With the death of Joyce Lishman we have lost someone who had a huge impact on social work and social care practice in Scotland over several decades. Our paths crossed many times and I viewed her as a reliable friend who would be both supportive and challenging.
As the leader of the School of Applied Social Science at Robert Gordon University she played a key part in many developments aimed at improving and developing education and research with a direct impact on practice and professional standards. Not least of this was her role in securing the funding which was made available by the Scottish Executive to establish a centre of excellence for residential child care. A partnership of Strathclyde University, Robert Gordon University, Langside College, Who Cares? Scotland and Save the Children was formed and proved to be the successful bidder. As a result the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care was established to take forward the work which had begun some years earlier by the Centre for Residential Child Care at Strathclyde. Joyce was a willing leader in this endeavour, recognising the importance of a cross Scotland organisation which would bring together the different strengths, knowledge and experience of the partners. Partnerships can be difficult, but it was not so with this enterprise because of the enthusiasm and commitment each had for improving the quality of experience children and young people had in the care system. As an experienced educator and researcher Joyce recognised the positive value that sound education and training, underpinned by research, could have on every aspect of the system. In 2011, SIRCC became CELCIS – the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection.
When further funding was made available to enhance social work education in Scotland, Joyce again played a key part in forming the first governance board for the newly created Scottish Institute for Excellence Social Work Education (SIESWE) in 2003. This board brought together the nine Heads of Social Work Courses of which Joyce was Chair. This was a complex organisation which had to deal with many challenges in pursuit of its objective of bringing about transformational change to social work education. One of its achievements was establishing The Learning Exchange in 2005. This was the world’s first interactive library of digital learning resources for social work education. This was a major step and, in many ways, reflected the work Joyce had led as general editor of Research Highlights which was a means of informing practice from research evidence. In 2007 SIESWE became IRISS – the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services.
Joyce’s personal commitment to the highest standards in social work and social care practice informed all of her efforts to work alongside others to build an infrastructure of high-quality education and training underpinned by a strong research base. It is all too easy to lose sight of the transformational change which Joyce was a leading part of in Scottish Social Work education. She carried that through into being one of the early members of the Council of the Scottish Social Services Council.
She willingly brought her knowledge and expertise to a range of organisations in a voluntary capacity such as the Lloyds TSB Foundation where she also chaired the pioneering Partnership Drugs Initiative and subsequently was influential in the creation of Inspiring Scotland.
Joyce has been a major contributor to a lasting legacy of improvement and innovation which are testimony to her deep commitment to the people we serve in social work and social care. There is much to look back on and think; Joyce had a hand in that. In 2009 ADSW commissioned Edwin Morgan to write a poem – Brothers and Keepers. The final lines set out a challenge for us all:
There will never be a paradise with people like angels
Walking and singing through forests of music,
But let us have the decency of a society
That helps those who cannot help themselves.
It can be done; it must be done; so do it.
Joyce was one who did it.