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England's chief social worker reveals personal Covid tragedy

Isabelle Trowler, England's chief social worker, spoke movingly about losing her mother to coronavirus...

Professional Social Work magazine - 27 January 2021

England’s chief social worker for children and families Isabelle Trowler revealed she lost her mother to Covid last year.

Trowler, England’s first chief social worker for children and families, spoke of her personal loss as total deaths to Covid in the UK passed the 100,000 mark this week.

Speaking at an online conference to discuss kinship care hosted by Grandparents Plus, she said: “I was asked at another event I was speaking at how I was coping with lockdown.

“It is true to say it is treating me well by comparison with many, in part because of my introvert tendencies, but also because of my own personal circumstances.

“The fact that I lost my mother to Covid who was already very ill at the beginning of the first lockdown has meant that 2020 was always going to be a quieter and more solitary year for me – and definitely one of the most reflective years of my life.”

Trowler’s tragedy is one of thousands of heartbreaking stories being told as questions are asked why Britain has one of the worst death rates from Covid in the world.

She said the loss had made her think a lot about the importance of family connections and family history in sustaining people as they go through life.

“It is inevitable when you lose the last of your parents that you take stock. I think of my mum a lot and I think about my dad too.

“But I also think of my grandmother who I have always had very close to my heart since she died when I was 16 but who has now taken on a new and surprising significance in 2020.

“I have a small unframed photo of her sitting on my bookshelf and in many a zoom meeting I look over and it is just as if she catches my eye and it is as if she is saying, ‘it’s okay, I have got your back’.

“So almost 40 years later, there she is, as important as ever, rock-solid. And that is family love, and that is family strength.”

Trowler said she drew comfort from small symbols of departed loved ones that she carries on a daily basis.

“Anyone who knows me or has seen me at various events will notice that I almost never change my jewellery.

“I wear a rather infamous axe around my neck which my mother gave me when I was 18. On one hand I wear a ring my father gave me when I was 21 and on the other hand my grandmother’s engagement ring. On my wrist I wear a bangle my mum gave me when I was 21.

“It is in these symbolic ways I carry intentionally these most important people with me every day. And this is the family anchor that grounds us, our kinship networks that carry us through life through thick and thin."