Michael Townsend
31st May 1938 – 18th January 2021
Former Treasurer of BASPCAN

Mike lived, worked and played in the Midlands.

He attended the King Edward’s Grammar School in Aston, close to Aston Villa football ground, where he attended matches and trained as a referee.

Leaving school aged 16 years, he started working for Birmingham City Children’s Services Department before being one of the last to undertake National Service in the Royal Army Pay Corps.

He then returned to work for Birmingham City Social Services, went to Birmingham University and qualified as a social worker in 1964. After a period with the charity Scope working in the Midlands and Wales, he became a child protection social worker with Birmingham City Council.

Thereafter, he spent his working life dedicated to the protection of children.

Mike met his wife Mary whilst they both worked for Birmingham City Council and they married in 1965. Their daughter, Alison, was born in 1973.

While she was young Mike was seconded to the Caribbean to set up education and youth work programmes, returning to children’s social services where he became an area manager.

Mike gained a reputation for pursuing children' interests with no compromises and was asked to act as an advisor for the setting up of Childline.

He often found promoting the paramountcy of the welfare of children within the bureaucracy of public services and tolerance of poor professional standards difficult. In 1989 he retired early from Birmingham social services and became a Guardian ad Litem acting for children in care proceedings and adoption across the Midlands area. He quickly gained the confidence and respect of judges and other professionals who relied on his judgments.

In the early 1980s, BASPCAN was a fledgling organisation with little resources but an enthusiastic team of professionals from across agencies with a mission to improve standards of practice in interagency and interprofessional child protection work. It was the only national charitable child protection member association and had a multidisciplinary membership.

This was attractive to Mike and he was an early member, helping to establish a Branch in the West Midlands and acting as its representative on the National Executive Committee (the trustees). 

He was elected to act as National Treasurer and it was in this role that he contributed most to the stability, security and development of the Association.

 

The Association had no paid staff and the Committee members were responsible for the administration of the organisation and planning and supporting events It involved a huge amount of personal time.

During his period as Treasurer an application to government to fund an office in York and a staff member was successful and the risky steps of organising national training events, Congresses and establishing a peer reviewed professional journal were taken.

All this increased the financial complexities and without the commitment and professionalism of Mike as Treasurer it would have been easy to slip into financial chaos. Chairs, officers and trustees benefited greatly from his reliability and knowledge.

He made a huge contribution to the security, stability and reputation of the Association.

The social activities also benefitted from Mike’s hobbies and interests and included accounts of his support for wildlife, bird watching, folk music, steam railways, politics and rugby.

In her Eulogy read out at Mike’s service Alison included:

 

“Dad was a huge influence in my life and always taught me right from wrong.

Many friends have commented what a lovely, close relationship I had with my parents and many said what a kind, caring man Dad was, which is very true.

Dad will be missed by many people, his family, friends and neighbours. I know that I have many fantastic memories to reflect upon when I think of Dad.

During his working life he helped so many children and families and was well respected for his dedication to his work.”

Sadly, Mary died in 2017 after an illness. Mike died in hospital a short time after contracting Covid-19. His service took place at Stourbridge Crematorium on Tuesday 23rd February 2021 at 2:10 pm with on-line streaming.

A recording can be viewed until the end of Monday 22nd March 2021 on www.obitus.com with user name Dira1890 and password 184228.

A Michael Townsend's Tribute Website has also been set up and can be viewed at michaeltownsend.muchloved.com Thoughts may be left and donations made to Worcester Wildlife Trust.

This extract from a poem by Henry Scott Holland has been posted on the website:

I am I and you are you, whatever we were to each other that we still are.

Speak to me in the easy way which you always used.

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?

Life means all that it ever meant; it is the same as it ever was.

Former Chairs, Trustees and Members of the Association have been keen to contribute to this Obituary:

Margaret Lynch – Chair 1989-1992

My main memory of Mike is in his role as Treasurer when I became Chair in 1989. A long term BASPCAN supporter and active member he made an ideal treasurer and I greatly appreciated his expertise and advice. He was one of the long-term supporters of the organisation giving generously of his time and expertise.

David Spicer – Chair 1992 – 1996

I met Mike when I joined the National Executive Committee in the 1980s. He was Treasurer. I was struck by his professionalism, knowledge of child protection and his reliability. I was relieved that the finances were in such good hands given that Trustees then had no limited liability. He guided us through the financial complexities of a charitable membership association with good humour.

When I was elected Chair in 1992, I got to know him much better. It was reassuring that the finances were so well managed and informed by a deep knowledge of child protection, particularly as we began to employ staff, manage an office, develop a programme of national events and triennial Congresses (organised entirely in-house) and establish Child Abuse Review. 

He may have had sleepless nights but I did not need to. His quiet, confident manner and can-do approach was just what the Association needed at a crucial time in its development.

Mike had a keen sense of humour, was very knowledgeable and a really excellent dinner companion as we grabbed late night (early morning) dinners after a series of busy BASPCAN meetings.

He retired from the Association, leaving it in an excellent financial position with over £100,000 in reserves.

We kept in touch and after our respective retirements from employment have enjoyed lunches with Paul Tudor during which his memory for people and events has been impressive.

I shall miss Mike and his humour and friendship hugely.

Gill Ruane - Trustee - 1980s and 1990s

This is really sad news about Mike. He was a lovely man, always cheerful and kind and a great asset to BASPCAN for many a year. I was a National Executive Committee member when Mike was Treasurer for the mid-1980s to mid-1990s.

He represented the West Midlands Branch whilst I was East Midlands. I remember him always with a smile and a calming influence on the Board whatever was going on and whatever he thought of it!

A kind, thoughtful, capable and valued colleague who gave his time and knowledge generously and who is remembered fondly. 

George L Livingstone - Chair 1999 – 2001

Mike was treasurer of BASPCAN when I joined the National Executive Committee as a Trustee at the beginning of the 1990s.

I have two abiding memories of Mike, firstly his dedication to the role of Treasurer and to the aims of the organisation and to creating a safe world for Children and Young people to live in, a world free of exploitation and risk.

My second memory is one which has nothing to do with protecting Children.

I along with Mike and another Trustee were in Manchester dealing with our account manager at the bank. Mike indicated that he would take us for lunch and it would be the best we had ever had!

He introduced us to a certain brand of fried chicken which we ate sitting in the square in front of the bank – a delight which had not then reached the Highlands of Scotland where I lived and worked. I still smile today when I remember.

Mike gave a great part of his life to working on behalf of Children and Young People and I was honoured to be part of that along with him.

Jean Price – Chair 1996-1999

I came across Mike when I first joined BASPCAN’s National Executive Committee. I was very new to the running of the organisation and the extent of its activities.

From encouraging frontline workers, providing training and keeping them up to date with new developments and government advice for practice, to advising Government bodies on what was needed in practice at the front line and how to shape future services - in all of these activities I found Mike to be immensely knowledgeable.

 

He quietly kept the committee grounded and broadened their thinking and awareness of multidisciplinary working and what was needed to shape and support services at all levels.

This was always done in a gentle and supportive way. He was a kind man. He will be missed.

Paul Tudor – West Midlands Branch 1970s onwards

I first met Mike in the late 1970s / early 1980s in the context of managing child abuse and child protection. I had opened the NSPCC Special Unit in Coventry and Mike was a senior manager in Birmingham Social Services with the CP Advisors, all BASPCAN members, reporting to him.

The West Midlands Branch of BASPCAN was an active one, with a programme of seminars. I was actively involved with this and I remember Mike being very supportive and he was actively involved at a national level, with colleagues such as John Pickett and David Spicer. So, our paths crossed quite a lot in this context.

After leaving Birmingham Social Services, Mike became a Guardian ad Litem, remaining an independent/self-employed Guardian after the inception of CAFCASS.  I know he really enjoyed this work and he was highly regarded in the Midlands area.

We started meeting up for pub lunches and had very interesting exchanges about our professional work (I was undertaking Serious Case Reviews). We also met up with John Pickett several times.

Mike was very fond of rugby (and a particular supporter of Northampton Saints) and we went to some matches. He was a keen birdwatcher over many years, building holidays around birdwatching and going out on field trips. I have lovely memories of the day he took me and a mutual friend to Slimbridge Wetland Centre.

I am experiencing Mike’s death as a very sad loss. He was a very fine man, dedicated to the highest standards of child protection work, as evidenced by his considerable contribution to BASPCAN as well as in his own work.

Like all of us, I’m going to miss him significantly.

David Spicer

28 February 2021