Jill D’Cruz obituary

Other lives: South London youth worker and consultant who became an advocate for looked-after children

In 1969, my mother, Jill D’Cruz, who has died aged 76, began her career in community work by volunteering at the Wandsworth Council for Community Relations, working on projects in south London including Balham Law Centre and the Balham Adventure Playground Campaign. In 1974, she was one of the first to qualify from the new Community and Youth Work course at Goldsmiths’ College, London. Jill then began working with heroin users, first at the Hungerford Project (now part of the charity Turning Point) and from 1976 at Cranstoun, a therapeutic residential commune helping prepare former addicts for the return to independent living.

In 1978 she moved into detached youth work for the Inner London Education Authority, based at the Balham Family Centre. Notable achievements were the creation of girls-only youth clubs and securing funding and training for teenagers to build, set up and run their own sound system, Imperial Hi Fi. From 1986 Jill moved into a variety of residential youth projects for Wandsworth social services and the Children’s Society. After a period as a consultant for Southwark youth services, Jill’s final role was as an advocate representing looked-after children to the many and various agencies of the state they were required to deal with.

Jill D’Cruz at the Balham Family Centre in south London around 1980
Jill D’Cruz at the Balham Family Centre in south London around 1980 Photograph: None

Jill was the daughter of Marie (nee Tanner), a secretary, and Jack Rogers, a welder. She was born in Balham in dramatic circumstances in 1944, when a German V1 flying bomb exploded nearby, sending her mother into labour. Fearing that the child would not survive, her uncle Terry, a Catholic priest, baptised her on the spot, with the name Jill Ann Doodlebug Rogers (though “Doodlebug” didn’t make it into the subsequent official christening).

Jill grew up in a large Irish Catholic family, and was educated at Holy Ghost primary school in Balham and La Retraite Catholic girls’ school in Clapham – she left at 16, taking a secretarial course at the Holborn College of Commerce in central London.

School was expected to fit around domestic chores at her maternal grandma’s Balham boarding house. In an era when rooms to let could specify “no blacks, no Irish, no dogs”, the house was a haven for students from India and Africa, such as Edna Adan Ismail, the first Somali girl to qualify as a nurse-midwife, who became Somaliland’s first female foreign minister, and Daniel Anyiam, the first captain of the Nigerian national football team. In August 1955, a 16-year-old student, Trevlyn D’Cruz, arrived from India and in 1964 Jill and Trev were married at the Church of the Holy Ghost in Balham by Jill’s uncle Terry.

Jill was a great cook and host, famed for her huge family parties and her legendary prawn patties. She is survived by Trevlyn, my sister, Emma, and me, as well as five grandchildren – Jack, Rafi, Ollie, Theo and Evie – and her elder sister, Jackie.

Jaimie D'Cruz

The GuardianTramp

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