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Kay Carmichael

Kay Carmichael

Certificate in Psychiatric Social Work, 1959

Graduated: 1959

Kay Carmichael (1925 - 2009) was one of the central figures in the history of social work in Scotland, and in social welfare history across the UK. She grew up in Glasgow, and later undertook the two-year Certificate in Social Study at Glasgow University between 1955 and 1957, before going on to take the Psychiatric Social Work course at Edinburgh University, with Megan Browne as her tutor (they went on to become lifelong friends). Kay's placements while on the course were at Dr Fred Stone's child guidance clinic in Glasgow and with borstal girls.

Kay went on to become a tutor in social work at Glasgow University the following year, and also Deputy Director of the newly-established training course for probation officers - Scotland's first such course. She took an MA by dissertation (on borstal girls) as required for her appointment to a lectureship. She also worked part-time as a probation officer.

In 1963, she was appointed lecturer in social work, later transferring to social administration.

Between October 1964 and April 1966, Kay sat on a small committee that took forward the ideas from the 1964 Kilbrandon Report - this was made up of Megan Browne from the University of Edinburgh with Richard Titmuss from LSE and Kay Carmichael from the University of Glasgow, working with Judith Hart, Joint Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland (1964-66), who had been a graduate of LSE under Richard Titmuss. They gave advice that led to a white paper Social Work and the Community (1966) (Cmnd 3065). Its recommendations formed the basis of the 1968 Social Work (Scotland) Act, which created Scotland's social work service by bringing together the various departments and also created children's panels to replace juvenile courts in Scotland.

She went on to be appointed a member of the UK Supplementary Benefits Commission (SBC), and to be on the Policy Unit set up by Harold Wilson, as well as being on the BBC's Scottish Advisory Committee.

In 1973, Kay was involved in the setting up of the Special Unit at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow, set up to house those considered to be Scotland's most dangerous prisoners; she worked there one-day-a-week for some years. By 1974, she was appointed senior lecturer in social administration at Glasgow University; she was made Deputy Chair of the SBC the following year, a post that she held until it was disbanded in 1980. Kay retired from the university in 1981 and took over as head of Strathclyde Region's services for offenders.

Kay was an accomplished writer and broadcaster; a lifelong socialist and peace campaigner. She was imprisoned in Cornton Vale Pison in 1986 for refusing to pay a fine imposed for breaking into the nuclear submarine base at Faslane on the Clyde. She completed her PhD in 2000, located in Glasgow University's Centre for Theology, Literature and the Arts.

(This is a very abbreviated version of Kay's life. Find out much more on the collection of her work brought together by her partner and second husband, David Donnison, an Emeritus Professor and Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow. Full details are below.)

Source: Donnison, David (ed.) (2017) It Takes a Lifetime to Become Yourself. A Collection of Writings Kay Carmichael, Edinburgh: Scotland Street Press.