Tributes to David Henderson from SSRG and other colleagues

We are very sad to announce  that David Henderson died on Tuesday 21st August. David was a member of the Social Services Research Unit (SSRG)  Executive Committee for over 25 years, undertaking roles of Treasurer, Events Coordinator and Newsletter editor. He became an absolute stalwart of the group, organising and running all our events and ‘editing’ the Newsletter, even after retiring from the Committee and SSRG had merged with LARIA. This actually meant pulling most of the content together, with little help from the rest of us. The newsletter was consistently voted as one of the most important benefits of SSRG, and helped the group keep going. Our thoughts are with David’s family, and many of David’s SSRG colleagues have paid tribute to him, which we present here. If you want to add your own tribute, please comment below.


Martin Stevens – SSRG-in-LARIA chair;  Senior Research Fellow, King’s College London.

I first met David in 1994, when I joined the SSRG Executive Committee when he was already a very long-established member. Through the years, when I chaired SSRG, David was a great support to me and SSRG, and he certainly helped extend the life of the group. He had very strong views about the importance of using research in practice and always wanted to cut to key issues (often when I was waffling or dithering as chair!). David was unfailingly kind, warm, and friendly, very much enjoying the social side of work, as has been noted in many of the tributes. I will miss him.

Dr John Woolham, SSRG-in-LARIA vice-chair; Senior Research Fellow, King’s College London.

I have lost a friend and esteemed colleague.

I got to know David when I became a member of SSRG’s EC several years ago. We collaborated on organising a conference on personalisation during my time at Coventry University and was hugely impressed by his attention to detail, and the care he put into making sure we got all the details right.

Others have drawn attention to the work David did to promote research evidence in social work and practice settings. He was passionate about this, and the social care community – people working in both operational and academic settings – have lost someone with huge commitment. Sadly, his work in this area never really got properly acknowledged because he was so self-effacing about everything he did. You did, though, always knew where you stood with him.  He was never afraid to get stuck in, and to speak truth to power and challenge lazy thinking.

The other things I had in common with David was a taste for real ale and an interest in music. David had a considerable knowledge of music – particularly folk music – and I know that in retirement he had been looking forward to learning how to play some of the musical instruments he had acquired. We also found, fairly recently, that we also appeared to have gravitated to the same parts of Scotland for family holidays.

It seems so unfair that someone with so much to offer so many people should have their life cut short, and I will miss him, greatly.

Paul Hambleton, SSRG-in LARIA secretary

Lots of good memories of well organised meetings and quiet pints afterwards! We all know how much SSRG depended on David’s assiduous work on our publications – great cartoons – and national meetings. He was equally a mainstay for Scottish Branch, always glad to visit and organising our meetings for several years, maintaining a solid programme when Committee members were finding it difficult to devote the time to events. As the market changed from informal gatherings of colleagues to professionally presented and organised events, David was able to take us successfully to that level.

David’s kindness was a trademark, he heard my son Stephen was keen to learn the guitar when he was about 13 and recommended a good book for self-learning. On his next visit to Scotland he brought up a guitar which he lent us, and the book he’d mentioned…

In relation to EC meetings, it wasn’t unusual to get a call a couple of days before with details of a special bottle of whisky which could only be bought in the airport….

What I’ll miss most is the important mix of social contact with the business, which David knew was a key part of national conferences. Those quizzes were a classic – quite highbrow but lots of music and football too. Judged just right for the audience…

Patricia Walker, SSRG-in-LARIA Treasurer; Former Secretary and Long-Term EC Member

David will be a great loss to SSRG,  I was always impressed at how cheerful he kept through the arranging, and then the running, of so many SSRG annual workshops and other day events. There must have been times of great frustration, or when it seemed that things were not going to work out, but he never looked perturbed and was always cheerful.  I also remember many happy evenings in Wetherspoons [or equivalent local] spent in discussion of  SSRG business before or after an event.  I am sure he will also be a great loss to his family, he was so proud of them sending me lovely pictures of family weddings and his young granddaughter.  My thoughts are with them at this sad time.

Tania Townsend – SSRG-in-LARIA member

David was a king to me in every sense. I met him at my first SSRG event. I asked a challenging question to the panel. He came up to me afterwards and asked me in the charming way he had to be on the SSRG Children’s Standing Committee.

He was like my fatherly papa bear. I will never forget:

  • How he gave me the confidence to be a leader
  • His chuckle at my excitement to travel up north (Birmingham)
  • How he made me giggle as he grew to (finally) embrace technology
  • The ways he taught me to be passionate and protective to stay true the values of what we do in the public sector, particularly social care
  • His adoration for whisky – encouraged by his partner in crime, Colin
  • His pride when James got married and his connection to Scotland
  • His unconditional kindness

It is rare to find many people like David. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to know and share experiences with him.

Estelle Buscombe – SSRG-in-LARIA member

I think David was the first person from SSRG that I met – at one of the many events he organised. He was always friendly and welcoming, which was great as I think it was the first work conference I had been to. Always a smile and chat for everyone, even though he was always rushing around as there was so much to do. I think he was also instrumental in me joining the EC.

And I liked his quizzes! I remember joining in at those at the Annual Workshop during our formal night, accompanied by wine, and more latterly in the newsletters. When I left my job at Sefton earlier this year, I was under instruction to forward them on to a previous colleague as he used to love to do the quizzes each Friday afternoon!  It must have taken a lot of time and effort to compile them, as some questions were always very topical, and there was a good mixture of hard questions and ones the rest of us could answer! But it was very David, spending a lot of time to get things done right. Hence, he never felt like he had retired to me – which now seems a shame as I know he liked to travel and I enjoyed hearing him talk about places he had been to. That is what retirement is meant for, isn’t it! A reminder for us all that we should make the most of our time.

Another thing I will remember David for – He always knew where we could get a good drink and food! Wherever our meetings were, David knew – especially curry houses and a decent pub! That is how I picture him – sitting with friends with a drink, chatting away to everyone with a smile on his face. I was so sorry to hear the news, but I hope this gives some idea of how fondly he was thought of and how we appreciated what he did – for SSRG especially.

Alan Bunting – former SSRG Treasurer

I think for SSRG David’s contribution was immense, he organised and networked so magnificently, yet he never wanted the spotlight, always content to be in the background and not up front.  He had a great sense of humour and that cheeky smile and great laugh. If David said he would do something it was done, on time and to the highest standards.

I will always remember being with David, Colin and Brian Mc and having a few drinks after events to relax. We also had some good trips on holiday, to ‘sunny Scotland, one of David’s favourite places. He was a big Middlesbrough fan and loved football too.

Professor Jill Manthorpe, Former SSRG  Vice-Chair and Research Policy and Practice Editor; Director Social Care Workforce Research Unit

David was well regarded by the social services research community, where his commitment to an informative and entertaining SSRG Bulletin made it highly readable and enjoyable. David was great company and will be sorely missed. Our send our great sympathy to his  family  and friends.

Gerallt Evans-Hughes – LARIA Events Chair

He will be sorely missed by all of us that had the privilege to meet and to know him both as a friend and as colleague. I think it is only right and proper that we acknowledge his contribution and dedication to both the SSRG as well as to LARIA

Professor Martin Knapp – Director School for Social Care Research

He was an amazing SSRG ‘servant/advocate’, and  unfailingly enthusiastic.

Anji Mehta School for Social Care Research

He was great guy and always so engaging about research/practice.


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