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John Chant

John Chant

Certificate in Psychiatric Social Work 1968

Graduated: 1968

(Leonard Ernest) John Chant was born on 23 April 1938. He grew up in Somerset, where he spent time living in the care of the local authority. He started work as a farm boy before working as a psychiatric nurse at Tone Vale Hospital, near Taunton. Various obituaries state that John later studied at Bristol Polytechnic and Edinburgh University, but we have so far been able to verify this - any further information would be gratefully received! John went on to become a mental health officer with Somerset County Council at Bridgwater, then worked in Taunton as a social worker.

In 1974, John was appointed Director of Social Services in Somerset, bringing together the three distinct disciplines from the former children's welfare and mental health departments. His obituary by John Clark states: 'It was a time when many, inside and outside social services, were unsettled, even demoralised, by the swiftness and magnitude of the changes to the administrative structure. Chant worked hard to build up the morale and competence of his own staff, and to establish their credibility in the eyes of outside agencies such as the magistracy, who resented the subordination, as they saw it, of their sentencing powers to the discretion of social services workers.' One of his achievements at this time was the removal of children from long-stay mental hospitals to specialist care under social services, in small units. He then worked to secure the same improvement for adults (including those with learning disabilities) in long-stay hospitals.

In 1981, he was appointed secretary of the Association of Directors of Social Services. He later acted as a member of the official inquiry into the death of Darren Clark, a victim of child abuse in Liverpool and then as an assessor to Lord Justice Butler-Sloss in the conduct of the Cleveland inquiry into child sexual abuse in 1989.

In 1989, after 15 years as Director in Somerset, he moved to Edinburgh, to become Director of Social Work for Lothian Regional Council. Here he pioneered the movement of adults with learning disabilities out of long-stay hospitals. He also served at national level on Task Forces in 1991 on Aids/HIV and in 1994 on Drug Abuse and represented Scottish interests on the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work and chaired the organisation's Scottish committee. It was while at Lothian Regional Council that John established a new partnership with the University of Edinburgh; in 1992,  Joe Francis, a training officer, was appointed to a shared post between the university and the council.

John died in Edinburgh on 24 October 1995, only a few weeks after illness forced him to retire early.

Source: Obituaries, in The Scotsman, 28 October 1995,  (Brian Cavanagh), The Herald, 26 October 1995 and The Independent, 22 November 1995 (John Clark).