Valerie Riches, a social worker who spent decades campaigning for the family, has died, aged 93.
She was a founding member of the Family Education Trust after joining its forerunner, The Responsible Society, as its Honorary Secretary in 1972.
The organisation’s primary aim was to publish research highlighting the causes and effects of family breakdown at a time when society was experiencing the repercussions of the sexual revolution.
In a joint autobiography with her late husband Dennis, Mrs Riches described working for the organisation as “a logical progression from the experiences I had gained as a mother and a social worker”.
Working in a period that is in some ways more permissive than it is today, the Roman Catholic mother of two wrote particularly strongly against explicit sex education in schools.
The 1980s and 90s were times when child abuse was not taken as seriously as it is today.
She said that as guidelines for adult sexual conduct were being swept away, it was inevitable that the new ‘freedoms’ would be pushed onto children, with groups such as the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Sexual Law Reform Society calling for the legal age of consent to be lowered below 16.
She also campaigned against easy divorce laws.
Family Life Award
Mrs Riches retired from her role as Director in 2000 and was presented with the Family Life Award for outstanding services to the family. Her personal qualities were described as “remarkable” by then Acting Chairman Dr John Guly.
She was succeeded as Director by Robert Whelan, and continued to work for the Family Education Trust in her new role as Founder President for a number of years.
Current Director Norman Wells said: “”Valerie demonstrated a rare depth of devotion, courage and determination in her leadership of Family Education Trust over its first three decades.
“Those of us who have followed after her are grateful for the firm foundations that she laid and conscious of the fact that we are standing on her shoulders.
“Such was Valerie’s commitment to marriage, family stability and the welfare of children that she continued in her role far beyond the normal age of retirement. And even in retirement she maintained keen interest in the work, serving as a trustee and Founder President.”
The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart hailed Mrs Riches as “extraordinary” and “inspirational”.
He said: “She was a strong campaigner for the family.
“She was extremely passionate in her work, but also had time to encourage other campaigners”.