Plymouth social worker wins top award at national awards ceremony

30th November 2017

Gareth Benjamin from Livewell Southwest was presented with his award by (L-R) celebrity chef and awards patron Lorraine Pascale; Jason Brandon, Head of Mental Health at award supporter Hampshire County Council and James Rook, Chief Executive at headline sponsor Sanctuary Social Care.

A social worker from Plymouth has received national recognition, winning a top prize at the prestigious Social Worker of the Year Awards. 

Gareth Benjamin, who works at Livewell Southwest, was named winner of the Mental Health Social Worker of the Year award at the national event which took place on Friday 24 November in London.

The award recognises mental health social workers working in both children’s and adult services who are excelling in delivering positive outcomes for their service users and achieving results in a challenging and complex area.

Gareth joined Livewell Southwest after qualifying as a social worker in 2013. He joined the Approved Mental Health Professional duty team in 2016 where he quickly made an impact. The judges commended Gareth on his personal approach and praised him for his strong commitment to human rights, his drive to challenge the disadvantages faced by mental health service users and his enthusiasm for learning.

They were particularly impressed with his work to support five people with mental health issues and significant other needs who had been living in an unsuitable shared house. Gareth overcame a wide range of challenges, including communication difficulties, and within three weeks had assessed them, identified alternative accommodation, linked with other services and accessed necessary resources.

Jason Brandon, Head of Mental Health at award sponsor Hampshire County Council, said: “I was thrilled to present Gareth with the Gold award for Mental Health Social Worker of the Year. He is a tremendous advocate for the people he works with and is clearly having a really positive impact on the area in which he works.”

Gareth said: “It feels amazing to win this award. I wasn’t expecting it and it’s nice to be recognised. I think too often we look at the things that maybe don’t go so well, but actually most of the time social workers do a really good job and make a big difference, so I think we should celebrate that.”

Gareth was nominated for the award by Livewell Southwest colleague Melanie Wilson, who was herself a finalist in the Team Leader of the Year category.

Gareth was presented with his award by celebrity chef and awards patron Lorraine Pascale in front of an audience of over 400 social workers and representatives of the profession.

He was accompanied to the ceremony by Kerry Dodd, Principal Social Worker, Geoff Baines, Director of Patient Experience, and Ian Lightley, manager of Livewell Southwest’s North Plymouth locality.

Kerry said: “We are absolutely delighted that Gareth’s outstanding work has been recognised nationally in this way. It is a huge achievement and very well-deserved. We are immensely proud, both of Gareth and of Melanie. Being named as a finalist is itself an achievement.

“Our social workers are dedicated professionals and the challenging work they do is central to improving the wellbeing of the people, families and communities we work with.”

The Social Worker of the Year Awards were founded in 2006 by independent practitioner, Beverley Williams MBE, with the aim of improving the understanding and reputation of the profession.

For more information about the Social Worker of the Year Awards please visit