Story 36

Happy, cherished memories

I was 20, with a bright future. I was working in the film industry and driving racing cars for fun.

Philip Scott

On 29 September 1977 I crashed, leaving me 85% paralysed. Immediately I joined a group for which I was unprepared; the disabled. Society didn’t even trust me to manage my basic care, it was provided on someone else’s terms. The authorities were only empowered to put you in a home or administer the standard state benefits.

I left Stoke Mandeville hospital in 1978 and went home. In 1979, a place at Le Court, the first Cheshire Home, opened up. To my parent’s relief, and my bewilderment, I was accepted. The expectation was I would remain there for the rest of my life.

However, Le Court was not all it seemed. Leonard Cheshire — GC, as he was known — retained a cottage there and was a regular visitor to the home. In this environment, he was not a VIP and was able to relax. I recall one instant where Neville, an avid photographer, told GC to ‘put down that bloody camera, you’ll probably break it.’ GC loved such normal repartee! He frequently ate with us and chatted away without ceremony. He was an extraordinary man, humble and supportive.

Around 1975, GC supported the residents who were rebelling against care delivered in the home. They refused to be put to bed at 5pm, demanding more independence. Hackles were raised!! How could disabled people question the basis of their care? GC’s leadership and sense of justice won the argument, and changes followed.

There was an exciting mix of residents and carers at the home. This was liberating and a product of the earlier rebellion. There was a vibrant social life, with debating clubs, a bar and fertile ground for ideas.

Shortly after I arrived, the next resident inspired initiative began; to create a viable alternative to institutional or family care, funded by the state. This represented a fundamental change in the way care was offered in the UK. At the end of 1979, we launched Project 81, to demonstrate that personal independence could, and should, be offered.

This was not a Cheshire Foundation initiative, but GC solidly supported us and the Foundation partly paid for our international research. Project 81 parented the UK Centre for Independent Living. We developed a persuasive argument and this bore fruit. I left Le Court in 1983. Following Project 81, personal care funding spread across the UK, becoming the Self Operated Care Scheme (SOCS).

I remained in contact with GC and we shared a passion for aviation. He kindly introduced me to the US Top Gun School in California.

From my home, I continue to build my life including working, marrying and having a son. I have happy cherished memories of GC and much gratitude for his constantly evolving vision.

There was an exciting mix of residents and carers at the home. This was liberating and a product of the earlier rebellion. There was a vibrant social life, with debating clubs, a bar and fertile ground for ideas.