David Peryer obituary

Other lives: Chair of the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering

My father, David Peryer, who has died aged 85, was a pioneering social services leader.

Born in London, he was the son of George Peryer, a clerk at Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, and his wife, Nora (nee Dinmore). David attended Leighton Park school in Reading, where he thrived on its Quaker values and music, becoming an accomplished clarinettist.

He did his National Service in the Friends Ambulance Unit, which included a formative experience in a German orphanage – it was full of starving children to whom he could offer only potatoes. He met his future wife, Dinah Eggleton, at a Quaker work camp in Bristol, and they married in 1957. She supported them both by teaching while David completed a degree in social anthropology at the London School of Economics, from where he graduated in 1958.

After four years as a borstal assistant governor in Worcestershire, in 1962 he joined Leicester University, and in 1971 Bristol University, as a lecturer in social work. In 1977 he switched to social services management, joining East Sussex county council as assistant director and then deputy director of social services, before joining Humberside as director in 1983.

From 1984 to 1988 he was chair of the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering (now CoramBAFF), while reorganising Humberside’s bureaucracy. He retired as director in 1991, becoming a consultant in the management of change.

He twice researched and co-authored national reports on workforce skills, employment trends and training for personal social services, and for five years ran a social care leadership development programme.

Though he had become a leading national expert in child care, he felt he was ignorant about social housing, and so spent time with the housing team at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He applied what he learned at Anchor Trust, at the time the largest provider of housing for the elderly, which he chaired between 1998 and 2003. In 1992 he became a trustee of MIND and was its chair from 1994 until 2002.

In 2003 he told his family he was retiring, giving him more time to work on buildings. He had learned plumbing and electrical wiring working alongside his grandfather, a London builder, and he renovated his own home and those of two of his children.

In 2009-10 he cared for Dinah, who died of multiple myeloma in April 2010. In 2013 he became a trustee director of the Retreat, a mental health care provider in York and was chair for two years. In 2016 he retired for the final time.

He shared his last years with a fellow Quaker, Lesley O’Neal, and became a valued part of the lives of her three children and grandchildren.

David is survived by Lesley and the children from his marriage to Dinah – Jonathan, Jane and me – and by four grandchildren.

Adrian Peryer

The GuardianTramp

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