong and the person who I am, while the good experiences motivated me to be the voice and advocate for children and families.

“It is an absolute pleasure to be recognised for the work that all social work practitioners put into safeguarding children and families.

“With my life story and not coming from a stable family, I want children and young people to see that change is possible.”

Vicky Doolan swapped a life in the music industry for a career in social care – despite impressing Simon Cowell on the X Factor!

Vicky still enjoys singing and one of her strengths is keeping up the spirits of her colleagues on difficult days.

Vicky is admired for her passionate and dedicated approach and for successfully engaging with some of the most challenging families. She also goes out of her way to help people who are training to be social workers.

Vicky said: “I turn up each day with hope and positivity and a genuine respect for all, irrespective of the cards they have been dealt or the life choices they have made. My aim is not to ‘fix’ or to decide what is best for families but to understand, to fully appreciate their challenges and support them to make sustainable change which is best for them.

“It is humbling to be recognised for my practice, though it feels somewhat undeserved when there are dozens of social workers across the service who go above and beyond every day.

“I feel entirely supported working in Kirklees children’s social care. The vision and ethos held by senior leaders will continue to raise standards and effect positive changes for families across the borough.”

Christopher Smith-Whicker, a senior practitioner for the Kirklees Youth Justice Service, also faced adversity in childhood. He works with children involved in the justice system, always aiming to achieve the most positive outcomes.

His shortlisting reflects an innovative approach to developing social work and to supporting students. This work is vital to nurturing the high-quality professionals of the future.

Christopher said: “I am proud to be a finalist for the Practice Educator of the Year award. It shows that my hard work in creating a lasting impact in social work for those who come after me has been recognised.

“The diversity of culture in Kirklees is an undeniable draw for me. I am given the opportunity in my role to practice radical social work without judgement.”

Peter Hay CBE, chair of the Social Work Awards, said: “This year we received the most entries ever, which goes to show organisations and individuals are keen to shine a light on the inspirational achievements of an often-overlooked profession.

“To our finalists, we’d like to say congratulations. Being nominated for a national award, whilst supporting others during very challenging times, is a remarkable achievement of which you should be very proud.”

The awards will be announced at a ceremony in London on Friday November 3.