A WEST Belfast woman has been named Social Worker of the Year at this year’s NI Health and Social Care Awards 2022 for her work in supporting people who are facing homelessness.

Danielle Finlay, who works for local charity Extern, took home the prestigious award for her role as a frontline worker with the organisation’s Regional Homeless Support Team, which assists people with a range of often complex needs in the South-Eastern Trust area.

Former St Dominic’s Grammar School pupil Danielle, who has worked with Extern for over seven years, was the only representative of the voluntary sector among the nominees.

Based in Newtownabbey, Extern – which supports over 20,000 people across the island of Ireland every year through a range of innovative services – also took home the prizes for Volunteer of the Year and Supported Living Service of the Year at the prestigious awards, which recognise and celebrate the hard work and dedication of staff across the health and social care sector.

Speaking following her win, Danielle said: “I am overwhelmed to have been named Social Worker of the Year at this year’s NI Health and Social Care Awards.

"To be picked out of so many deserving finalists is truly an honour and says a great deal about the high calibre of the people who work in this field. To have been the only finalist who was not from the statutory sector was an added honour.

“We are a small team working across a wide area, but the work we do can have a massive impact on the lives of so many people, particularly during the recent Coronavirus pandemic.

"This award is a recognition of the teamwork which has made it possible to support so many through these most challenging times. Thank you so much!”

Danny McQuillan, CEO of Extern, added: “On behalf of everyone at Extern, I am so proud of Danielle and of all of our fantastic winners and shortlisted candidates at this year’s NI Health and Social Care awards. They are a shining example of our organisation’s dedicated and compassionate teams of staff and volunteers who every day make a difference to the lives of the most vulnerable in our communities.

“For our organisation to be named as winners in three of the top categories at this event is proof of how the voluntary sector plays a crucial role in helping to transform lives every single day alongside our colleagues across the statutory services.

“Thank you to the judges and to the organisers of these fantastic awards which recognise the often-unsung heroes who are helping to make life better for people every single day.”