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People :: Alumni :: Joan Baraclough


Joan Baraclough

Certificate in Social Study 1959, Certificate in Medical Social Work 1960

Graduated: 1960

I was born and educated in Edinburgh. Illness in the family played a large part in my life and has continued to affect all my life. After school I went to live in southern Ireland, where I worked as a GP receptionist. I returned to the UK and went to work in Birmingham at the eye hospital as an almoner's clerk. I didn't see this as social work - it was about helping people with health problems, but I was encouraged by the almoner to apply for social work training.

I enjoyed my time at Edinburgh very much. I learned to ski, and took part in student parades. I was also very impressed with Marjorie Brown and her excellent team - it was a privilege to meet the staff. I did practice placements at the Edinburgh Royal and the Western General Hospitals, also at St Mary's in Paddington in London. I am still friends today with the person who was my supervisor.

Class sizes at Edinburgh were small - only 10 students on the MSW course, though we did link up with the Psychiatric Social Work (PSW) course for some teaching.

After university, I first got a job at King Edward's Hospital in Ealing, London, working with Marjorie Moon, who went on to do a study of newly qualified social workers. It was a very small department, with only three social workers. From 1963 to 1971, I worked at Westminster Hospital, with Joyce Cuthbertson - this was a large teaching hospital, where I was, in turn, student supervisor and, latterly, Deputy Head of Department. In 1968-69, I was seconded to the Tavistock Clinic, where I had John Bowlby as my supervisor - he was very kind and I learned a lot from him.

I was involved in the Institute of Medical Social Workers - I was secretary to the Professional Practice Committee - and through this, was centrally involved in discussions at the time about social work's future. The 1960s was a very lively time - we had great hopes of the world being different. Then I became Assistant General Secretary of BASW between 1971 and 1977, and subsequently worked at CCETSW on the post-qualifying studies group between 1977 and 1984, looking at plans for courses and approving them. Between 1984 and 1994, I was Assistant Chief Inspector of the Social Services Inspectorate, where I had responsibility for health-related social work, for older people and for people with a disability.

Through my work, I was fortunate to travel to conferences all over the world and learn about how things are done differently there.

I was secretary for a long time of the Social Workers' Educational Trust, and co-founded (with Keith Bilton and David N. Jones) the Social Work History Network based at King's College London.

After retiring I did  a Master's in the History of Social Medicine at the University of Warwick.  The archives of the BASW predecessor organisations are housed in the Modern Records Centre there, as I knew from being part of the group chaired by Professor Arthur Collis, who catalogued them and arranged for their transfer.

1995 marked the centenary of the appointment of the first almoner, Mary Stewart at the Royal Free Hospital, London.  A group chaired by Sylvia Wolfe set about promoting a series of events round the country to celebrate the event. Among the products were the video One Hundred Years of Health Related Social Work, producer Kay Richards (another Edinburgh alumna) and a book of the same name - see Joan Baraclough, Grace Dedman, Hazel Osborn and Phyllis Willmott (BASW 1996). A copy of the video is available from the Wellcome Library.

My advice for the next generation? Please whatever you do, try to retain your caring and compassionate commitment. I always felt well supported, and tried to do the same for others - this is important.

Source: Own contribution via telephone interview with Viv Cree, March 2017.