Obituary: Nasa Begum, Scie’s principal adviser, adult social care
By Trish Hafford-Letchfield, Lecturer, Interprofessional Learning, Middlesex University
There have already been so many tributes to Nasa Begum whose untimely death left has left all of us shocked and saddened. Finding the right words to describe the role that Nasa played has given rise to a very long and inexhaustible list – activist, pioneer, campaigner, professional, researcher, service user, writer – but to many of us who had the privilege of knowing her personally, she was a great friend, supporter and confidante.
Nasa was a pioneer of the independent living movement and of user-led organisations, writing prolifically and leaving us seminal publications, which have been of immense value to the field.
She was the first person to publish a monograph when the Social Care Association started their series with Warwick University. Her book Towards Managing User-led Services (1994) had a major impact in providing the framework for designing more personalised and culturally appropriate services.
Nasa wrote and communicated eloquently, but took no prisoners in challenging the multiple oppressions she encountered as a black disabled woman and lifelong service user. Nasa always referred to both of her CVs, one as an experienced and competent professional in the field and the other as a service user, and the continuing gap between these parallel “careers” provided her with a driving force for change.
Nasa was very inclusive in her approach, ensuring all voices were heard. For example, she was active in establishing Powerhouse, a resource for women with learning disabilities experiencing domestic violence. In 2005, Nasa delivered the Lord Pitt Memorial Lecture, which opened up the challenge to making participation work for black and minority service users.
In her mischievous manner, Nasa sometimes wrote under a pseudonym, by combining an Asian name with those of famous Hollywood stars under which she shared more personal experiences.
As a qualified social worker, Nasa used her professional knowledge and skills and brought great energy and charisma to our understanding of user control. She had a rich career working for local authority social services, the King’s Fund, Mind and the Policy Studies Institute, where she held policy and service development roles.
She served on many significant organisations in her “voluntary role” and more recently led the government’s Transforming Social Care from within the Department of Health.
Nasa was primarily at Scie since 2003 where she was instrumental in setting up the Partners Council, developed Scie’s first comprehensive participation strategy and led work on the support needs of refugees and asylum seekers.
Those of us who were privileged to experience Nasa’s charm as our dear friend and colleague will particularly remember her for her adventurous spirit. She is the only wheelchair user whom I know who did bungee jumping in Australia, paragliding in New Zealand and sky diving.
More recently, she took to cruise ships when ill health got the better of her. She was a real culture vulture enjoying theatre, music and film. She was a regular at the Proms as well as Wimbledon . Her curiosity and zest for life left no stone unturned. Nasa was always such great fun, loving and kind and has left a huge mark on those who knew her. She died in her sleep on 24 May and was buried with her much-loved nephew in Swindon.
Nasa Begum, born 23 July 1963; died 24 May 2011
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