Entries for the 2017 Social Worker of the Year Awards are open! Visit our website for more information & to download entry forms #SWA17

Family Support Group Team, SSAFA      

Creative and Innovative Social Work Practice



“Compassionate” and “heart-warming” were words used by the judges when discussing the SSAFA Family Support Group team.


Formed in 2006, the team facilitates national and regional support groups for over 600 military families affected by bereavement or injury, focusing on mutual support between families. The groups are run in collaboration with elected service user committees and provide education on coping skills, healthy grieving and post-traumatic stress disorder.


The team regularly partners with charities to diversify support offerings. As part of their under 18’s group, they have joined forces with Winston’s Wish to offer special sessions for their youngest members who have lost a parent. They also partnered with the Department of Health and Ministry of Defence to introduce school-aged children of military personnel to alternative career paths.


The team’s creative and innovative practice has huge benefits for service users. Just one example is the time where they helped an ex-partner of a deceased serviceman access financial support, connected her to other ex-partners, while sourcing mementos of the father from his unit for their son to keep. The lifeline they provide was evident throughout the nomination and the service user feedback reduced the judges to tears.”


What was said about the team:


“For the first time in 10 years I have felt that I am amongst people who truly understand how I feel and why. For me to say ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem enough, but please accept my sincere thanks for everything.” Service user


“I joined the Bereaved Families Support Group 10 months after the loss of my son. The welcome extended to us by the team was amazing, with genuine warmth and care showered upon us. We have made friends for life and this has enabled us to keep moving forward through very difficult times.” Service user


“This was a heart-warming entry and there was an overwhelming sense of compassion coming off the pages. They are going the extra mile to deliver services that have a real impact on military families.” Sarah Read O’Toole, Director of Children’s Services, Skylakes Social Work


“The work of the team is exceptionally complicated, requiring a broad spectrum of social work skills and practices and a high level of emotional intelligence. As the director responsible for this team, it has been an enormous privilege to see the outcomes of their work and the difference it has made to families.” Robert Templeton, Director of Health & Social Care Operations UK, SSAFA



  • Carol Long, Young Epilepsy
  • Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children & Families
  • Jenni Randall, Lifetime Achievement Award winner 2013
  • Val Floy, The Children’s Society
  • Sarah Read-O’Toole, Skylakes Social Work
  • Dr Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England


  • Diane Palmer, The North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sarah Holden, Southampton City Council
  • Hertfordshire Community Learning Disability Service, Hertfordshire County Council – SILVER WINNER
  • Children’s Social Care Team, North Yorkshire County Council
  • Family Support Group Team, SSAFA – GOLD WINNER