My dad, Paddy Barry, who has died aged 84, had a long career as a social worker, working mainly with children. From 1974 to 1997 he was the principal officer for children’s residential and day care for Wandsworth council, in south-west London, which in those days ran more than 25 children’s homes across the borough.
Paddy always viewed the care system from the perspective of the child, working hard to ensure that children’s life chances would be improved by being in care. He remained in touch for decades with young people whom he had placed with foster families.
Born in Limerick in Ireland, Paddy was the sixth of eight children of Una (nee Fox) and Paddy Barry, who worked in the family skin and hide business, and later opened a bookmakers. He was educated by the Jesuits, at Crescent college in the city, and then tried his vocation as what he would describe as a “teenage monk in Rome”. He moved to the UK, first training as an accountant and then going to Plater College in Oxford to study politics and economics, after realising his interests lay with people rather than finance.
He started his social work career in the London borough of Hammersmith, in residential work in hostels for adolescent boys and in fieldwork. While in Hammersmith he met Ann Ashton, also a social worker, and they married in 1970; she later became a primary headteacher. Paddy qualified as a child care officer and worked in Bedford, where he also trained in broader aspects of social work. He took up his post with Wandsworth in 1974 and our family – which now included me and my sister, Ruth – settled in Wimbledon.
In retirement Paddy continued to be involved in social care; he was a trustee of charities including the Crusade of Rescue, St Michael’s Fellowship and Nomntu, a small charity supporting communities in the Eastern Cape in South Africa set up by his good friends Chris and Jane Devereux. He also took up consultancy work inspecting children’s homes.
He became involved with developing safeguarding procedures for the Roman Catholic diocese of Southwark, the Jesuits and for the Sacred Heart parish in Wimbledon. He was active in that parish, which in the 1970s and 80s was a remarkable community, committed to progressive Catholicism and social justice.
My dad was sociable, funny and irreverent. He loved good food and drink and company, and was a great raconteur. He had a fondness for all kinds of sport, but in particular rugby and golf, participating in an enthusiastic rather than skilful way. He also loved horse racing: his brother Frank was a trainer of horses. In his final years he took up croquet.
He enjoyed travel, and in retirement frequently spent time in Catalonia with his daughter and her family. He especially loved spending time with his “reprobate” grandchildren, as he called them, Natasha, Poppy, Erin and Caitlin.
Paddy is survived by Ann, Ruth and me, by his four grandchildren, and by his sisters Ann, Una and Jean.