Inspirational West Sussex social worker wins national award

Inspirational West Sussex social worker Vivian Okeze-Tirado has been named Overall Social Worker of the Year 2021 at the national awards.

Vivian Okeze-Tirado
Vivian Okeze-Tirado

Vivian also scooped the Social Justice Advocate of the Year gold award before being named overall winner at last week’s Social Worker of the Year Awards, which celebrated the very best achievements across the country.

Vivian is an advanced social worker for West Sussex County Council, doing vital work to support, train and supervise West Sussex foster carers and other social workers.

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She was nominated for the Social Justice Advocate of the Year award for pioneering new Black Lives Matter, Diversity and Cultural Competence workshops for county council staff and managers in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020.

In April this year, Vivian also published her Diversity Acrostic poem and book which not only challenges social work and social care staff and leaders, it provides solutions for achieving positive outcomes.

A delighted Vivian said: “I still can’t believe it. I cannot believe that last night I was named the winner of the Social Justice Advocate Award and also the overall Social Worker of the Year 2021. My headache this morning is evidence of how much I screamed with joy last night.

“I want to express my thanks to the entire leadership and management team at West Sussex County Council for their support. I am proud to be part of a children, young people and learning department and local authority that is driving change in the right direction.

“Thank you so much to the Social Work Awards for this honour and for creating this award to recognise the amazing humanitarian work that social workers do. Well done and best wishes to all the finalists, I feel we are all winners. Social work is a career like no other. I am indeed humbled.”

Jacquie Russell, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “It is nothing short of outstanding that the award of both Social Worker of the Year and Social Justice Advocate of the Year belong to a West Sussex social worker. I am immensely proud of Vivian’s quite outstanding achievements, which bear clear testimony to her passion and dedication to her role in what is a very complex and challenging area of expertise.

“It is also both timely and inspiring for the entire children, young people and learning department as we continue on our journey of improvement. Vivian’s success is a beacon of inspiration to us all. It will without doubt contribute to our ongoing resolve to strive to be the best.”

Vivian joined West Sussex County Council as a newly qualified social worker in 2014 and completed her assessed and supported year in employment before rising to her current role.

West Sussex County Council says it promotes diversity and inclusion within its workforce and in everything it does and Vivian is very much championing this in everything that she does.

If Vivian’s story has inspired you to start your career in social work or to transfer to West Sussex, you can find out about the opportunities currently available on the council’s careers in children’s social work webpages.