A Tribute to Bill McKitterick | BASW News

Professor Ray Jones remembers his friend and long-standing BASW member, Bill McKitterick.

Bill McKitterick has died following illness over recent months. Bill was a social worker with a long career starting in 1973 and for 10 years from 1995 to 2005 was director of social services in Bristol. Social work was ingrained within the McKitterick family home with Bill’s wife, Jenny, also a social worker and manager of family placement services.

Bill and I were nearby professional neighbours as throughout the time he was the director in Bristol, I was the social services director in Wiltshire. He was a much respected colleague who gave wise counsel which was always informed by his commitment to the value base of social work and his compassion and humanity.

Bill was one of the top leaders within social services who never reneged on his roots and identity as a social worker. Indeed, very recently in 2015 he wrote a book, Self-leadership in Social Work: Reflections from Practice, in which he said “The current managerialist agenda has restricted judgement and the exercise of discretion in the profession, and, more damagingly, has played down the social justice component of social work, as well as the responsibilities for therapeutic and change-orientated interventions”. His clarion call to social workers is that we should all take a responsibility, individually and collectively, to be champions for social work and advocates for what it does and can contribute.

When in the mid-2000s I was BASW’s Vice Chair and then Chair, Bill joined BASW’s Council. He very soon took on the onerous and important role of BASW’s treasurer, ensuring appropriate governance oversight of the financial security of the organisation. His commitment to BASW and to social work as a profession had been long-standing and he had a track record of being particularly energised and engaged in the education and development of social workers. 

Within the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) he had a leadership role on workforce development, and for many years had argued strongly that there should be a College of Social Work. His vision of the College was that it should be an organisation for social work with an active membership of social workers who gave their time and expertise so that the College was informed by, and based on, the experience and professional commitment and aspirations of social workers. He thought it should start modestly with a small infrastructure and then expand as its membership grew. He was very wary of it becoming dependent on government funding. He was right, as shown by the College’s collapse when the Department for Education chose to award a £2m contract to KPMG to develop a national accreditation programme for children’s social workers rather than this properly being seen as within the remit of the College.

I last saw Bill at two events within the past year which we each attended. One was in Bristol at a regional conference of the Social Work Action Network. One was in London at a meeting of the Social Work History Network. We had also been in touch looking to assist a young person who had been in care and who is seeking to set up a national ‘Children in Care Awards’ annual programme.

Bill was still active, as he has been throughout a long professional career, as a champion for social work and social workers, contributing insights and wisdom with strong foundations of concern and respect for frontline practitioners. His commitment to social work as a strong profession and to Continuing Professional Development are as necessary now as ever amidst the concerns about the government’s creeping privatisation, creeping political control and creeping anti-professionalism. We need to pick up and run with the baton which Bill is now passing on.