The Loss of a Champion
by David Lane
With the death of Barbara Kahan on the morning of Sunday 6th August, children and young people have lost a champion.
Throughout her life, Barbara battled on their behalf. She worked directly with them. She managed services for children. She created development plans for the Government, and influenced legislation. She conducted numerous inquiries into bad practice, notably with Alan Levy in the Pindown investigation. She wrote articles, including pieces for this magazine. She edited the classic text Growing Up in Groups. She defended good-quality residential care against its detractors. She was unfailingly supportive to people, arguing for higher standards of practice in childcare and social education. She was equally unflinching in being tough on bad practice and people who did not come up to the mark in her opinion. She was compassionate without being a soft touch.
Barbara had a long career, but she never retired. Even from her hospital bed, she was telephoning and asking for working papers to be sent in for her to comment upon. Although troubled by asthma, she continued to take on major responsibilities well after she had finished salaried work, playing key roles in voluntary organisations. She had to pace herself more, but in terms of her professional impact, she was still in her prime.
Barbara's sudden departure is a real loss which will be felt by many people, including children and young people, professionals and individual friends. She had no surviving family but, like Mr Chips, she had thousands of children over the years whom she helped either directly or indirectly.
Barbara was the sort of person who affected the lives of those she met, often by challenging them to bring out the best in themselves. In this edition, Keith White writes about Pandita Ramabai, another champion, who helped women and children in India to achieve their rights. The history of social action has many names of this sort, each making their own contribution and changing the face of the services or of the society which they found. They are found in every country - Pestalozzi in Switzerland, Makarenko in Russia, Bettelheim in America.
Individual people like these do make a difference. They change our ways of thinking. They help to motivate us by their charismatic examples. They advise us and help us to understand and face the personal challenges ahead. It is all very necessary to have policies and systems, theories and curricula, but in the end, the effectiveness of childcare and social education as far as the children and young people are concerned depends upon the people who work and live with them, their commitment and motivation, and how they relate together.
People like Barbara have a personal impact on the people they meet, as well as an influence on systems and legislation, and it is something for which we have to be thankful. Our greatest tribute to her memory will be if we too battle to preserve children's rights and foster their development.
As for Barbara, she has probably already been appointed by Saint Peter to investigate some dodgy applicant trying to make it through the pearly gates, and is giving him a hard time by asking him how he treated his children.
Barbara Kahan's funeral took place at 12 noon on Wednesday 16th August 2000 at the parish church of St Peter in the village of Cassington in Oxfordshire. The church is a Norman gem, but it is small, and so the occasion was limited to the family, a few close friends and colleagues and the people of the village, who filled the church.
Addresses were given by Michael Chisholm, Vladimir Kahan's step-son, and Professor Norman Tutt, who had been close to Barbara for many years, having worked with her at the DHSS. (Norman Tutt's contribution is given below.) Both addresses - and the service as a whole, which was conducted by Rev. Matthew Sleeman - were very moving, and highlighted many of the achievements and sides of Barbara's personality which made her so special. Jean Packman read Shakespeare's Sonnet LX to reflect Barbara's interest in English literature and Olaf Rock read a poem Farewell my friends by Rabindranath Tagore. Barbara would have enjoyed the choice of Fight the good fight as one of the hymns.
service will be held in two or three months' time, and details
will be carried in this magazine when they are known.
One of Barbara's favourite books in recent years was the autobiography of Nelson Mandela, a man with whose compassion and rejection of bitterness she could identify. In this autobiography he wrote "a man who takes small steps only travels a short distance". The physical Barbara could only take short steps, on many occasions eschewing even a stroll around Cassington because of her asthma.
Meanwhile the spirit of Barbara strode across oceans and continents and scaled soaring peaks in an extraordinary intellectual journey from the daughter of a railwayman in a small Sussex village to being honoured with the Order of the British Empire and as a Doctor of Law at the University of Victoria, the other side of the globe on Vancouver Island.
Diana and I,
whom BJK always referred to as "ungrown-up teenagers"
were privileged to accompany Barbara as her honorary family to
the ceremony at Victoria University. It was on that occasion
that the two Barbaras were most apparent, On a stage set appropriately
with a throne and lectern made by First Nation craftsmen, a particular
delight for Barbara with her love of colour and modern art, in
a packed auditorium of some 2000 people
Barbara clad in academic gown and doctoral cap looking all the
world - in her words - like a little mushroom - could barely
see over the lectern. And yet that huge auditorium could not
contain Barbara's spirit as poignantly she described the
travelled extensively her spiritual home was always in Cassington.
In the home and garden she had created with Vladimir. The only
time she was at rest was when seated in their conservatory surrounded
by geraniums, reading a book. Barbara and Vladimir never had
any physical children of their own but they were and still are
the spiritual parents of countless numbers of the succeeding
generation. Many of her spiritual
to always question received wisdom and ask why?
to always do what I believed to be right and bear the consequences
and at the lowest point of my life she, like all good mothers, had faith and confidence in me.
she taught me to enjoy olives, garlic, spicy food
Barbara loved her work but most of all she loved Vladimir and soon she will be joined again with him for eternity.
In her diary Barbara, always the rationalist, had drawn a seesaw with the heading "the seesaw of daily life" On the upside were, typically, work, books, friends, energy and good food, on the downside were loneliness, ageing and death.
Today the physical
Barbara has finally .succumbed but not without a fearsome battle
to survive. The spiritual Barbara lives on amongst us and within
us. Thank you Barbara for what you gave to so many of us.
Readers who knew Barbara Kahan and admired her contribution to childcare may be interested in the following information about the Trust she established.
The objects of the Charity are "to further research training or development in any area or field involved in the care of or in assistance to children and young people who have special needs, socially, educationally, mentally, emotionally or physically and/or who have suffered any harm or ill treatment including phisical abuse, sexual abuse and other forms of ill treatment which are not physical."
Help, when available, will be given through financial aid, "or in any other way as the Trustees shall in their absolute discretion think fit, to individual disadvantaged children or young people."
Trustees include myself, Professor Norman Tutt, Alan Levy QC and Dr Jean Packman. Until the estate of Barbara is finalised, the Trust is not able to accept applications, after which there will be a public announcement. In the meantime, anyone wishing to make a donation in memory of Barbara can do so, by cheque to "The Barbara and Vladimir Kahan Trust", c/o Dr Chris Hanvey, September House, 19 Hempstead Lane, Potten End, Berkhamstead, Herts, HP4 2RZ.
It is hoped that through the Trust, the passionate commitment that Barbara felt to children and young people will live on in her memory.
Dr Chris Hanvey
E-mail received 17 August 2000
It is difficult even now, after attending her funeral today, to grasp that Barbara is dead. My most recent contacts with her by telephone in the last few weeks have been as lively and as demanding as ever. It was never any use to ring her with a half formulated idea or a sloppy bit of reasoning. You had to have done some serious thinking and marshaled all your arguments before thinking of picking up the phone.
At the funeral today people spoke of her influence on the lives of so many - children in care, friends, the children of friends and so on into the future generations. I was reminded of the very practical impact she had on a number of staff with whom I worked in Leeds Social Services Department. Several cohorts participated in the Open University P 653 Course in the construction of which Barbara had been an influential figure. I can still hear her voice on the audio tapes, articulating so clearly, talking about what young people really looked for in a member of staff and much else. A significant number of those staff members, who had not had brilliant educational opportunities in their school days and who did not see themselves as academic, have since gone on to achieve the Dip SW. Their lives and the lives of the children for whom they were better equipped to care for after studying the OU P 653 material have been touched by Barbara's great commitment to see staff better trained, but in an accessible and practical way.
On a more personal note I remember 'the look'. Barbara would look quizzically over or around the frame of her famous spectacles. Sometimes it was doubting, sometimes sparking with anger, sometimes despairing, but so often there was a twinkle, which when accompanied by her chuckle was a tonic in itself.
Secretary FICE UK
E-mail received 14 August 2000
Vladimir Kahan were associated with Bessels Leigh School,Oxon
(boarding school for disturbed boys) from about 1964 when it
was set up under MIND.
Barbara Kahan - An Appreciation from Rowan Dickman, Treasurer of the ICSE
I cannot say that I knew Barbara that well socially, but as a fellow Director of the ICSE, I had worked with Barbara over the last four years, aiming for a goal that we both shared.
When David Lane rang me to tell me that Barbara had passed away, I felt a great sense of sadness and loss. My sadness is because I selfishly wanted to have more time working with Barbara. When I met Barbara, four years ago at the start of the ICSE, I realised how little I had achieved, seen and done in the field of childcare. It was always a privilege to meet with Barbara, because I was always aware that I was working with someone who had been a pioneer in the early days of the service. However, Barbara was always modest about her achievements and had an uncanny knack of making me feel that she valued my input.
My sense of loss is also selfish. Barbara has always been a stable and important presence in the ICSE. Barbara was always pragmatic but coupled this with a sense of passion about whatever she undertook. My immediate response when David rang me was to say "That's it", we have fought a good fight for four years but it just wasn't to be". However, my vision of a childcare service has not changed, and having seen Barbara only a few weeks earlier, I know that Barbara's vision had not changed either. Therefore, we need to keep working towards these aims in her memory.
I realise that this is not just my loss. I feel that the service and the children that we look after have lost a great champion with a wealth of experience. Many of the policies of the school that I work at have been taken and formalised from Barbara's book, Growing up in Groups, and I am sure that many agencies and establishments up and down the country have welcomed Barbara's help and input.
I never got
the chance to thank Barbara for the privilege of working with
her over the years, so the best I can do is to say here, "Thankyou
for the insight, experience, humility and most of all, setting
an example that we should all follow".
A tribute from Mairi
was someone whom I met only later in her life. She had nevertheless
been a presence on my horizon, a signpost and an inspiration
over many years, as much in her capacity as role model as in
Suddenly in 1991 I was thrown into a professional maelstrom, or did I throw myself? I needed high calibre help in a high profile situation. Barbara was willing to help, but with such modesty. So I got to know her. Her strengths, her knowledge, her judgement and most of all her kind support to me were wonderful. She allowed me to borrow her wisdom, to use it and then to learn from her myself.
She remained a mentor and I was so pleased to have known her. I always felt a little in awe, as different generations should, and was never quite sure of approaching her in case of being intrusive. I was of course always warmly welcomed. She had time for me and always joined me in as her equal. What a gift.
Thank you Barbara for your help, your humanity and your genuine friendship. I will always recall your very fairly devilish smile and your openness. The world benefited from you and we shall miss you; but somehow not too painfully for your spirit seems to remain with me. You were such a good teacher I no longer have to have your physical answers to my questions, I just ask them and know what you would say.
Good thoughts to you.
I was shocked to receive the e-mail message from David Lane and a letter from Norman Tutt informing me of Barbara's death. With her indomitable spirit, I just assumed she'd live forever!
I first met Barbara when she was touring North America on behalf of the Gatsby project. (What an exotic name for a training initiative!) It was her exposure to our distance education B.A. program for child and youth care workers that convinced Barbara that such an initiative was indeed doable in the U.K. as well.
I was hosted by Barbara on several occasions over the years in
her wonderful home in Cassington. (I do hope that her marvelous
library will be kept intact somewhere accessible to child care
afficianados.) It was also my privilege to nominate her for an
honourary doctoral degree here at the University of Victoria.
We had a wonderful week in Victoria with her along with the Tutts
and the Zacharias', all her very dear friends, when she received
the degree. She gave the speech to convocation, and the University
President leaned over to me and said "A very worthy recipient,
I will always be grateful that Barbara crossed my path, and I know that many children will have better care now and in the future because of her commitment, courage and charisma.
As David Lane
says in his editorial, she will be a formidable stand-in for
St. Peter. And who knows, she may even get to be acting CEO up
there on occasion as well... who better!? She will be sorely
missed on both sides of the Atlantic.
17 August 2000
You asked for personal reminiscences about Barbara Kahan. I'm afraid mine is more of a happy but irreverent thought, generated when I heard of the deaths over the same weekend of Sir Alec Guinness and Sir Robin Day. I mused that should they find themselves in a queue at the Pearly Gates together at least they could all three enjoy some lively conversation while they waited in each others company.
E-mail received 19th August 2000
I first met
Barbara Kahan in 1950 at the Dudley County Borough Children's
Department where I had been sent for three months on-the-job-training
by the University of Birmingham Child Care program. She had a
comparatively small staff, but the place was a hive of industry.
The first job she gave me on the morning of my arrival was to
read a large file she handed me. She said, almost casually, that
she would review the case with me that afternoon. I cannot recall
ever having had a grilling, before or since, like the one I had
that day. At the end of two hours I was exhausted, thoroughly
wrung-out, and determined never to try to flub my way through
anything with her again. I was convinced that the defendants
at Nuremburg, just a few years earlier, had had an easier time
under cross-examination than I had experienced during that case
discussion. She knew she had caught me napping. More distressing
yet, she knew I knew too.
I just wanted to say that Barbara was an inspiration to me and gave me the strength and ambition to move on in my career in social work. We worked together whilst she acted as consultant in a residential school in Scotland, sorting out problems! The children in that school were much better off for her involvement although they probably never realised it. I certainly benefited greatly from this wonderful lady.
and Jim Zacharias had met the Kahans about 35 years ago while
on a trip to England with their children. Our close relatives,
Bubbles and Dick Zacharias, had met Barbara and Vladimir at a
dinner party months before while they were vacationing in Rome.
It seems that the Kahans were doing all their travelling by motorcycle,
and with that intriguing fact, coupled with the interest in their
challenging professions, it was recommended that we look them
E-mail received 7 November 2000
was an inspiration, her life a dedication to the improvement
of the lives of an infinite number of people. Her life was an
example of high achievement beyond what she could have imagined.
Transcript of the obituary by Terry Philpot in the Guardian Newspaper, 9th August 2000
Childcare pioneer whose 'pindown' scandal report prompted residential care reform
Across the last half century, Barbara Kahan, who has died aged 80, had a decisive influence on local authority children's departments and their successors, the all-purpose social services departments. She also played a seminal role in the chequered story of residential care for children and young people, and, in 1991, with Allan Levy Q,C, published The Pindown Experience And The Protection of Children.
Barbara chaired the National
Children's Bureau from 1985 to 1994, was director of the Gatsby
educational project from 1980-91, and was a member of the 1969-73
Finer committee on one-parent families.
Labelled "brilliant and exhaustive" by the local MP, Mark Fisher, Kahan and Levy's report focused on the neglect of residential care by management, which had allowed the abuse to flourish. It also led to a series of government inquiries into residential care, which have culminated in current initiatives, like Quality Protects, aimed at transforming children's services.
Barbara was born the daughter
of a railwayman in Horsted Keynes, West Sussex. It was a Methodist
and Labour-party supporting
With her mother, she participated in good works including the workhouse Christmas pantomime and she never forgot the plight of strikers and their families during the 1926 general strike. In the 1930s, at Barbara's prompting, a refugee Jewish girl went to stay with the family, and became Barbara's "foster sister".
In 1939, Barbara won a scholarship
to Cambridge. She graduated in English and took a social science
course at the London School of Economics (then in wartime exile
in the town). While at Cambridge, she helped re-starL the university
Labour club, worked for Richard Acland's leftist Commonwealth
party, which flourished during the second world war, and joined
After working from 1943 to 1948 as a factory inspector, Barbara became a children's officer in Dudley, from 1948 to 1950. She then moved in Oxfordshire, where she remained until the children's department Was absorbed into the department of social services in 1970. Children's officers were a remarkable group of (mainly) women, who, against institutional odds, pioneered a service which proved to be one of the most far-reaching social reforms of the immediate post-war years.
Bliss it was to have been alive when the children's departments were created, and Barbara could also savour the very heaven of being so young an appointee. But the beginnings were unpropitious. She had one room and piles of public assistance files. After six weeks, she was permitted to appoint a 17-year-old secretary. She shouldered a caseload other own, as well as managerial responsibilities. Nor was she past taking a child home for the night when no other place could be found.
She was certainly an innovator. In Dudley, she opened the local authority's first children's home. In Oxfordshire, corporal punishment in homes was abolished in 1951, and imaginative fostering was introduced 40 years ago, special rates were paid as an incentive for people to take difficult children. Preventive work was the cornerstone of childcare policy, staffing ratios were high, and there was close liaison with families.
Barbara believed that young
people in trouble needed help not punishment, and that the distinction
between deprived young people and young offenders was artificial.
Both in her Oxfordshire work and in her extra-mural activities,
with bodies like the Association of Children's Officers (of which
she was president in 1964), she helped pave the way for the 1969
Children And Young Persons Act, which regarded young people in
trouble as deprived, not depraved. It was partly what a colleague
Barbara always sought to unite
children with their families whenever possible; this was remarkable
at a time when the axiom was to separate a child from its "bad"
family background. Her practice was strongly influenced by the
Barbara was not always the easiest of employers, but she was a nurturer of talent. Many academics and directors of social services could thank her for the start and encouragement they received in Oxfordshire. A vocal advocate of social services departments, she came to regret that their generic approach squandered the specialist skills built up in children's departments. Sadly, she never became director of social services in Oxfordshire; fighting her corner had left her with too many enemies.
From 1970 to 1971, she was deputy chief inspector of the children's department at the Home OfTice. In 1971, she moved to the Department of Health and Social Security as assistant director of the social work service, where she remained until 1980.
Barbara remained a proponent
of residential care for children long after this approach had
gone out of fashion; her belief was that it foundered for lack
of advocates among directors of social services. This view was
perhaps a necessary corrective to the disfavour in whicih residential
care found itself with both statutory and voluntary agencies.
Her most concrete memorial will be her work on "distance
learning" for the professional group she regarded as the
most neglected residential
She had discovered the idea in Canada. Thus it was, in 1980, that she became the Gatsby Project's director, and only staff member. The ideas it promoted were ones she had long cherished - recognising the specialist skills of residential staff, raising their status and expanding their training. In 1991, the project was absorbed into the Open University.
It was an irony for so powerful
an advocate of residential care as Barbara that, in recent years,
she was employed as an
From 1983-1990, Barbara was professional adviser to the House of Commons select committee on social services. Among her many other appointments was that of vice-president of the National Children's Bureau, for the last six years, and a life fellowship of the National Institute For Social Work.
Barbara enjoyed good food, wine, gossip, argument and books, and was an accomplished amateur musician. She maintained that her husband had been the making of her culturally. With his death in 1981, something went out other life, which she attempted to fill with an almost desperate hunger for work. While she never suffered fools gladly, and often exhibited little patience with those whom she perceived to be her intellectual inferiors, for her friends she was delightful, amusing and stimulating.
"The trouble with her," an Oxford councillor once complained of Barbara, "is that she is always on the side of the children." There could be no greater praise.
Barbara Joan Kahan, social
Transcript of the Obituary in The
BARBARA KAHAN was a leading
figure in the world of child care for many years. As a children's
officer, a senior civil servant, as co-author of the Staffordshire
"Pindown" report, and as chair of the National Children's
Bureau she made an enormous contribution to children's services
especially in the field of residential care. She built up a huge
amount of knowledge and experience which she drew on in running
organisations, doing consultancy work, sitting on a number of
prominent committees and writing and lecturing extensively.
The year 1948 was a crucial
time as Parliament, following the Report of the Curtis Committee,
passed the Children Act. an important piece of legislation which
in part made provision for the care and welfare of children who
were living away from their parents in residential and foster
care. Barbara Langridge put all her considerable ability and
energy into this aspect of child care. In particular she was
absolutely committed to seeing that where possible children were
not sent into the penal system and to approved schools. In 1964
she was made President of the Association of Children's Officers.
In 1955 she married Dr Vladimir Kahan, a well-known child psychiatrist.
It was a very happy marriage.
Kahan retired from the civil service in 1980. She was a person of great energy and purpose, and there was no question of a quiet and uneventful retirement Indeed the next 20 years produced a great output of work and wide recognition of her almost unique contribution. She was made an honorary member of the Association of Directors of Social Services, a Life Fellow of the National Institute of Social Work and served as professional adviser to the House of Commons Select Committee on Social Services between 1983 and l990. She ran the Gatsby Project devoted to the development of residential care for children between 1980 and 1991 and chaired the Wagner Development Children's Group between 1990 and 1993.
In l985 Kahan was elected chair of the National Children's Bureau and she was influential in building up the organisation and significantly expanding it She was passionately interested in her work at the NCB and initiated, amongst other things, a successful residential care development project She served until 1994 when she became a Vice-President. The Bureau owes a very great deal to her out- standing contribution to its work. Alongside her many activities Kahan also produced a stream of publications. She wrote a number of books on residential care for children culminating in Growing Up In Groups in 1994, a major contribution to the literature.
I first met Barbara Kahan in
1990. After being anointed chairman of the Staffordshire "Pindown"
Inquiry into an unlawful regime of isolation and humiliation
in children's homes, I was given a list of names from which to
recommend another member for the inquiry team. Fortunately, I
When the history of childcare
in the 20th century is written, Barbara Kahan will be seen as
an important figure. For just over 50 years she was totally committed
to improving children's services and ensuring that children living
away from home were property cared for. Many people and organisations
owe a very great deal to her abilities, energy, caring qualities,
courage, and in the last analysis her humanity.
Barbara Joan Langridge, Child care consultant and social worker; born Horsted Keynes, Sussex 18 March 1920; HM Inspector of Factories 1943-48; local government children's officer 1948-70; Deputy Chief Inspector, Children's Department, Home Office 1970 - 71, DHSS 1971-80; Director, Gatsby Project 1980-91; Professional Adviser to House of Commons Select Committee on Social Services l983-90; Chair, National Children's Bureau 1985-94, Vice-President 1994-2000; married l955 Dr Vladimir Kahan (died 1981); died Oxford 6 August 2000.
of the obituary in the Times (London)
BARBARA KAHAN Barbara Kahan, OBE, social worker, was born on March 18, 1920. She died on August 6 aged 80
In 1991 Barbara Kahan and Alan Levy, QC, published the so-called "pindown report" into abuse in children's homes in Staffordshire. This detailed horrific abuse by the staff and neglect by management, and caused a national scandal. A more general inquiry into the sorry state of residential care was then commissioned, and produced equally disturbing findings, all of which played their part in the present alarm about the widespread mistreatment of children. The current attempt to improve such homes, entitled "Quality Protects", reinforces the lifelong belief of Barbara Kahan that it is essential for both children and society that they should be staffed not by people who would otherwise be stacking shelves, but by properly trained, remunerated and esteemed specialists. During her career as a children's officer, residential care became less and less popular with local authorities and voluntary agencies, which came to favour adoption or fostering (partly because they are assumed to be cheaper). But Kahan pointed out that all too often these arrangements break down, and argued that good residential care might well be better for children than a long series of disappointments in foster-homes. Yet she saw preventative work as the essence of her practice in Oxfordshire's children's department. She always tried to keep families together, which was itself unusual at a time when professional wisdom dictated that some children were better off without their families so that they could start again in adoptive homes or residential care. More recent statistics show that Kahan was right: children whose parents stay together do better at school, have fewer behavioural and mental problems, are healthier, earn more and even live longer than those whose families break up. For this reason the 1989 Children's Act gives local authorities a primary responsibility to keep families together wherever possible. Barbara Joan Langridge was born at Horsted Keynes, West Sussex, into a modest Methodist railwayman's family with a respect for education, a strong sense of social justice and a taste for Labour politics. In 1939 she won a state scholarship to Cambridge, where she read English. When she graduated she switched to the London School of Economics (billeted in Cambridge during the war) to earn her social science diploma. She worked as a factory inspector before finding her métier as a children's officer, first in Dudley from 1948, where she opened the authority's first children's home, and then in Oxfordshire from 1950 to 1970. She abolished corporal punishment in Oxfordshire homes in 1951, and pioneered imaginative fostering schemes. Kahan herself had a deep rich voice which must have been immensely reassuring to a nervous child. When she became engaged to the child psychiatrist Vladimir Kahan, who had been born in London of a Polish-Latvian shipping family, he took her as a pillion passenger on an extended motorbike tour of France, to prove her mettle. She must have passed the test, for they were married in 1955. Kahan was one of those who urged that children in trouble were not depraved but deprived, and she pushed for the Children and Young Persons Act of 1969, which instituted the welfare model of help rather than punishment. As delinquency rates have risen, this philosophy has come in for much criticism - culminating in John Major's petulant remark "society needs to condemn a little more and understand a little less" - but Kahan remained an unabashed liberal. She also lobbied for the replacement of approved schools or Borstals by the less prison-like residential community schools. In the 1960s she campaigned with the Association of Children's Officers to bring together what were then three separate operations - the children's, mental health and welfare (old people) departments - so that for people in trouble there would be "one door on which to knock". This was done with the creation of local social services departments in 1970. It turned out, however, to be a mixed blessing, because specialised training tended to be replaced by a bit of one thing and a bit of another, topped up with a dose of sociology. Kahan came to feel that the skills of childcare workers had been lost in these all-purpose agencies, and that too few people were dedicated to the needs of children. As a manager she knew how to bring on gifted staff, many of whom went on to direct social services departments. Her relentless defence of her own department's interests in Oxfordshire had not always been popular, and probably denied her the chance to become the county's first director of social services. But she was appointed deputy chief inspector of the Home Office's children's department in 1970. The following year she became assistant director of what was then the social work service at the Department of Health and Social Security. Retiring from that in 1980, Kahan became director of the charitably funded Gatsby Project. At the time only 20 per cent of those caring for the 30,000 children then in residential care had had any training at all. The Gatsby Project instigated long-distance training for residential childcare staff, the most undervalued group of social care workers. It was so successful that in 1991 it was taken over by the Open University, although even now less than half of those in such homes have been trained. The medium was new, but Kahan had long promoted the idea of better training for residential staff to develop specialist skills and enhance their standing. Barbara Kahan was a member of the Finer committee on single-parent families, 1969- 73, and a professional adviser to the Commons select committee on social services, 1983-90. From 1985 to 1994 she chaired the National Children's Bureau and she was its vice-president at the time of her death. As well as the pindown report, she published Childcare Research, Policy and Practice in 1989 and Growing Up in Groups in 1994. She was appointed OBE in 1990. She had a gargantuan appetite for work, but enjoyed many other things too, and was amusing and provocative company, as eager to swap gossip and argue as she was to discuss the latest novels. She and her husband had a great love of music and had two grand pianos end to end in their drawing room, on which to play duets. Her husband died in 1981. Money from her estate is being used to establish a trust to support children in care or leaving care.
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