It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the death of Kevin Chettle. As well as honouring his memory, we need also to recognise the many innovative ways in which he enabled the Centre for Social Work to establish a reputation in the field of service user involvement in social work.
As a man with learning disabilities Kevin confronted and overcame many hurdles. As a child he had been incarcerated in Balderton Hospital; he was there for 20 years – on his ‘escape’ he became active in the nascent movement promoting the involvement of service users in the development of services that directly affected them. He became the co-director of one of the most influential service user –led organisations, Advocacy in Action, and was actively involved as a trainer and educator. He was particularly concerned to highlight the mistreatment of children at the hospital. In addition he became renowned as an artist, with his sequence of pictures describing his time in Balderton and subsequent liberation achieving international prominence.
His close involvement with The Centre for Social Work started in 1990 with the joint delivery of a teaching session. The success of this innovative approach led to more developments over subsequent years, including the establishment of an assessed taught module, the judgement of students’ readiness to practise and the admission of students to the course. Kevin was also closely involved in the planning for both the DipSW and the new social work degree. In all of these developments the University of Nottingham was at the forefront of educational initiatives on a national level. His appointment as a Visiting Lecturer in 1998 was another first; it is entirely typical of the man that he rejected an initial offer of being a Special Lecturer because of the negative connotations of the word ‘special’ when applied to anybody with a learning disability. In another first he was part of the editorial collective that produced a unique service-user led edition of the journal Social Work Education in 2006 where his art featured on the cover. He retired in 2012.
As a person Kevin was a big and enthusiastic presence who enlivened any gathering. What was perhaps most remarkable was the fact that he carried no bitterness despite the many terrible experiences of his early life. I was lucky enough to work alongside him for most of the time I was employed at the University. He was a warm, wise and trusted collaborator over these many years; in common with all his colleagues I miss him greatly.
Honorary Associate Professor of Social Work
Posted on Thursday 28th May 2020