Rona Woodward was born in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, on 22 October 1964 and studied sociology at the University of Glasgow. After graduating, she worked as an information officer for the lone parents’ charity Gingerbread in the same city (1986-88) before securing a postgraduate diploma in social work at the University of Edinburgh (1990).
Forging a career in this field, Ms Woodward was employed as a social worker (childcare) at the City of Westminster in London (1990-93) before returning to her native Scotland for the rest of her life. At the City of Edinburgh Council, she served as a childcare social worker (1993-96), a criminal justice social worker (1996-98) and then later as a children’s residential social worker (2000-03). In between and in parallel with these positions, she worked as a development officer for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Edinburgh (1998-99), a research fellow in Edinburgh’s School of Law (1998-2001), a visiting lecturer in Edinburgh’s department of social work (1999-2002) and finally a lecturer in social work at Glasgow Caledonian University (2001-04).
After this slow shift from practical social work towards the academy, Ms Woodward spent the last decade of her life, from 2004, as a lecturer in social work at the University of Stirling. Long concerned about the rights of young people, and the way their problems are often exacerbated by political and media attitudes, she pursued these themes in journal articles, conference papers and a report for the Kibble Education and Care Centre titled Young People’s Experiences of, and Participation in, the Fostering Process (2009).
For Brigid Daniel, professor of social work at Stirling, Ms Woodward was “not a detached, dispassionate academic” but “humane and passionate and all the more effective for it…Rona had a clearly articulated value base, founded in the principle of social justice. She lived her life by her principles and brought these principles to her work as a social work academic and in her wider activities with the Social Work Action Network.
“Rona approached all aspects of her academic role with supreme competence, great gusto, good humour and respect for all she worked with…What is now labelled ‘participatory research’ came naturally to her, especially in her work with young people looked after away from home in specialist foster settings.”
Ms Woodward died of cancer on 8 October 2014 and is survived by her husband Gordon McLeod and daughter Suilven.