Promoting systemic thinking, and therapeutic and relationship based approaches in social work


Promoting systemic thinking, and therapeutic and relationship-based approaches in Social Work

Centre for Social work Practice

Remembering Andrew Cooper

Andrew Cooper

An invitation to a memorial workshop and call for appreciative reviews to celebrate the life of

Professor Andrew Cooper

As you may be aware, Professor Andrew Cooper sadly died in July 2023. Andrew has been a much loved and respected presence in the field of UK social work over several decades. His thinking, writing and organisational development traverses psychotherapeutic social work practice, education, literature, and research.  

To celebrate and commemorate Andrew’s work we welcome appreciative reviews of the impact of his thoughts and writings on your own thinking and /or professional life and times.

We envisage two forums for such contributions. The first of these is a memorial workshop to be held at the Tavistock Centre on Friday, 26th July 2024 from 2-5pm. We hope that a selection of the contributions we receive will be read by you, the author, at this event to commemorate and share our connections to Andrew’s work. If you would like to attend the event, please let us know by booking (free) here:

The second is for an edited selection of appreciative comments to be included in a Special Issue of the Journal of Social Work Practice to be published in Winter 2024 or in 2025. This issue will also contain papers that Andrew has written for the Journal (between the years 1985 and 2016) as well as at least one of Andrew’s recent, previously unpublished papers.

If you would like to contribute an appreciative review to the workshop and/or to the Special Issue of the JSWP please let us know by emailing one or all of us at the addresses below by Friday March 15th, 2024.

Next, please will you write your contribution in 200-500 words. The accompanying list of papers may serve as a prompt for your focus on one of the many areas of work that Andrew wrote about. We see these as including, though not confined to:  Anti-racism, equality, and diversity; Child protection social work; Social policy; and Practice-near research.   Should you decide to include reference to any clinical work, remember, as usual, to pay due heed to principles of confidentiality.

We very much look forward to hearing from you.

Please send your written contribution by May 15th 2024 to:

(Prof) Gillian Ruch or (Associate Prof) Helen Hingley-Jones or (Ms) Clare Parkinson

Andrew Cooper- articles published in Journal of Social Work Practice

(GAPS members can access these papers by logging in through the GAPS website and following the Members Journal Access link)

Andrew Cooper & Steven Trevillion (1985) Survival and change: Social work with angry men, Journal of Social Work Practice, 2:1, 41-51, DOI: 10.1080/02650538508414946. Published online 2008.

Andrew Cooper (1989) Getting Started: Psychodynamics, Racism and Anti-Racism, Journal of Social Work Practice, 3:4, 15-27, DOI: 10.1080/0265053890841339.  Published online 2008.

Andrew Cooper (1992) Anxiety and child protection work in two national systems, Journal of Social Work Practice, 6:2, 117-128, DOI: 10.1080/02650539208413494.  Published online 2008.

Andrew Cooper (1996) Psychoanalysis and the politics of organisational theory, Journal of Social Work Practice, 10:2, 137-145, DOI: 10.1080/02650539608415109.  Published online 2008.

Dick Blackwell & Andrew Cooper (1997) A response to ‘psychoanalysis and the politics of organisational theory’, Journal of Social Work Practice, 11:1, 41-45, DOI: 10.1080/02650539708414917  .  Published 2008 online, response written by Dick Blackwell.

Andrew Cooper (1997) Psychoanalysis And The Public Sphere 10th Annual Conference: ‘The State Psychoanalysis Is In’, Journal of Social Work Practice, 11:1, 47-49, DOI: 10.1080/02650539708414918. Published in 2008.

Andrew Cooper (1997) Thinking the unthinkable: ‘white liberal’ defences against understanding in anti-racist training, Journal of Social Work Practice, 11:2, 127-137, DOI: 10.1080/02650539708415120.  Published online 2008.

Andrew Cooper (1998) The dynamics of adoption: Personal and social perspectives: Papers from a seminar organised by the Centre for Adoption and Identity Studies, December 1997, Journal of Social Work Practice, 12:1, 7-8, DOI: 10.1080/02650539808415125.

Andrew Cooper & Liz Webb (1999) Out of the maze: Permanency planning in a postmodern world, Journal of Social Work Practice, 13:2, 119-134, DOI: 10.1080/026505399103359. Published online 2010.

Andrew Cooper (2002) Keeping our heads: Preserving therapeutic values in a time of change, Journal of Social Work Practice, 16:1, 7-13, DOI: 10.1080/02650530220134700. Published online 2010.

Andrew Cooper & Lynn Froggett (2002) Editorial, , 16:1, 5-6, DOI: 10.1080/02650530220134692.

Andrew Cooper (2009) Hearing the grass grow: Emotional and epistemological challenges of practice-near research, Journal of Social Work Practice, 23:4, 429-442, DOI: 10.1080/02650530903374960.

Andrew Cooper (2014) A Short Psychosocial History of British Child Abuse and Protection: Case Studies in Problems of Mourning in the Public Sphere, Journal of Social Work Practice, 28:3, 271-285, DOI: 10.1080/02650533.2014.927842.

Andrew Cooper & Andrew Whittaker (2014) History as tragedy, never as farce: tracing the long cultural narrative of child protection in England, Journal of Social Work Practice, 28:3, 251-266, DOI: 10.1080/02650533.2014.932276

Andrew Cooper (2016) A Good Death?, Journal of Social Work Practice, 30:2, 121-127, DOI: 10.1080/02650533.2016.1168384

Remembering Andrew Cooper 

‘Human lives extend beyond the horizon of another’s knowledge, and when they die that all goes with them – complex, mysterious and not ours to know.’  So writes the Reverend Richard Coles in today’s Sunday Times: a reflection which echoes my own, I’m sure not uncommon, feeling,  as I read the account of Andrew’s life emailed to his friends and colleagues and students past and present; and heard reports of what was said about him at his funeral, which sadly I couldn’t attend.  A feeling of- ‘I wish I’d known that about him’; and ‘I wish I could ask him about that.’

So this short tribute to him is written very much in the shadow of knowing what a partial relationship I and perhaps many others who belonged to the Centre for SWP were able (and privileged) to enjoy with Andrew; and that what is described here is only one aspect of a rich and varied professional and personal life.

As all who knew him will know, Andrew believed passionately in the central importance of relationships in social work practice, seeing at the heart of social work the provision of a relationship to help people (children, young people and adults) negotiate painful transitions and decisions in their lives.  He was through most of his professional life much exercised by the way in which the increasingly bureaucratic and mechanical contemporary climate eroded and undermined this.  I first met him in the early years of this century, when I had just taken up the chair of social work at Nottingham University, and he was taking the equivalent lead at the Tavistock clinic.  He approached a number of us in academic and clinical social work whom he knew to be sympathetic to his concerns, and suggested that we might work together to formulate and articulate ideas which would  provide a catalyst for sustaining and developing relationship based practice and  support and encouragement in this to practising social workers. From these early beginnings, there emerged the Centre for Social Work Practice, chaired initially by Olive Stevenson and later by me, with Andrew in the pivotal role of Director.

Throughout its existence (first established in 2005, it became a charity in 2013, and closed at the end of 2020, transferring its remaining funds to the Legacy Fund), Andrew provided much of the intellectual heft to its work, and was key to the programme of conferences and workshops, and innovative projects in social work agencies which the centre supported.  His commitment to ‘the project’ was remarkable and unwavering and continued despite the many demands on his time, and, it must be said, an increasingly arid context in which to practice. Social work was the better for having him, owes much to him, and is the poorer for being without him now.

Kate Wilson

August 5 2023

Centre for Social Work Practice Legacy Fund

The legacy fund was launched on 9th November 2021... find out more...

Practice Development Bursaries

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