I was excited before I left the board to hear about the centenary celebrations for our founder, the amazing Leonard Cheshire. He was, I believe, a man of great vision, of ideas and ideals beyond his time.
I have worked in health and social care all my life. I have always used my skills and experiences to make sure that services I can influence offer the very best to the people they are designed to serve. As a disabled woman, my passion is fuelled by personal experience. Being told as a teenager that I would not be able to achieve certain things only made me more determined to be and do whatever felt right in life. It also meant that I was destined to use my head and heart to work for change. I think I am allergic to inequality and injustice!
So after working away in Scotland for many years, I was invited to bring my personal passion and professional experience as a strategic leader in social care to the Leonard Cheshire Disability Board of trustees in 2009. I’m not sure the rest of the trustees knew what hit them, an outspoken and often critical woman from way up north!
I carried on regardless, made many friends along the way and served as a trustee for seven years, during which I saw a lot of change. I think I made a difference, and when I came to the end of my final term last year I was happy to say that Leonard Cheshire Disability was genuinely progressing in offering more person-centred care to more people, and is committed to modernising services to be fit for the 21st century.
I felt positive about driving these changes, because I believe that without progress away from institutionalised care, disabled people will never have full and equal citizenship. Still too often, disabled people are forgotten about or our conditions are seen as too complex to deal with in mainstream society. The work of Leonard Cheshire Disability and progress across the developed world, and indeed in developing countries, tells a different story.
These are stories that Leonard Cheshire Disability reflects well and wants to build on going forward. This is why celebrating the life, vision and compassion of Leonard is an important milestone.
Being told as a teenager that I would not be able to achieve certain things only made me more determined to be and do whatever felt right in life.