The shortlist for the 2018 Social Worker of the Year Awards has been announced and the winners will be revealed at an exclusive ceremony in November. #SWA18

Central Bedfordshire Council, Children's Services

Best Social Work Employer



Three years ago, Central Bedfordshire council’s children's services department, which employs just under 120 social workers, was in a tricky situation. Around half of children's social workers at the authority, which faces natural recruitment and retention challenges because of its proximity to London, were agency staff, with 54% of posts sitting vacant.


Since then, Central Bedfordshire has made sweeping changes. Teams have been restructured into smaller units with non-caseholding managers, helping to improve practice standards and bring average caseloads down from around 30 to 16.


An innovative academy has also been set up, combining children's social work learning and development opportunities with those available to early years professionals. This has enabled social workers to access bespoke child-focused training in order to meet their needs.


Underpinning these headline changes has been a focus on supervision, communication and support – including external counselling, which some social workers have said has helped them stay in their jobs. The vacancy rate among children's social workers is now down to 18%, with 91% saying that they receive regular supervision and 97% understanding their team's aims and objectives. The judges noted that the improvements at Central Bedfordshire indicated that a "whole-systems approach" was in place.


What was said about Central Bedfordshire Council:


“A clear commitment for the development of social workers. I liked the joined-up thinking with early years as there’s clearly a lot of learning overlap. A good range of endorsements.” Andrew Ellery, AE Social Care and Education Ltd


“Central Bedfordshire understand their staff and how to make them feel confident, well developed and well supported. There is clearly confidence in the leadership and confidence in the learning environment.” Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive, Cafcass


“Central Bedfordshire is a forward-thinking employer focused on recruiting, retaining and above all supporting Social Workers.  As a result, CBC Social Workers are empowered to make a difference through research informed practice.” Amanda Thorpe, Head of Social Work, University of Bedfordshire


“By adopting a joint strategic approach with senior operational management, HR, and The Academy along with team managers buy in, we have achieved significant progress. A key example being our quality of social work practice has consistently improved. Children tell us that they are happier with the service now they have more consistent support with fewer changes of worker.” Sue Harrison, Director of Children’s Services, Central Bedfordshire Council



  • Andrew Ellery, AE Social Care and Education Ltd
  • Anthony Douglas, Cafcass
  • Elizabeth Njenga, BASW
  • Parmjit Chahal, London Borough of Harrow



  • Central Bedfordshire Council – Children’s Services - GOLD AWARD WINNER
  • Children’s Services Department – Early Help and Social Care Service, East Sussex County Council - SILVER AWARD WINNER
  • Children and Families, Essex County Council
  • Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council