My wife, Daphne McKenna, who has died aged 65 in an accident, had a passionate, lifelong commitment to social work, child protection and mental health.
She started out as a psychiatric nursing assistant at Cane Hill hospital, Surrey, in 1977, before moving to Lewisham social services in south London as a trainee social worker in 1979. Subsequent roles included team manager, child protection conference chair, independent reviewing officer and development lead for the Integrated Children’s System. During this time, Daphne also held associate positions at Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of Greenwich, and the Social Care Institute for Excellence, where she co-authored the national guidance on parental mental health and child welfare.
In 2003, Daphne established her own consultancy, Training in Practice, extending the reach of her expertise to a huge diversity of people in settings across London and nationally. Postgraduate medical staff, dentists, foster carers and dance teachers were among the many who benefited from Daphne’s belief that the safeguarding and protection of children are everyone’s business, and that becoming confident in practice is essential to making it a reality.
Daphne brought a formidable level of expertise and an unshakable concern for the rights of children and young people to her long career. She believed that with the correct approach to support and proper resources, all children have the potential for positive change, no matter what damage past experience has inflicted. Her impact in translating this into the highest standard of professional practice was broader than than her perpetual modesty allowed her to recognise. It was, she often said, “just what you do”.
She moved through life with what one colleague called “a supportive, straightforward and acute kindness”, and was always ready to defend anyone being threatened or bullied, even when it compromised her own safety, as it sometimes did.
Born in Croydon, south London, Daphne was the the first of five children of Nancy (nee Boyle), a convalescent nurse, and Kevin McKenna, a wholesale butcher. Her role as the eldest called for the confident care and support that became her hallmark.
We met in 1982 when I, too, was a Lewisham social worker, and married in 1985. Daphne’s remarkable character and enduring qualities shaped the personal life of our family as they touched the lives of so many others.
She is survived by her son, Ben, daughter, Leila, and me.