Story 76

A transformation

In 2011 Leonard Cheshire Disability asked me to chair a review of the potential impact of removing mobility payments from disabled people living in residential care.

Lord Low

If we did not actually change the government’s mind, we provided the cover for them to execute the U-turn which all disabled people wanted.

Of course, back in the 1970s, we all knew Leonard Cheshire simply through Cheshire Homes, an organisation which provided cared for physically disabled people in a network of residential homes throughout the UK and around the world. It is true too that a number of residents in Cheshire homes became very critical of the whole idea of residential care for disabled people, because they felt it robbed them of their independence as fully autonomous members of the community. People such as Paul Hunt and Vic Finkelstein developed a collective identity based on their powerful critique of residential care, which turned into a full-blown ideology which went by the name of the social model of disability.

From about the 1990s onwards Leonard Cheshire began to take on a more liberal direction of travel. It set up a Campaigns Department, led by disabled people, which supported many of the things which disabled people themselves were campaigning for. It was also very active internationally in promoting the liberation and inclusion of disabled people around the world.

Thus in my lifetime, Leonard Cheshire, now Leonard Cheshire Disability, has undergone a transformation which has seen it change from being an organisation led by a war hero to one with a disabled chief executive, who is asking the world to be more inclusive of disabled people and is much more closely aligned with their aspirations.

In my lifetime, Leonard Cheshire has undergone a transformation.