Touching tribute to Nottingham council worker who died from Covid

By Joel Moore

A family contact centre in Nottingham has been renamed as a tribute to a council worker who died from Covid last year.

Garden Street Contact Centre in Radford has had its name changed to 'Helen's Place' in recognition of Helen Blackman, who died of the virus in March 2021.

The 54-year-old, who lived in Bulwell, was director of children’s integrated services at Nottingham City Council and was described as "dedicated" and a "champion of children" by former colleagues.

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 on Monday, January 10 involving her family, it was formally renamed in her memory by councillor Cheryl Barnard, portfolio holder for children and young people.

Her husband, Kevin Campbell, said it was a "fitting legacy" for her work over the years.

"The gesture is appreciated by our family and, I’m sure, staff at the contact centre as well," he said.

“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.”

The ceremony was also attended by her children Stephan, Raia and Ella, her brother Gavin and her parents, Felicity and Pete.

Cllr 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.”

Ms Blackman 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 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.

Cllr David Mellen, leader of city council, who previously worked closely with Ms Blackman, added: “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.”

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