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Professor Roy Parker, 1931-2017

Professor Roy Parker

23 January 2017

Roy Parker, the first Professor in the Department of Social Work and Administration in the university, has died aged 85 in Devon. His former colleague Hilary Land offers a remembrance.

Roy Parker’s first book, based on his PhD, ‘Decision in Child Care’ (1965), was among the first serious studies of foster care. He had been a member of the Seebohm Committee on Local Government and Allied Social Services whose report (1968) laid the foundations for modern social services. He was also a member of the Milton Keynes New Town Development Corporation.

Social Work had been taught in the university for over 50 years but Social Administration as a field of study in its own right was new and needed an ambassador. Being a collegiate, generous and supportive head of department and willing to delegate, he quickly built a lively young team which enabled him to do this. When he stepped down as its Head in 1981, the department was offering two joint degrees, with Politics or Sociology, and a single honours degree in Social Administration. It had already established a national and international reputation for its research and teaching. Roy was a superb teacher. His lectures were meticulously prepared and, like his writing, were lucid and compelling. His observations and advice were critical when necessary. 

In 1975, Change, Choice and Conflict in Social Policy, co-authored with Phoebe Hall, Hilary Land and Adrian Webb, was published and became a foundation text for students of social policy, staying in print over 20 years. This study, demonstrated the need to study social policy within a political science framework.

Meanwhile he had become a leading expert across the whole range of child care services. He acted as advisor to various government departments and committees and research consultant to numerous research projects. His historical overview Change and Continuity in Children’s Services, (2015), draws not only on this expertise but also on his deep knowledge of the history of child care.

His last major publication Uprooted: the Shipment of Poor Children to Canada 1867-1917 (2008), which had been 20 years in gestation, was completed after he had joined the Dartington Social Research Unit in 1997, as a fellow of its Centre for Social Policy. This ‘study of the politics surrounding this remarkable chapter in the treatment of children …casts light on far more than is suggested at first sight and…still has resonance today.’ (Preface) The voices of some of the 80,000 uprooted children which he unearthed in the Canadian archives are testimony to that.

He continued his love of sport after ‘retirement’. He had run the first London marathon just after his fiftieth birthday and continued long-distance running until well into his seventies. His retirement present in 1997 was a pair of racing skis (which he later exchanged for a faster pair!).

He was born in South East London, the son of a Southern Region engine driver. He attended the local grammar school before studying sociology at the LSE. He is survived by José, whom he married in 1954, his four children and eight grandchildren.

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