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Queen Elizabeth II: A reflection on the life and legacy of our former Royal Patron

22 September 2022

Steadfast, dependable and inspirational; the Queen’s patronage supported Family Action through some of our most challenging, and successful, times.  

Many of us mourning the loss of Her Majesty The Queen do so in intensely personal ways, with her reign providing the stable backdrop to profound changes in our own lives.

For many of us these have included things such as births, partnerships and marriages, the loss of loved ones, changes in our circumstances, the impact of world events and social change.

Family Action is no different, as the time spent under her patronage marks some of our most productive and challenging times as, in turn, the world has changed around us too.
We’d existed for nearly 100 years when the Queen assumed patronage of the charity from Queen Mary in 1953… and we’d achieved a lot during that time.

This included establishing the first Citizen’s Advice Bureau and helping to shape what we now understand as social work through developing the concept of casework and creating much of the guidance that defined it and the social worker’s role.

Yet, despite the many advances that we made over that early period of our history, our name itself shows just how much was yet to change during The Queen’s tenure as our Patron. In 1953 we were called the Family Welfare Association, having changed our name from the Charity Organisation Society ten years earlier.

Under HM The Queen’s patronage, we set about putting our developing knowledge into wider practice during the 1950s by playing an integral role in teaching new social work courses and by providing advice and practical help to immigrant families from the West Indies.

With our greater understanding and appreciation now of the tremendous challenges those families faced when they came to the UK we can only hope that FWA made a significant and positive difference to them at the time.

We got the chance to meet HM The Queen in person when she attended our centenary celebrations in 1969, giving her the chance to speak with both our staff and the families that benefitted from our services.

Our work in the years that followed the Second World War that would define the Queen’s service had taught us a great deal about the strains that traumatic events could place families under.

These experiences also helped to define new therapeutic treatments which appeared during this time, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

We seized upon these developments and, by the time the country endured the early 1970s Oil Crisis, psychoanalytic ideas were firmly embedded in our work with families, as well as those of other charities in our field, such as Family Service Units.

Our place at the forefront of implementing these new ideas was cemented, however, when we organised the first UK Family Therapy Conference in 1975.

We committed to this understanding of health and social care being interlinked when, three years later, we introduced the first social workers attached to GP’s surgeries to link up services for families.

HM The Queen once again shared in our successes as she joined us alongside her sister HRH Princess Margaret to celebrate our 125th birthday, little suspecting that some of our biggest changes yet lay just over the horizon.

Following the appointment of former social worker Helen Dent as our CEO in 1997, we merged with Family Service Units in 2006 to become the largest single provider of services to families in Britain.

We reflected this new status by changing our name to Family Action in 2008, but the name also brought a broadening of focus as we began a phase of rapid innovation and expansion.

A 2009 award for Effectiveness at the Charities Awards noted that we transformed passion and ideas into effective outcomes… but we couldn’t have known how many more of those ideas we would have over the years that followed.

Our innovative perinatal service established in 2010 was an early forerunner, providing an early intervention service for women with low-level diagnosed mental health issues or who are at risk of developing perinatal depression.

However, it was after the appointment of new CEO David Holmes CBE in 2013 that the expansion began in earnest, as we added a slew of new, innovative services over the years that followed.

These included new grant programmes, training and consultancy, expansion and innovation to existing service models such as WellFamily A+E support, FamilyLine, the National School Breakfast Programme and the adoption reunion site FamilyConnect.

Just as important was the expertise added to our charity through mergers as we added organisations such as Friendship Works, PAC-UK, BAND, Off Centre, HeadStart, and PARCS to our family of services.

It is a mark of our former monarch’s great dedication to our charity that even after HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, now HRH The Princess of Wales, formally assumed the role of our patron in 2019 the Queen would still write to us with letters of encouragement and support, demonstrating we would be forever in her thoughts.

She will forever be in ours.