My friend Joan Meredith, who has died aged 96, was a social worker, psychotherapist and pioneer of staff care services in the public sector. She was also tremendous fun – creating art, blowing bubbles, capturing the perfect sunset, and going off on adventures in her sports cars. Those who knew her were inspired by her sense of justice, but also her impeccable taste in furniture, design, clothing and gardening.
Joan was born in Carlton, Nottingham, the middle of three children; she had two brothers, Raymond and Barrie. Her mother and father, Hilda (nee Matthews) and Charles Hart, had a tailor’s shop, where the family lived and worked. She left school at 14, and when the second world war broke out she become an auxiliary nurse. After the war, she joined the Young Christian Workers (YCW).
In 2018, as part of the NHS at 70 oral history project, she recorded her memories of the long months of campaigning outdoors for the creation of the NHS. Her campaigning continued into the 1950s with Action Against Poverty. Through the YCW she met her husband, Ted Meredith. They married in 1951, but he died in 1959 of an under-researched condition. It was then that she decided to leave her body for research.
Joan trained as a youth worker in 1961, which led to her becoming Manchester’s first full-time YCW organiser. She moved to the city in 1962 and lived there for the rest of her life. After studying social work at the University of Sheffield, she became a social worker in the Catholic Children’s Rescue Society, before leading an innovative student unit in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, for 25 years. Her work was groundbreaking and she was a powerful advocate of early intervention and family support.
While working as a social worker Joan also trained as a psychotherapist. She believed strongly in the importance of supervising and mentoring colleagues – caring for the carers. With a small group of like-minded, pioneering colleagues she was instrumental in establishing the concept of providing good staff care in the workplace, and inspired senior managers to follow her lead.
She set up a staff care support service that offered counselling and supervision to frontline care workers and organisations. This enabled so many to continue in their challenging work. The provision of staff care support is now established practice in organisations providing social and healthcare. She continued to supervise until she retired at the age of 91.
Over the years Joan organised annual holidays with Barry’s family and friends at Portmeirion, Gwynedd. Her close relationship with her nieces, Joanne and Sarah, gave her great pleasure and they survive her.