Student crowned Social Worker of the Year


A social sciences PhD student from the University of Bedfordshire has won two accolades in this year’s Social Worker of the Year Awards.

Kirstie Baughan walked away with the top prize of Gold in the ‘Social Justice Advocate’ category, alongside being named the joint winner of ‘Overall Social Worker of the Year’ for 2022, in recognition of her substantial work with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and refugees.

The annual Social Worker of the Year Awards is a national event celebrating social work in England, attracting hundreds of entries every year which highlight the country’s outstanding practitioners and exceptional practice.

Kirstie is studying for a PhD exploring the integration experiences of unaccompanied young refugees, with the University’s Institute of Applied Social Research (IASR). She hopes her research will improve the integration experiences of young people by identifying what works well in diverse communities.

Alongside this, Kirstie is an audit manager with Central Bedfordshire Council and regional lead for the charity Care4Calais, which works with refugees in the UK, Belgium and France.

Speaking about her award triumph, Kirstie said: “It is such a huge privilege to have been chosen for these two awards.  The whole experience on the night was amazing, there was great energy in the room and it was fantastic to be able to celebrate social work practice. My time at the University of Bedfordshire has helped me to gain great insights into the lived experiences of unaccompanied young people, and being supported by supervisors who are equally as dedicated to this area of practice has been fundamental in the development of my research.”

At the ceremony, the judging panel were impressed by Kirstie’s commitment to improving the lives of asylum-seeking children and young people and how she has taken the time to develop her understanding of this area of practice.

Dr Louise Grant, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, congratulated Kirstie on her win: “We are all so delighted to hear about Kirstie’s success at the Social Worker of the Year Awards. The whole Faculty is very proud of her and the work that she has been doing to help people seeking asylum.”

Professor Andrew Church, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation, added: “It is wonderful to hear about Kirstie’s award achievements. She is a shining example of the important research projects carried out by PhD students at the University of Bedfordshire which have wide-reaching impact not just in the UK but around the world. I wish her all the best of luck in her future endeavours.”

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