Contact centre renamed after Nottingham’s ‘champion’ of children

A Radford contact centre was today renamed ‘Helen’s Place’ in recognition of a senior officer at the City Council who died last year from Covid.

Helen Blackman, who was the authority’s Director of Children’s Integrated Services, had been a strong advocate of the Garden Street facility. She died in March 2021.

The centre, which supports local families, underwent a recent renovation which Ms Blackman had been instrumental in bringing about before she fell ill.  

At a small ceremony this morning involving her family, it was formally renamed in her memory by Councillor Cheryl Barnard, Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People.  

Ms Blackman was determined that the contact centre would always be a welcoming and friendly place for children and young people to enjoy time with their families.

Councillor Barnard said: “Helen cared passionately about the experiences of our children in care. She dedicated her career and her energies to improving outcomes for young people in Nottingham. Helen was a brilliant champion of children and a strong role model for her colleagues.   

“It is really important to us that her legacy lives on and we felt there was no better way to do this than naming the contact service after her. This is a fitting tribute to Helen as she was instrumental in driving forward the renovations which have taken place over the past few years.”

Councillor David Mellen, Leader of Nottingham City Council, worked closely with Ms Blackman during his years as Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People.

He attended the unveiling today and said: “Helen was clearly born to work with children. She had a natural warmth and empathy which shone through in her tireless efforts, and nothing was more important to her than the welfare and life chances of young people in Nottingham.

“Naming in her memory a contact centre so close to her heart, and one which she worked hard to refurbish, is a fitting tribute to all that she did for children’s services in the city.”

Ms Blackman, aged 54 and who lived in Bulwell, first qualified as a social worker in 1989. She studied at Nottingham Trent University and spent almost a decade working for Nottinghamshire County Council, specialising in child protection, children in care and adoption services.

In 1998, she moved to Nottingham City Council where she took on a series of management roles before becoming Head of Neighbourhood Fieldwork in 2008. In 2013, she was appointed Director of Children’s Integrated Services where she had overall responsibility for children and young people in the city.

Catherine Underwood, Corporate Director for People, said: “Helen was an incredibly dedicated colleague and a true friend to many at the Council and beyond.

“She was a passionate champion for children and young people and an inspirational social work leader, both locally and nationally. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to honour her this way and it was special to share that moment with her family.”

The ceremony this morning was attended by Ms Blackman’s husband Kevin Campbell, her children Stephan, Raia and Ella, her brother Gavin and her parents, Felicity and Pete.

Mr Campbell said: “We’re really grateful that Helen has been recognised in this way and I feel that it’s a fitting legacy to her work over many years. The gesture is appreciated by our family and, I’m sure, staff at the contact centre as well.

“Helen believed very strongly in supporting families across Nottingham and the wider area, and this centre really embodies what she tried to achieve for children in the city.”

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