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 and will reflect current themes. 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.

Entries are marked anonymously. 

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 2nd 2023
  • Notification of judges’ decision: September 1st 2023
  • Creative approaches are welcomed (work must be appropriate for print and online publication – questions regarding appropriateness will be answered in advance of submission)
  • Student category is open to students on qualifying Social Work programmes

Winning Entries will be published in the Journal of Social Work Practice. The awards are presented at GAPS Conference, November 2023

Applicants should download application forms and further documentation here:

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.

2022 Winners

The 2022 Winner in the Practitioner Category was  Eilis Long with her essay: “Difference which makes a difference” (Bateson, 1972); How the neurodiversity paradigm and systemic approaches can support individuals and organisations to facilitate more helpful conversations about autism. Rooted in an Action Research project which Eilis undertook as an autistic practitioner-researcher, the essay explores possibilities for systemic approaches in supporting a neurodiversity perspective, and how these lenses may improve social workers’ abilities to support autistic people.

The 2022 Winner in the Student Category was Sophie Mckenzie-Brooks, with an essay entitled Critical Pedagogy and Open Dialogue – Their Parallels and Importance for Social Work Practice.  In her essay Sophie exploresthe theory of critical pedagogy created by Paulo Freire (2017) and its application to social work practice.   She considers how critical pedagogy informs professional knowledge in the practice area of adult mental health social work.

We were delighted that both winners were able to attend our conference in October to talk about their work.  Both essays will be published in the Journal for Social Work Practice during 2023. 

Previous Winning Essays

Read winning essay award entries from Social Work Practitioners and Students, published in the Journal of Social Work Practice  - 2017-2021

Centre for Social Work Practice Legacy Fund

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Practice Development Bursaries

GAPS Members may apply for bursaries to fund, for example, conference attendance, setting up a work discussion group, running a workshop, or other practice development opportunities.