Last week’s ADASS News reported the death of Graham Gatehouse at the age of 83. 

John Beer, James Bullion & Brian Parrott collaborate here on some longer thoughts about Graham from their respective roles, places & times working with him from the 1980s to the 2000s when he was a towering figure as a Director of Social Services. 

John Beer writes about his time as Director in Surrey from 1985 until 1995.

‘As well as the being Director in Surrey Graham was influential in the development of community social work and in helping build the influence of social work in Whitehall. It is no exaggeration to say that Graham was way ahead of his time in understanding how the development of the private sector in all aspects of social care would require both the commissioning and procurement skills to secure good contracts but also in-house providers if they were to survive, being able to compete for those contracts.

He promoted devolved budgets and measured success by outcomes and provided IT provision for Care Managers to manage their work. A massive investment in the development of his managers enabled many of them to become Directors as well and for all staff a commitment to training and via the guidance of the  Pacific Institute fundamentally raising their belief in what they could achieve. He found the control exerted by the Social Services  Inspectorate irksome at times and thought they were keener to control than to enable.

He was the voice of social care delivery in the corridors of the Department of Health and the Association of County Councils but also walked the job in Surrey when many Directors at that time stayed firmly in their offices. After leaving Surrey he spread his insights all over the country via interim posts and consultancies donning his motorbike leathers at dawn to ride to his latest appointment. Always challenging and innovative but always prepared to listen,  he inspired so many people  and those of us who had the benefit of working with him mourn his passing.‘

An Assistant Director colleague of Graham & John in Surrey at the time was Roger Deacon. He commented additionally that, ‘Graham was a rugby player in his youth and passionate about the game, the same passion with which he drove forward sometimes controversial change in respect of ‘purchasing and providing’ in social care. A man of integrity but idiosyncratic in his manner whom others could not fail to notice.‘

James Bullion knew Graham from 2004 when one of the interim roles Graham later filled was as Director in Suffolk. 


As an interim Graham stayed longer than most of the previous serving DASSs! I watched him up close as he took his leadership skills in crafting honest partnerships with health services, promoted the confidence of the organisation and individuals to ‘be the best version of you that you can,’ and never tired of pushing social justice as the outcome he wanted. He was trusted by the politicians for his wisdom and honesty, and he was an outspoken early siren voice for what the disinvestment in social care was going to do for people, social care providers, and for councils. He encouraged me personally, and when I eventually took up the role of ADASS President he took the trouble to call and counsel me for an hour on the pitfalls of dealing with national politics – most of it unrepeatably accurate and containing the liberal use of his phrase ‘the buggers’. He also demonstrated to me that ‘getting old’ was largely a mindset and could be done whilst maintaining infections humour, curiosity and belief in the new.‘ 

Brian Parrott had known Graham first in the mid-1980s when Graham Gatehouse represented ADSS (then) in encouraging the formation of the first All-Party Parliamentary Panel on Personal Social Services. ADSS collaborated with the Scottish Directors of Social Work, Social Care Association and BASW, the latter of which Brian was representing at the time.

‘Graham’s energy as the first chair of the four organisation collaborative venture persuaded David Ennals (later Lord), former Labour Secretary of State for Health & Social Services and Andrew Rowe, Conservative MP to lead the Panel, ‘recruit’ parliamentary colleagues in support and act together as a public voice for social services issues through the mid & late 1980s & into the  early 1990s, & until it was overtaken by later all-party arrangements.’

What John, James & Brian all say or imply about Graham is that notwithstanding some of his both lovable but exasperating eccentricities, he was one of the kindest, most encouraging & personally supportive ‘elder statesman’ Directors to many in the generation which followed or aspired to. He will be recalled with fondness & humour by many, and be much missed.

John Beer, James Bullion & Brian Parrott

June 2022