Posted Thursday 4 November 2021
A Kingston University social work student has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award in recognition for her work with children and young people.
Sarah Mail has been named a finalist for the Student Social Worker of the Year in the annual Social Worker of the Year Awards. The student is one of five finalists in her award category, with the winner announced at a ceremony on 17 November.
The mature student, in her 30s, started a career in law before moving into a social care role in children's rights and advocacy for Westminster City Council, where she has been working with children and young people aged five to 18. After gaining years of experience in the role, she decided to apply for Kingston's Social Work BA (Hons) Integrated Degree Apprenticeship, Sarah explained.
"I realised I had a real passion for supporting young people and ensuring they achieve really good outcomes and that their views are heard. I wanted to make an impact on their lives as a qualified social worker," she said.
"I chose Kingston University because they offered this great opportunity to be an apprentice which meant I could still do my full-time job as well as studying. I have kids so I needed to be able to support my family while pursuing my dream of becoming a social worker and Kingston could offer that to me," she added.
Throughout the course, apprentices are supported by a personal tutor from Kingston University, a work-based line manager and a work-based mentor. Sarah's mentor, Gabby Bernard nominated her for the award, after seeing the impact she has had on families and young people in her role at Westminster.
"Sarah has not only excelled in her studies while juggling her job and her own family commitments but has also been instrumental in bringing about change for Westminster's children's advocacy services," she said. "She has formed positive relationships with young people and their parents over the years, while making sure children are at the heart of everything we do," she added.
Senior lecturer in social work Dale Van Graan is Sarah's personal tutor and her role is to observe and assess Sarah's workplace learning. She praised her work ethic. "Sarah's work is always delivered to a high standard. She is so committed to the course and to social work practice. I am honoured to see her grow in the profession, particularly as a working mum returning to education," she said.
The apprenticeship is split between 80 per cent workplace learning and 20 per cent study, with apprentices becoming a qualified social worker upon completion of the course. Dermot Brady, module leader for the course, who worked with Ms Bernard on Sarah's nomination submission, stressed the value of first-hand experience. "Many apprentices on the programme, like Sarah, already have years of practise. They know the employment context, law, policies and procedures. They also have a lot of relationship building and management skills under their belt which is so valuable as it's a relationship-based profession," he said.
"Sarah is a classic example of that, as demonstrated by the wonderful feedback she has received from the families she has worked with," he added.
Commenting on being shortlisted for the award, Sarah said she was grateful for the support she has received from her family and the university. "I feel really proud to be shortlisted for the award and what I have achieved so far. I am very grateful to Gabby and for everyone's support including my family who have provided practical and emotional support along the way. I couldn't have done it without Dale and Dermot guiding me throughout the course so far, as well as the other apprentices who are all so inspirational," she said.