Celebrating Meera Spillett: Gold Lifetime Achievement Award Winner at Social Worker of the Year

It’s a moment of pride and celebration at The Staff College as Meera Spillett, a trailblazer in social work and children’s services, has been awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award (Gold) at the Social Worker of the Year Awards.

With an illustrious career spanning over 35 years, Meera has not only been at the forefront of initiatives that have shaped the landscape of social work but has also held various significant roles, including that of Director of Children’s Services. Her leadership and expertise have been instrumental in addressing the underrepresentation of black leaders in the social care sector.

Meera’s written works, such as ‘Leading in Colour’, ‘Black Leaders Missing in Action’, and ‘Cultural Competence,’ have sparked essential conversations on race and leadership. Her commitment to these issues continues through her work with the DHSC Advisory Group for the Social Care Workforce Race Equality Standard.

Upon receiving the award, Meera expressed her heartfelt emotions, saying, “I’m speechless, and I’m not usually speechless! I feel amazed and blessed.” This genuine reaction reflects the depth of her dedication and the impact of this recognition on her.

Her journey is as inspiring as her work. Starting as a looked after child and navigating life with disabilities and health challenges, Meera’s story is one of resilience and courage. She is greatly admired by her colleagues, seen as a source of inspiration, encouragement, and a constant challenger for fairness and best practice in the field.

The Social Worker of the Year Awards, by shining a light on the hard work and achievements of social workers like Meera, recognises her lifelong dedication and the significant impact she has made. The Staff College is thrilled to see Meera’s work recognised in such a significant way and looks forward to continuing to support leaders like her in the field.

Leading the tributes to Meera following her award were Jane Parfrement, Jacky Tiotto and Peter Hay CBE.

“There are few – if any – words that truly describe the feelings we experience when are able to help someone (child or adult) who is in serious difficulty – often someone judged by others and society as responsible for their own situation, failure or hardship.  That warmth and connection to another person in those unforgettable moments is social work. This award is for someone who has made this their life’s work. It’s a complete privilege to sponsor and to recognise their lifetime achievement.”

Jacky Tiotto, CEO of Cafcass

“The Awards celebrate the very best of social work. We are so proud of everyone’s achievements. This year we received the most entries ever, over 500, which goes to show organisations and individuals are keen to shine a light on the inspirational achievements of an often-overlooked profession. Well done to every one of our finalists and thank you to our sponsors for supporting the Awards.”

Peter Hay CBE, Chair of Trustees for the Social Worker of the Year Awards

It was an absolute honour to see Meera lift her Lifetime Achievement Award, I cannot think of a more deserved recipient.

Meera has dedicated her life and career to tackling social injustice in a way that few, if any, can find the drive and energy to sustain in the way she has. I hope Meera will not mind me mentioning this, but she was someone who was labelled early in her school career as ‘remedial’- how wrong were they. Meera is a glowing example of determination and perseverance in spite of the efforts of others to hold her back, label, and marginalise.

Not only did Meera want to achieve for herself she has made it her life’s work to see others do so too, firstly as a practicing social worker, then a manager and senior leader and more recently through her trailblazing publications and the learning and development support she has offered others.

In June we held a BALI ( Black and Asian Leaders Initiative) alumni event, and the experience of attending will stay with me forever, within that room were hundreds of Global Majority leaders, every one of which wanted to pay tribute to Meera and the difference she had made to their lives. I lost count of the number of people who spoke on stage and personally to me to share how BALI had impacted on them and how Meera had continued to act as a mentor to them – some of those now being Directors themselves.

Most of us who are social workers come into the profession to make a difference, Meera has achieved that with bells, knobs and whistles on. It has been one of the privileges of my working life to work with her. We talk about the shadow we cast- Meera’s is long, broad and glowing.

Jane Parfrement, Chief Executive, The Staff College
Meera spoke to the Staff College team after her award win:

As you may know I started my life in care, was fostered and adopted and began my career at the age of 16 in the residential care sector. Social work changes lives, every social worker wants to help and safeguard those in need of support. In the face of increasingly difficult circumstances for adults and children, social workers continue to do their best despite higher demands and workforce vacancies.  

I am proud to have created the Black and Asian Leadership Initiative (BALI) with Rosemary Campbell-Stephens MBE and the late Patrick Scott. I have been privileged to meet aspiring leaders in this programme and they are focused on achieving better outcomes for adults, children and young people. BALI alumni are a pool of talent and workplaces would do well to focus on this talent. I have supported new Directors of Children’s Services to understand inequalities and inequities within the workforce and communities, it has been amazing to see more Global Majority Directors taking up their roles.  

Throughout my life I have sought to tackle issues of racism, discrimination and oppression. We know that disparities and disproportionalities in outcomes remain, and we must continue to shed light on the issues that perpetuate multi-dimensional racism.  Following the publication of Leading in Colour: The Fierce Urgency of Now, I have enjoyed facilitating sessions with my co-authors Rose Durban and Rosemary Campbell-Stephens MBE with children’s and adult’s workforces to recognise the changes that need to be made are made.’

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