Michael Jinks: The creation of a happy childhood

 Obituary, The Guardian, August 27, 1996, p. 15 


mike jinks 1986When Michael Jinks, who has died of a heart attack aged 59, called someone “chum”, the term could be affectionate, or stern. He could be stern when children were at stake. Michael’s life was dedicated to working with deprived and disturbed children.


The executive director of the Caldecott Community in Ashford, Kent, he was a man of deep compassion. His approach was founded on a belief in children’s essential creativity and a faith that all children have the ability to change and grow.


He trained and worked as a teacher before pioneering a therapeutic unit at the Kingswood Training School. At Bristol University in the late 1960s, on a residential care course, he was influenced by the work of theorists like Bruno Bettelheim, Barbara Dockar-Drysdale, and Richard Balbernie, who pioneered therapy for disturbed children. He went on to work with Balbernie at the Cotswold Community, where he helped to change a traditional approved school into a therapeutic community.


It was in 1980 that Michael moved to the Caldecott Community. By 1990, he was essential to the setting-up of Caldecott College, to give staff better professional training. Michael helped his trainees to explore the needs of the child’s inner world and argued strongly that residential care remained a positive choice which should be offered to some young people.


Michael would not accept low standards. He never recoiled from challenging staff or trustees but he won the trust of both. He avoided the role of charismatic leader – the community was more important, he believed – and said to me: “We are only temporary, Simon; we are the guardians.” And he was right.


Yet in his way, Michael was charismatic. Once he had an idea he would pursue it relentlessly and at the very centre was his concern for the individual child. A few hours before his death, we had discussed a new television exposé of brutality in a Russian children’s home. “Like the early days of approved schools,” he said angrily, almost suggesting we should go over together and offer to change the place. His passion and his concern were there to the end.


During his career, he rode through national changes in policy with a tenacious belief in knowing what was right for children – and what was wrong. He would not rest in his crusade to replace the crushing regimes with environments filled with love and laughter. Compassionate, wise and innovative, a devoted family man, he was a jovial and loyal friend. The child care world has lost one of its best activists. He leaves his wife, Ann, and their five grown-up children. 


Simon Rodway


Michael Jinks, child care pioneer, born November 30, 1936; died July 31, 1996.

mike jinks and simon rodway 2

Simon Rodway and Mike Jinks