Promoting systemic thinking, and therapeutic and relationship based approaches in social work


Promoting systemic thinking, and therapeutic and relationship-based approaches in Social Work

Clare Winnicott Essay Awards

Two awards of £500 each are made annually in honour of Clare Winnicott, OBE. The competition aims to encourage writing among social work practitioners and social work students who have not previously been published. Winning essays will be published in the Journal of Social Work Practice.

Essays submitted for the award may refer to any field of social work, with children, families, adults or organisations. They will show emotional and intellectual sophistication. Essays will be explicitly informed by psychodynamic, systemic, or relationship-based theory, or a combination of these, in keeping with the remit of the Journal of Social Work Practice, where winning essays will be published.

In 2020 we encouraged entries which reflected on themes emerging from the implications of COVID-19. These themes may well remain current for some writers.

Requirements for Submission

  • Word length: up to 3500 words
  • Submission: electronic
  • Essays must not identify the author but should be accompanied by an application form.
  • Entrants should ensure anonymity in relation to people and organisations described, and ethical and professional standards of practice should be adhered to.
  • Submission date and time: midnight on July 4th 2021 – Submissions are now closed for this year’s award
  • Notification of judges’ decision: September 1st 2021
  • Awards presented at GAPS Conference, 8th October 2021
  • Creative approaches are welcomed (work must be appropriate for print and online publication – questions regarding appropriateness will be answered in advance of submission)

Winning Entries will be published in the Journal of Social Work Practice

Applicants should download application forms and further documentation here:

Practitioner Application Form

Student Application Form

Referencing Guide

About Clare Winnicott

Clare Winnicott (née Britton, 1906-1984) was first a social worker and subsequently also a psychoanalyst. Through her work with deprived children and evacuees, she made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of children’s development, the importance of play, and the significance of children’s connection to their families. Alongside Donald Winnicott, who latterly became her husband, she provided clear-sighted conceptualisations of children’s everyday emotional experiences. She was also highly influential in the training and education of social workers, and recognised the crucial role of supervision. Her ideas were novel and she showed wisdom and tenacity in her efforts to bring about change. In describing the professional relationship, she wrote:

Our professional relationship is in itself the basic technique, the one by means of which we relate ourselves to the individual and to the problem. But what of the professional self that relates? If we look at it objectively we find that it is the most highly organised and integrated part of ourselves. It is the best of ourselves, and includes all our positive and constructive impulses and all our capacity for personal relationships and experiences organised together for a purpose –the professional function which we have chosen.[1]

[1] Winnicott, C. (1964) Child Care and Social Work. Hitchin: Codicote Press, p. 12.
GAPS Trustees wish to thank Mark Gerson for permission to use his photograph of Clare Winnicott.

2020 Winner

The winner of the 2020 Student Category Award was Emilie Wright, a Social Work Student at the Univeristy of Bedfordshire.  Emilie’s essay was entitled “A message of hope: the challenges of relationship-based practice in a time of social distancing, but why it is more important than ever to come together”.

The judging panel described Emilie’s essay as “a very thoughtful and emotionally engaged essay that strives to address the complexity of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the author, on service users and on social work practice”.

Well done Emilie. The essay will be printed in the Journal of Social Work Practice in 2021.

No award was made in the Practitioner Category in 2020.  We encourage social work practitioners to consider sharing their reflections on relationship-based, systemic or psychodymamic themes emerging from their own practice experience.

Writing for the GAPS Website

Do you have an idea for a short article you could write for GAPS?

We offer an authors' fee of £400 per article.

Practice Development Bursaries

GAPS Members are invited to apply for bursary funding for activities which support practice development consistent with therapeutic, systemic and/or relationship-based approaches.

Journal of Social Work Practice

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Centre for Social Work Practice Legacy Fund

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