Stirling Council social worker in the running for national award

A Stirling Council social worker has been shortlisted for a major honour in recognition of the outstanding care and support she delivered to a group of refugee children and adults from Ukraine.

 Stirling Council's Wendy McKitterick is among the finalists for the Social Worker of the Year.
Stirling Council's Wendy McKitterick is among the finalists for the Social Worker of the Year.

Wendy McKitterick, Team Leader for Family Placement (Fostering, Adoption, Host Family and Kinship), is among the three finalists for the Social Worker of the Year at the Scottish Social Services Awards (SSSA).

Wendy, who has been a social worker with the Council for more than 25 years, was nominated for the prestigious accolade following her extraordinary efforts to create a safe, nurturing environment for a group of young people and adults from children’s homes in Ukraine.

In March of this year, the Council had answered a request from charity Dnipro Kids to provide temporary sanctuary in Callander for 50 child refugees and a number of adults fleeing the devastating war in Ukraine. 

Suitable accommodation and other key supports for the children were put in place in a matter of days thanks to the hard work of the Council and its partners, including NHS Forth Valley, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue, the Care Inspectorate, charities and the local community.

During their stay, the children and adults were supported with their health and wellbeing and took part in a range of activities including swimming, cycling, bowling, soft play, crafts and fishing, before moving on to accommodation in Edinburgh.  

For four weeks, Wendy worked round the clock, preparing for and then welcoming the women and children, ensuring their basic and then more complex needs could be met following their traumatic experiences.

Leading a volunteer support team from social work, education and residential services, Wendy’s dedication, empathy, understanding and sensitivity paved the way for the children and women’s next steps to longer term stability.

Incredible team effort

Wendy said: “From my many years of working with children, it’s important that social work practice focuses on the voices of the children we look after.

“Building relationships and trust with the young people and adults from Dnipro was critical in providing the care and support they needed at a very traumatic and uncertain time, having fled their homeland and everything that was familiar to them.

“Creating such a welcome and caring home environment in Callander was an incredible team effort, involving Council staff, partner agencies and the local community.

“Everyone involved made a real difference to the children and adults in the group as they settled into life in Scotland before their onward journey, and I would like thank everyone for their commitment and dedication.”

Above and beyond

Convener of Stirling Council’s Children and Young People Committee, Cllr Danny Gibson said: “We are so proud of Wendy and she is thoroughly deserving of this recognition.

“In this unprecedented, fast-moving situation, Wendy and her team rose to the challenge and went above and beyond to ensure the children, young people and adults from Ukraine had the care and support they needed at a traumatic time.

“While Wendy would be the first to highlight the amazing contribution of the wider team and everyone involved in this challenging situation, her leadership skills and commitment to help others was inspiring and a credit to the Council.

“Wendy would be a worthy winner of the award, but she is already a winner in our eyes.” 

Stirling Council’s Brucefield residential care home is also in the running for an accolade at the SSSA.

The Bannockburn-based facility, which provides accommodation for those aged between 10 and 18 as well as respite care, has been shortlisted for an Outstanding Residential Care Service Award.

The small team of staff at Brucefield have been recognised for their response to the unprecedented challenge of providing care for a large number of Ukrainian children and their carers at short notice in March, along with their ongoing work to support young people facing significant adversity.

Outstanding levels of care and support

Cllr Gibson added: “Congratulations to all the staff at Brucefield for their well-deserved nomination which reflects their outstanding levels of care and support they provide to young people with complex needs.

“In the most challenging of circumstances, whether that was during the dark days of the pandemic or stepping up without hesitation to support the children and adults from Ukraine, their professionalism, dedication and love has shone through.”

The Scottish Social Services Awards provide an opportunity to raise the profile of the sector, demonstrate that it is valued and highlight the commitment and innovative approaches of those who work within it.

The winners of this year’s awards will be announced at a ceremony at the Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, on Wednesday 9 November.