Russell Lincoln obituary

Other lives: Committed voluntary sector worker who was enraged by injustice

My husband, Russell Lincoln, has died of motor neurone disease aged 61. An intelligent, shy young man, he secured a full scholarship to Cambridge but was uncomfortable with the privilege he encountered there. After leaving university, he volunteered for the Cyrenians charity in what became a lifelong career supporting those who are underprivileged in society. Injustice enraged him, and he worked for many years in the voluntary sector, initially with homeless men and women, in North Lambeth Day Centre in south London (1986-89). 

Thoughtful and conscientious, his approach to clients and colleagues meant that he progressed rapidly. While still relatively young, he managed a residential project for long-stay patients being moved out of Friern Barnet psychiatric hospital into the community (1991-94). His compassion for those in his care was palpable, and a series of posts led to him becoming a senior manager in Mencap (2006-11), managing more than 100 staff.

Born in Stoke Newington, north London, Russell was the son of Norman, a ladies dressmaker, and his wife, Frances (nee Gold), a secretary. From the City of London boys school he went on to gain a degree in English literature at Cambridge (1981). He was a secular Jew and a lifelong supporter of Tottenham Hotspur.

What mattered to him was to lead what he called an “ethical life”. He grew increasingly frustrated with the corporate culture taking hold of the voluntary sector. Tired of senior management, six years ago he retrained as a social worker for young people with profound disabilities who were moving from childhood to adulthood, work that he undertook in Kensington and Chelsea until 2017.

I remember Russell’s determination to secure funding for “eye gaze” technology for a young woman of 17 who was so profoundly disabled she could move nothing but her eyes, and his pleasure when this enabled her to communicate with her family. It never occurred to him or us that, within a few short years, he himself would be being visited by a social worker offering him that very same technology at a time when the disease took over his body entirely.

Tory austerity meant that social work provision was undermined. It infuriated him that, once again, decisions were based not on what was needed but what cost least. In search of the freedom to offer deep and lasting help, in 2018 Russell embarked on a psychoanalytic psychotherapy training. He was embarking on his third year when he was diagnosed with MND and had to stop.

Russell and I met in London in 1988 and remained together, marrying in 2001. A quietly devoted father of three girls, he had a sense of humour that knew no bounds. His other great passion was books – he was rarely happier than when browsing in the secondhand bookshops in Charing Cross Road.

He is survived by me, his daughters, Isabel, Anna and Sophie, his mother and his brother.

Francesca Raphael Lincoln

The GuardianTramp

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