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‘Inspirational’ academic praised after daughter-in-law becomes social worker

A newly qualified social worker is helping vulnerable children thanks to her inspirational father-in-law, who taught thousands about the profession before his death aged 55.

When Alice Powney-Dugdale met Dr Daryl Dugdale he was already living with terminal lung cancer.

But in the 18 months she knew him, Dr Dugdale made a lasting impression – as he had done with so many others.

Alice Powney-Dugdale (far right) with her husband Zak and late father-in-law Daryl Dugdale and mother-in-law Tracey Close (Family handout/PA)
Alice Powney-Dugdale (far right) with her husband Zak and late father-in-law Daryl Dugdale and mother-in-law Tracey Close (Family handout/PA)

Often described as “larger than life” and “unconventional”, he was a music fanatic, a DJ and a regular at Bristol City matches.

His lifelong pursuit of social justice led him to a career in social work and eventually to programme director of the University of Bristol’s MSc in social work, where he helped train the next generation of social workers.

He died in May 2021 and a month later Mrs Powney-Dugdale was accepted on to the course he used to run.

“You could never replicate someone like Daryl. He was just such a character. It didn’t matter to Daryl where you were from or what your background was, he would always include you,” she said.

“He just had an energy he brought when he walked into a room.

“I’m not very academic and I’d never even thought about a master’s before, but he inspired me.”

Alice Powney-Dugdale is now working as a social worker at Bristol City Council (University of Bristol/PA)
Alice Powney-Dugdale is working as a social worker at Bristol City Council (University of Bristol/PA)

Dr Dugdale’s widow, Tracey Close, was a student on the same social work course in the 1990s and Mrs Powney-Dugdale’s husband, Zak Powney-Dugdale, is a youth worker.

During the course, Mrs Powney-Dugdale, who grew up in Radstock, Somerset and now lives in Bristol, learnt she was dyslexic and may have ADHD.

The 26-year-old said: “The only reason I managed to finish my dissertation is because I wanted to dedicate it to Daryl. The dedication is now framed in my office.

“As the course went on he gave me a weird ray of confidence, at times it felt like he was there.”

Mrs Powney-Dugdale is now working as a child protection social worker at Bristol City Council, where she “champions” young people and tries to be “a person they can depend on”.

She and her husband married in August 2023.

“Being dyslexic, I was never supposed do a master’s and I was never supposed to be here, so I’m so proud. Passing means so much to me,” Mrs Powney-Dugdale said.

Ms Close added: “I am so proud of Alice and what she has achieved. Both Daryl and I were chuffed when we knew Zak was going out with someone who wanted to make a difference in our world and was considering becoming a social worker.

“Both Daryl and I qualified as social workers from Bristol in the 1990s and Daryl really thought he had won the lottery when he became a teaching fellow on the course that had inspired him.

“Daryl was so happy that Alice had applied for the course and her journey through the course and working in the same office that he started as a social worker feels like he is beside us and guiding her.”