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The BSG Outstanding Achievement Award 2013

Professor Bleddyn Davies

The award is made annually to an individual or organisation that, in the opinion of the judges, has made a significant and lasting contribution to British Social Gerontology. In particular, the award is made to an individual or organisation that has made a significant impact on the policy process and through this helped improve the quality of life of older people.

As chair of the panel I was delighted to announce the winner of the 2013 award Prof Bleddyn Davies.

Bleddyn has a long distinguished and continuing career in the fields of social gerontology and social policy. It is impossible in a short introduction to do justice to the reach, depth and impact of Bleddyn’s. (His own assessment of it runs to 70 pages). There are numerous books – more than 20 with landmark status. There are over 150 scholarly papers.

He has held a large number of key government advisory roles – including to two pillars of UK post-war social democracy, Richard Crossman and Anthony Crosland. There are many other high level policy roles e.g. with the Seebohm, Plowden, Layfield committees and the Labour Party. There are honours – an OBE, an honorary doctorate and a lifetime achievement award from the American Public Health Association.

In many and various lasting ways Bleddyn has contributed substantially to social policies which improve the life of older people – a stipulation for this award. In doing so Bleddyn is probably best known as Professor of Social Policy at the University of Kent and founder director of the PSSRU – a post he held for very nearly 3 decades. For the last 10 years he has been emeritus professor at LSE and Kent and Professorial Research Fellow in Oxford.

Establishing the PSSRU and its LSE and Manchester branches represent a massive contribution to social care research, leading to major advances in knowledge policy and practice concerning social care and the support of older people.  But Bleddyn has done much more, including helping to build capacity among countless early career researchers (a large group of whom have gone on to become professors).

He has been a long term staunch supporter of the BSG, encouraging PSSRU colleagues to join and to present their work at the annual conferences.

My own appreciation and respect for Bleddeyn’s research began nearly 40 years ago when I read two of his books published in 1968 and 1972 respectively– Social Needs and Resources and Variations in Services for the Aged – both recommended by Peter Townsend (no higher recommendation I think). I still recall being overawed by their complexity and the enormous detail and the painstaking data trawling and analyses in those books. They were impressive and daunting, definitely not easy reads and clearly major works of social policy. While they were not my personal cup of tea, I valued them as highly significant contributions to social policy. Also I thought then, and still do, how fortunate it is that a social researcher and statistician as skilfully accomplished and tenacious as Bleddyn had chosen to take on the essential work of data analysis and theory building on the topic of territorial justice. (What has become known colloquially as the post-code lottery).

This path breaking research could have been enough for one distinguished career, but he went on to also grapple with the knotty social policy dilemma of universalism vs. selectivity, and then application of econometric models to social care in the production of welfare thesis.

In summary then, there is no question that Bleddyn Davies is eminently worthy of the highest award the BSG can bestow. Not surprisingly the judges were both instant and unanimous in selecting him.

Alan Walker