Tributes paid to ‘inspirational’ social work director lost to COVID-19

Colleagues describe Nottingham Director of Children’s Services Helen Blackman as a “passionate champion” for children and young people, as sector leaders speak about the loss of a “hugely respected” figurehead.

12/03/21

Tributes paid to ‘inspirational’ social work director lost to COVID-19

Tributes have been paid to Nottingham Director of Children’s Services Helen Blackman following news that she has passed away after contracting COVID-19 at the age of just 54.

A qualified social worker of over 30 years, Blackman had worked in a number roles across child protection and adoption services at both Nottinghamshire and Nottingham councils.

In 2008 she became the head of neighbourhood fieldwork at Nottingham Council, before becoming director of children’s integrated services five years later.

In addition to her role within Nottingham Council, Blackman was also a long-serving member of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS).

Sarah Caton, Chief Officer at ADCS, described Blackman as “hugely respected” and praised her ability to “spread her energy and enthusiasm for helping children and families to all those she met”.

Caton added that Blackman “truly had the principles and values of social work running in her blood” and that “she will be sorely missed by all of us”.

Catherine Underwood, Nottingham Council’s Corporate Director for People, expressed her sadness at the news, saying: “we are absolutely devastated by the loss of Helen, who was an incredibly dedicated colleague and a true friend to many at the council and beyond – she will be deeply missed.”

“Helen was a passionate champion for children and young people and an inspirational social work leader, both locally and nationally. She always had time for others and went out of her way to help people in so many ways,” Underwood added.

Council leader David Mellen spoke of an “inspirational” leader who “cared deeply for children and young people.

“She was inspirational in the way she led the department and was held in the highest esteem by her staff,” said Mellen.

“She cared deeply for children and young people and was entirely focused on improving their life chances.

“But more than that. She was a lovely person with a wonderful smile and a contagious laugh who dedicated her life to helping children. I feel privileged to have known and worker with her, and my most heartfelt condolences are with Helen’s family, friends and colleagues at this sad time,” Mellen added.

Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that 36 social workers had sadly died after contracting COVID-19 throughout 2020.

On those figures, The British Association for Social Workers (BASW) said that social workers had been at the forefront of delivery essential services throughout the pandemic.

“We remember our friends and colleagues across the social work profession and pay tribute and extend our thanks to social workers and our health and care colleagues, for their bravery and commitment whilst working throughout the pandemic – providing vital support for families and individuals,” BASW said in a statement.

The Government has previously insisted that it is following scientific advice with its current COVID-19 vaccine roll-out strategy by selecting age and health as the main factors behind establishing priority groups for vaccination, rather by profession.

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