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Remembering Kate Pryde: A leading light in Scottish and UK social work

Ruth Stark looks back on the life and achievements of Kate Pryde (10 May 1948 – 19 March 2023), the first Chair of BASW UK from Scotland.

10/07/23

Remembering Kate Pryde: A leading light in Scottish and UK social work

People throughout social work have been saddened by the untimely death of a well-loved social worker, Kate Pryde, a leading light in Scottish and UK social work throughout her lifetime. She talked the talk – and walked the walk too. A leader who kept on practising throughout her time in leadership roles. Strong in keeping ethical principles at the forefront of her actions and mindful of the personal toll being a great social worker can take. She always knew when it was time to take time out to keep physically and emotionally fit to work. Many will remember the glass of wine in hand, a song and laughter in those times we all need for recuperation.

Kate was one of the ‘new style’ social workers who came into the profession following the Kilbrandon Report, the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 that revolutionised social work in Scotland in the 1970s. She lived through that revolution and often cited the vision of the local authority duty to promote social well-being. The new Children’s Hearing system, sitting round a table with members of the community, replaced juvenile courts and needs became more important than deeds, alongside early intervention to prevent crises…and she was a leader in making those transitions happen.

Kate graduated from Glasgow University and entered the newly reorganised local authorities at the beginning of this new chapter in social work. She soon became involved in practice teaching and she guided hundreds of social workers through the early stages and then later in their careers as she mentored them in acquiring the skills and knowledge to make a difference – particularly in managing that difficult work/life balance necessary to prevent burnout and poor quality of work.

A committed BASW member Kate was always an active member in her local branch, Forth Valley, and nationally in Scotland. For many years she took different roles in the Scotland Committee and was the first UK Chair from Scotland in 1991-92. She was very excited and extremely helpful when the IFSW European Conference came to Glasgow in 1991 on a theme close to her heart – Love Law and the Child – chosen in the year of the 20th Anniversary of the Children’s Hearing system. It was also the first European conference to take place after the fall of the Berlin Wall and 30 social workers were supported to attend from Eastern Europe and were duly welcomed into IFSW. Many who attended that conference had their first introduction to Maori social work, from which today’s family group conferencing developed. These were heady days in social work. Looking outward and growing in confidence.

When BASW had AGMs that rotated around the UK, attracting hundreds of social workers for debate about how to find solutions for some of the most complex and intangible issues facing the people with whom we work, Kate was always there. Always with something to contribute and ready to go home and work on the resolutions we had collectively made about how we could work with people to make a difference.

With these deep-rooted foundations Kate went on making significant contributions to people’s lives. Alongside her career in local authorities where she became a lead manager, she made other commitments to upholding standards in the profession. She became a member of the Board of the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC), an active Board Member at Seamab (an important resource for young people in Scotland), and right up until the end an active Panel Member in the Children’s Hearing system.

This vision of promoting social health predominated Kate’s values and principles in her life and work over the past 50 years. She is sorely missed.

Photograph: Kate Pryde at the IFSW European Conference in Edinburgh in 2015 alongside David N Jones (left) and Mark Pearson (right).

Ruth Stark is an Independent Social Worker and former Global President of the International Federation of Social Workers (2014-18).

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