Ron Kipps obituary

Other lives: Social worker who expressed his moral convictions through letter-writing campaigns to newspapers and politicians

My father, Ron Kipps, who has died aged 84, was a social worker and lifelong campaigner and letter writer.

Ron expressed his moral convictions and political commitment to socialism through the written word. He wrote thousands of letters over the course of his life, to newspapers including the Guardian, politicians from Joan Ruddock to Jack Straw, David Blunkett, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, his local Conservative MP, Gareth Johnson, the BBC, and even the Queen, from whom he received a reply. These missives covered issues from the Iraq war and refugees to ID cards and the NHS. When Ron was asked about his motivation for such profuse letter writing he said, “rather than stewing, I write a letter … [and] get the satisfaction I had done something”.

Born in Bermondsey, south-east London, to Albert Kipps, a foreman at Hartley’s jam factory, and Bessie (nee Sowden), Ron left school at 15 and joined an advertising agency as a runner.

His undeveloped intellect was soon noticed, and he was encouraged by his workmates to read, go to the theatre, and develop a career. This led to promotion at the agency as a typographer in 1956, then as a visualiser doing artwork. Despite his evident skill, his emerging beliefs in social justice and an antipathy towards capitalism meant that in 1970 he chose to leave his well-paid job and train as a social worker at North London Polytechnic.

This presented challenges with a family of three children, but he was supported by his wife, Sylvia (nee Kenward), a GP’s receptionist whom he had met while skating at Streatham ice rink and married in 1958. They had moved to Dartford, Kent, soon after their marriage and his first social worker role, working with many poor and needy families, was with Bexleyheath local authority, rising to senior social worker with Lewisham. In 1988 he took early retirement to help with the care of his disabled son, Nicholas.

Letter-writing was not Ron’s only way of making his voice heard. With his family he regularly took to the streets for many causes, from anti-nuclear protests to the free Nelson Mandela campaign. His most recent activism was focused on justice for the Palestinian people.

Also an active local campaigner on protecting greenbelt areas, in 1999 Ron became chair of the Gravesham and Dartford Committee for the Protection of Rural England.

Ron truly believed that a Labour government could make this country better for the many, not the few. Standing over voting sheets on election days, knocking on doors, Ron was still campaigning into his 80s. Despite living through many defeats Ron never stopped fighting.

Nicholas died in 1999. Ron is survived by Sylvia, his two daughters, Lindsay and me, four grandsons, William, James, Edward and Jacob, and two great-grandsons, Arlo and Wren.

Sarah Kipps

The GuardianTramp

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