Sally Joseph, social worker with unending empathy for children in care

'Everybody recognised Sally as a big presence and a true social work pioneer'

Monday, 29th November 2021 — By Angela Mason and Martin Pratt


SALLY Joseph, whose unexpected death was announced last week, was a big figure in Camden’s children’s services and throughout the Town Hall.

As head of the Looked After Children’s Services she was responsible for the welfare of thousands of Camden children and young people during her long career and was loved, respected and admired by all who worked with her.

Tall, handsome, often wonderfully dressed in a succession of sharp, colourful suits, Sally was the most senior black social worker in Camden – one of Camden’s first black social workers to gain a managerial role and the most vocal Arsenal supporter in the Town Hall!

She began her work in Camden in the early 1980s as an Afro- Caribbean Development worker for Camden Council for Community Relations and Race Equality and went on to establish a very successful career in residential social work, before moving on into more senior roles.

Her deep understanding and empathy with children in residential care remained a feature of all her future work and she was instrumental in setting up a unique system of accommodation and care for looked-after children and care leavers who are on a pathway to independence.

Her commitment to young people was fierce and passionate.

Organising the settlement of nine young girls when the Calais “jungle” camp was dismantled; picking them up on a Saturday night, settling them into the pathway and going back on Sunday with bags of McDonald’s to personally check they were OK, was all par for the course with Sally.

Against advice she had even been known to spend the night at the office to protect a young person when no immediate placement could be found.

Everybody who worked with Sally, social workers, foster carers, psychologists, councillors, directors; the whole children’s workforce in Camden, recognised Sally as a big presence and a true social work pioneer.

They have a very deep appreciation of the support and leadership she gave, not least the many award ceremonies for children and foster carers she hosted.

During lockdown Sally was also working with foster carers, young people and social workers to think about disproportionality and racism; what it means to be a black social worker, to be the parents of our black looked-after children.

Her leadership and example led to the council adopting a new “Corporate Parenting” strategy earlier this year, which focuses on developing all aspects of children’s identity.

She leaves behind a service which was highly praised by the last Ofsted inspection, but more importantly a service which is genuinely infused with Sally’s humanity and determination to achieve the very best for our young people.

She was much loved and will be much missed.

• Angela Mason is a Labour councillor  and cabinet member for best start in life, children, schools and families.
Martin Pratt is Camden’s deputy chief executive and executive director of supporting people 

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