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A celebration of the life and influence of Terry Bamford

Former BASW Chair, IFSW Executive Member and COSW Board member, Terry Bamford, died on Sunday 9 February 2020

Consummate social worker and social justice campaigner; discreet and sensitive counsellor to BASW, IFSW and COSW; respected mentor and trusted adviser to many social work organisations and leaders; cherished friend and always good company!

Former BASW Chair, IFSW Executive Member and COSW Board member, Terry Bamford, died on Sunday 9 February 2020 having suffered a serious fall when on holiday in Morocco with his wife, sustaining a catastrophic head injury. 

He never regained consciousness and died, after returning by air ambulance to the UK, surrounded by his family.  His son, Andrew, tweeted: ‘I’m overwhelmed by the love, prayers and warmth from complete strangers.  They welcomed us with open arms.  Let’s love.  Inshallah.’

Terence Donald Bamford (Terry) was born in 1942.  His father worked on the production line at Vauxhall in Luton and his mother was a postmistress. 

Seemingly against the odds, Terry was awarded an open scholarship to read jurisprudence at Oxford University and then went on to gain a Diploma in Social Administration from the London School of Economics and a social work qualification from the Home Office probation course, where he met his wife, Margaret (Ash).  They married in 1965. 

He always claimed that he got his first job as a Probation Officer in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, because there was a shortage of women in the service; Margaret, who had also applied, was appointed and Terry came as a job lot! 

Terry was one of the Probation Officers who joined the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) around the time it was founded in 1970.  He was appointed an Assistant General Secretary in 1973 where, among other responsibilities, he supported the influential project group on poverty and the BASW international activity.  His involvement with the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) continued throughout his life. 

Terry moved to a senior management role in Harrow Social Services in 1977 and then on to be Director of Social Services in the Southern Health and Social Services Board in Northern Ireland during the height of ‘The Troubles’ (1985-1990). 

His experience of the realities and challenges of health and social services management in a joint board did not convince him of the viability of health and social care integration; social care was always the weaker partner in resource battles with acute medical services.  He also experienced the personal, political and ethical sensitivities arising from operating in a conflict zone.

Terry returned to Great Britain as Executive Director of Housing and Social Services in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (1990-2000), building the high reputation of the department for quality professional services over ten years, working closely with Moira Gibb (later made DBE) as his Director of Social Services. 

Continuing his interest in the relationship between health and social services, he was Chair of the K&C Primary Care Trust (2000-2005).  He was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2000 for his service to the community. 

Unlike many others who rise to senior management positions, Terry and Margaret both remained active members of BASW.  He was actively involved in national and international social work throughout his life and, just before his untimely death, had agreed to be a speaker at the launch of the 50th anniversary celebrations in February 2020. 

Terry served as Chair of BASW 1982-1984 and helped rebuild the association after its financial difficulties precipitated by the Thatcher government block on local authority recruitment in 1980.  This had slashed advertising revenue in the weekly magazine Social Work Today overnight, severely damaging the association’s finances and self-confidence. 

Terry’s main contribution was perhaps as the quiet and self-effacing rock of sound advice and counsel to a succession of association leaders, helping to steer the profession through some turbulent times, internally and externally.  For example, he played a crucial behind the scenes role in the highly successful 1989 annual conference at the Slieve Donard Hotel, Northern Ireland, helping to involve a number of UK and Northern Ireland ministers and ensuring effective cross-border links with the Irish Association. 

He was involved in the negotiations to sell Social Work Today to Macmillan Magazines, realising a substantial financial sum which still provides the foundation of financial security for BASW.  Margaret chaired the Editorial Board of the successor magazine, Professional Social Work, helping to establish its professional credibility.

Terry remained actively involved in IFSW after he left the staff of the Association, serving as the first Secretary of the IFSW Human Rights Commission for 10 years, taking up cases of social workers imprisoned or persecuted for their professional activities in different countries.  His approach to the integration of human rights, social justice and social work helped shape the IFSW definition. 

BASW nominated Terry to serve on the IFSW global Executive Committee as a Member at Large (under the old constitution); he was elected to serve for four years, after which he continued to provide sound professional and personal advice to successive Presidents, Secretary Generals and Executive members. 

Terry was the Parliamentarian at several General Meetings, a formal role helping the President and the meeting to find their way through difficult debates, procedures and challenging issues.  He always remained calm, good humoured and well-balanced.  He served a long period as IFSW representative to Amnesty International.  In 2008 he was awarded the IFSW Andrew Mouravieff-Apostol Medal in recognition of his distinguished service to international social work.

Terry played a key role in discussions which resulted in the formation of the Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work (COSW), formally launched in 2000, and served as a Board Member and Representative to the Commonwealth institutions in London, playing an active role alongside the other 80 diverse accredited organisations recognised by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Terry was also involved in a wide range of voluntary sector organisations and public bodies.  He was one of the original Board members (recommended by BASW) of the General Social Services Council, created in 2001. 

He chaired Healthwatch Bexley, served on the Board of Save the Children, acted as an adviser on safeguarding to the Roman Catholic Church, was Chair and Trustee of a shelter for homeless people, served on a Joseph Rowntree Trust Independent Working Group on Drug Consumption Rooms and was involved in several organisations concerned with mental health. 

As Chair of the Russian European Trust for Welfare Reform, he made frequent visits to Russia, helping to shape the emerging social services sector.  He also supported Margaret in the development of her charity promoting fostering to replace large institutions in Belarus. 

Terry was always interested in the promotion of human rights and contributed actively to the development of this field within IFSW and BASW, most recently serving as a critical reader of the new BASW foundation documents on social work and human rights.  As Chair of the Social Work History Network, Terry helped to ensure that the profession had a voice in the narrative of its own fortunes and history, which is so frequently misrepresented by external voices. 

In recent months he was in constant contact with BASW, working to make a success of the forthcoming celebration of the 50 year anniversary of BASW, ensuring an enduring legacy of the achievements to which he personally contributed so much.

Terry was always blending professional and academic interests in social work, seen in his publications, including one of the first books on ‘Managing Social Work’ (Tavistock, 1982), ‘Commissioning and Purchasing’ (Routledge, 2001), ‘The Future of Social Work’ (Macmillan, 1990) and ‘A Contemporary History of Social Work: Learning from the Past’ (Policy Press, 2015).  True to his lifetime commitment to social work, at the time of his death Terry was in the final stages of co-editing with former BASW staff colleague Keith Bilton, a history of British social work, ‘Social work: past, present and future’  (Policy Press) which will be published in June 2020 alongside the BASW 50th anniversary year. 

He had many publications, papers and Guardian articles. 

Terry was a truly professional social worker with broad vision, deep understanding of international dynamics, passionate commitment to social justice, and immense personal integrity.  He was an adviser to many and those of us who have the privilege to have had him as a friend and mentor will always value his kindness, gentle prompting and lack of self-importance alongside clarity of principle, an approach which helped shape the culture of our professional organisations. 

He was also really good company, always enjoying a glass of red wine or a malt whisky and frequently joking and laughing.

It is difficult to realise that he will no longer be on the end of a telephone always willing to give thoughtful advice, gentle guidance and personal encouragement.  He will be missed by the world of social work, by many active and former leaders of BASW and IFSW but of course especially by his family, who are in our thoughts as they come to terms with his sudden and unexpected death. 

He is survived by Margaret (who has made a significant contribution to social work and public service in her own right), their children Andrew and Sarah and six grandchildren, of whom he was immensely proud, always putting his grandparent child care duties before proposed social work meetings.

They and we are grateful that we knew Terry, for his immense contribution to national and international social work, to human rights, to social justice and to making this a better world.

David N Jones (BASW General Secretary 1985-1994, IFSW President 2006-2010)

With thanks to Margaret, Andrew and Sarah Bamford, Ruth Allen, Keith Bilton, Antonina Dashkina​, Rupert Franklin, Serge Paul, Terry Philpot, Ruth Stark, Judith Timms, Rory Truell, Gabriella Zavoli.

Tributes to Terry Bamford OBE

Friends and colleagues are invited to add their memories, stories and photos to an online tribute page set up for Terry Bamford.

Further information