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

The 2024 Essay Awards are now OPEN

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, organisations, groups or communities, and will reflect current themes. They will show emotional insight (for example through capacity for reflection, the use of self, awareness of power). 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 1st 2024 (winners notified on 1st Sept 2024)
  • 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, October 2024

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.

Recent Winners

The 2023 Winner in the Practitioner Category was Harriet Ballantine-Thomas with her essay “Feeling safe enough to explore as a newly qualified social worker“.  The essay shares the barriers and opportunities encountered whilst trying to adopt a more exploratory and curious position with parents, as a Newly Qualified Social Worker in an Inner London Child Protection service.

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.

Previous Winning Essays

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

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