We are very sad to announce the death of Old Scholar John Veit-Wilson (YG 1953) on the 10th May 2020. John Veit-Wilson (known as Hanno Simon until 1948 and then as John Wilson while at school) died aged 84. He had been diagnosed in 2014 as suffering from multiple myeloma. John joined the Junior School in May 1942 aged six and stayed until February 1954 in the third year of sixth form, thus almost achieving twelve years at Friends' School Saffron Walden. He went on to pursue an academic career devoted to poverty research and policy-making.
After leaving the school, John applied to exemption from national service as a Conscientious Objector: the tribunal gave him unconditional exemption, but he worked as a volunteer for the Friends’ Ambulance Unit International Service for fifteen months in hospitals and its administration. At St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge, he read Economics and Social Anthropology, and after graduating studied Welfare Economics and Social Policy at Stockholm University, Sweden. After five years in business management and services in London with the Colonial Development Corporation, the Federation of British Industries and the Central Electricity Generating Board, he returned to academic research at the new University of Essex, on the first national survey of poverty in the UK directed by Professors Townsend and Abel-Smith.
In 1967 he moved to Rutherford College, Newcastle upon Tyne, to lecture on the London University External Sociology degree, and was appointed Head of Sociology in the new Polytechnic (later Northumbria University) for 13 years from 1974. When he took early retirement in 1992 as Emeritus Professor of Social Policy, he was immediately invited to join Newcastle University’s Social Policy Department on an honorary basis as Principal Research Associate, later as Visiting Professor, and remained there until his death.
In 1965 as a poverty researcher, John took active part in founding the Child Poverty Action Group, writing one of its first policy papers and remaining closely involved with it for the rest of his life as Committee and later Board member, Trustee, Vice-Chair and adviser. His research and policy work focussed on the interaction between theories, concepts and measures of poverty and resource adequacy for social inclusion, and the structural and social security policies required to prevent and alleviate it. His work laid foundations for Minimum Income Standards and what later became the real Living Wage. For some years he was consultant to the EU-funded European Anti-Poverty Network in planning an EU Directive on not merely minimum but adequate incomes.
Besides his national and international work, John was also involved in local voluntary sector activity. He was a board member of the Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service for 21 years, and its Chair or Vice-Chair for 12 years, Chair of a housing association, and Board member of other organisations.
John was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2007 and Honorary Fellow of the Joint University Council in 2003. The Social Policy Association recognised his lifetime achievement by its Special Recognition Award in 2014.
Photograph belongs to Simon Veit-Wilson.