Colleagues from across the sector have paid tribute to Islington council’s corporate director of people, Carmel Littleton, who died last week.
Littleton had led the council’s adult social care, children and young people, employment, skills and culture services since 2019, working as its director of children’s services for three years prior to that.
Under her leadership, the north London borough’s children’s social care services improved from a ‘good’ rating in 2016 to ‘outstanding’ last year, with inspectors praising an “unwavering commitment to improving and enriching the lives of children and their families” among its senior leaders.
A teacher and educational psychologist by background, she previously held management roles at Camden, Essex, Tower Hamlets and Thurrock councils, rising to director of children’s services in the latter before joining Islington.
‘Deeply loved and respected’
“It was such a pleasure and privilege to get to work closely with Carmel,” said Kaya Comer-Schwartz, leader of Islington council.
“She was a beautiful person, who had an amazing way of insisting we always did more and better, with so much compassion that it compelled you forward. Her commitment and passion for young people in our borough was unwavering.
“Carmel was both deeply loved and respected by staff at all levels, as well as partners, councillors and of course the young people she worked with and for.
“While Carmel had been very unwell for some time, it has still come as a shock for us all. Carmel’s family and the many, many people who knew and loved her are in our thoughts.”
‘The ultimate public sector leader’
The council’s chief executive, Linzi Roberts-Egan, said: “Carmel was the ultimate public sector leader, a professional of the highest calibre and integrity, heading a team of hundreds in the council’s people directorate,”
“We are all still coming to terms with this terribly sad news; it has been an emotional week for her team, and for so many others whose lives she touched.
“Carmel was a wonderful colleague and a remarkable woman; even as she neared the end of her life, she remained truly inspirational.
“She would never want the focus to be on her, but on our residents who depend on us. She would want us to remember her by celebrating life, doing the best we can, and making the most of every moment.
“We send our deepest condolences to Carmel’s family, friends and everyone who worked with her.”
‘A tangible legacy’
Others in the sector also paid tribute to Littleton.
“Our sympathies go to Carmel’s family, friends and all her colleagues at Islington council, where she served as corporate director of people,” said the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS).
“Carmel had been an active member of ADCS both nationally and within the regional networks and will be dearly missed by all who knew her.”
Thurrock’s deputy mayor, James Halden, said: “I am deeply deeply upset to hear of the passing of Carmel Littleton. Public service is always an honour, but she leaves a very tangible legacy like few others.”
“I’m devastated to hear this very sad news,” said Nimal Jude, head of practice development at What Works for Children’s Social Care, whom Littleton taught.
“Carmel, or Miss Littleton, as I called her, was my primary school teacher and did her NQT at our school- she was the best. And to meet her again in social work all those years later was a joy.”