Leonard Cheshire Disability

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Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire, VC, OM, DSO and Two Bars, DFC, founder of the charity

Leonard Cheshire is a major health and welfare charity working in the United Kingdom and running development projects around the world. It was founded in 1948 by Royal Air Force officer Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC.

Leonard Cheshire's aims are to support disabled people to live, learn and work as independently as they choose - whatever their ability.[1] The charity supports disabled people through local care services including residential homes, supported living, domiciliary support, day services, activity centres, respite care, transition services, and employment and skills support. It also runs political campaigns on issues affecting disabled people.

In 2013–14 it had income of over £162 million, placing it in the top 40 of UK charities.[2] Around 90% of this income came from government grants, and around £18 million in donations (2013/14).[3]


The charity was originally known as The Cheshire Foundation Homes for the Sick, and in 1976 became the Leonard Cheshire Foundation. In 2007 it rebranded to Leonard Cheshire Disability[4] and in 2018 its brand and logotype were simplified to Leonard Cheshire.[5][6]

Group Captain Leonard Cheshire started the charity in 1948 when he took a dying man, who had nowhere else to go, into his own home: a country house called Le Court, near Liss in Hampshire.[7] By the summer of 1949, Le Court had 24 residents with complex needs, illnesses and impairments, living under the 'self-help' philosophy encouraged by Cheshire. As awareness of Leonard's work spread he started to receive referrals from the NHS, and local communities rallied to his cause, building homes for disabled people living in their own local area.[7] By 1955 there were six Cheshire homes in Britain. The first overseas Cheshire Home was established in Mumbai, India the same year.[8]

During the 1960s, this pattern expanded rapidly across the UK. People were inspired by Group Captain Cheshire's example; The Duke of Edinburgh described the work 'as one of the greatest acts of humanity in our time'.[9] Each of these "Cheshire Homes", as they came to be called, were similarly set up: local communities came forward, assembled a group of volunteers, found whatever suitable accommodation they could, set up administrative committees and began raising funds for development. This gave each Cheshire Home a local structure closely knit to the community they were serving, while being affiliated with an international organization. The founder and his small secretariat in London helped the committees with their endeavours, including arranging well-publicised openings, all the more attractive to the public for Group Captain Cheshire's attendance.[10]

In the 1960s, attitudes towards disabled people were openly discriminatory. Thousands of people with disabilities, often young, were consigned to geriatric hospital wards and employment prospects were non-existent.[11] The charity's aim was to tackle these barriers to disabled people participating fully in society. Residents at Le Court benefited from a greater degree of 'self-help' but the home was still run locally along medical lines by the Warden and Matron. Matters came to a head in 1962 when a group of residents protested against rules curtailing their activities introduced by the Matron. Led by activists (and Le Court residents) Paul Hunt and Peter Wade, supported by the founder and sympathetic staff and trustees, the residents eventually prevailed. This led to changes in the philosophy of the management committee at Le Court and other Cheshire Homes, and eventually to the formation of the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation as Hunt, Wade and others started to explore and campaign for life beyond residential care.[12]

By 1969 there were 50 Leonard Cheshire services in the UK, 15 in India, and Homes in 20 further countries including Portugal, Morocco, Chile, Israel, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The 1960s produced much new thinking on disability and resulted in better training for residential care workers, personal counselling within the homes and the involvement of residents in management. The first day centre was established near Nottingham, bungalows for married residents were started in West Sussex and supported living flats were built in Tulse Hill in partnership with the Greater London Council.[13]

Change continued in the 1970s under the foundation's first International Director, Ronald Travers. He established the Leonard Cheshire Foundation International in 1978 and fostered support for the idea of Cheshire homes in America, China and Russia.[14] He led modernisation of attitudes in the UK homes and the transition from expatriate to local community management of the international homes, which became independent charities in their own right, affiliated under a Global Alliance.[15]

By 1992 there were 270 homes in 49 countries,[16] and the transition was made from local management committees to a centralised structure under a Director of Operations, fuelled by changes in social services, legislation and the expectations of service users. The employment in 1999 of the foundation's first Head of Policy, disability campaigner John Knight,[17] saw the charity start to become a campaigning organisation, a significant change in direction.[18] Leonard Cheshire were also one of the first UK charities to introduce a professional volunteer support team.[19] In 1997, disability activist Clare Evans became Leonard Cheshire's first head of Service User Support and established the Service Users Networking Association in 1998.[20]

In 2010, Leonard Cheshire launched their Young Voices website and programme that supported disabled children around the world to campaign for access and their human rights. The children from the programme started a Tumblr blog detailing their work.[21] Members of Young Voices have gone on to run as candidates in their country's elections[22] and have received Queen's Young Leaders Awards from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2015.[23]

From 2009 to 2011 it ran the Ability International Media Awards, recognising disabled people in the media.[24]

Leonard Cheshire launched the 'Make Care Fair' campaign in 2013, calling on councils to stop 15 minute care visits, as advised by the Care Act 2014 and NICE Guidelines.[25] In 2016 it reported that 52 out of 152 councils in England ended 15 minute care visits, but that 33,305 people in England still received them. In 2017, Leonard Cheshire's research revealed that 50,677 people across England, Scotland and Wales still received 15-minute care visits.[26]

In 2016, it was announced that 18 care homes owned by Leonard Cheshire would be put up for sale, including homes in Leeds, Sheffield, Calderdale and York, Wolverhampton, Derbyshire, Oxford and Lincolnshire.[27] In a statement they said 'A small minority of our properties are not in the right places with easy access to community amenities and with scope to grow. Other providers are better placed to make long-term investment.’[28] All of the services were purchased by Valorum Care, who are based in Leeds, in 2019. [29]

In the financial year 2017/2018, Leonard Cheshire's income grew by over £14m, from £10.9m the year before to £25.1m.[30] Sally Davis, the charity’s chair, said that the charity 'continued to face a challenging financial environment' but its income nevertheless grew 'thanks mainly to a significant donation.' This was thought to be a legacy. [31]

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, they, as part of The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), wrote an open letter to Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to call for urgent changes to the benefits system to protect disabled and seriously unwell people from further physical and financial harm during the covid-19 emergency.[32]

International work[edit]

As well as supporting the Leonard Cheshire Global Alliance, the charity has run programmes in countries outside the UK since its inception.[33] On 4 July 1969 the first international Cheshire conference officially adopted 'The Singapore Declaration', the first attempt to define the nature of Cheshire organisations across the world. The first international project was a Self Reliance programme, which covered various costs including grants for vehicles, building costs and the further development of new organisations. [34]

From 1988, the international secretariat ran an International Training and Development programme which supported Cheshire organisations through training initiatives for care staff and managers.

As thinking around disability started to change, the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) at the United Nations in 2006 led to different funding availability and a new approach. In response, the international directorate moved from being a secretariat for a network of organisations to a provider of programmes for disabled people globally.[35]

Related organisations[edit]

The Ryder-Cheshire Mission[36] was set up by Leonard Cheshire and his wife Sue Ryder at the time of their marriage in 1959, and later became the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation which operated until 2010.[37] Other related former charities include Target Tuberculosis, operating in India and certain countries of Africa (2003–2016).[38]

The rehabilitation of disabled people was supported through Ryder-Cheshire Volunteers, founded in 1986, which is now the Enrych charity.[39][40]

The Leonard Cheshire Disability & Inclusive Development Centre is a joint project by Leonard Cheshire Disability and University College London (originally set up in 1997 as the Leonard Cheshire Centre of Conflict Recovery).[41] The centre is dedicated to generating applied research on disability in development, with particular emphasis on poverty and economic development in terms of livelihoods, inclusive education and public health. Centre staff also work closely on policy issues at a global level, serving in an advisory capacity to a number of UN agencies (including UNDESA, UNICEF, ILO, World Bank) and bilateral organisations (including DFID, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia)). The centre is based in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London.

Cheshire founded the Raphael Pilgrimage to support sick and disabled people to travel to Lourdes.[42]

Sue Ryder Care, a charity founded in 1953 by Sue Ryder, before she met Leonard Cheshire, was one of the 50 largest charities in the UK in 2008.[43]

Web domain name legal case[edit]

In 2001, Paul Darke resigned from the role of national advocacy officer and from the public affairs committee, and bought the domain name www.leonard-cheshire.com to highlight the charity's role in institutionalising those with disabilities and neglecting those in their care.[44]

He stated that 'the main reason you cease to be a Leonard Cheshire service user is death' and that charity donations would pay for 'private medical insurance of senior directors and management get-togethers costing £10,000 a weekend'.[45] After a heated debate on BBC Radio 4, as well as 50,000 hits on the website, Leonard Cheshire submitted a complaint to the World Intellectual Property Organization.[46] WIPO ruled that Darke has no right or legitimate interest in the domain name; and that it has been registered and used by him in bad faith.[47]

The charity rebranded to Leonard Cheshire Disability in 2007, and the domain name is unused as of September 2020. The case has been cited in a law textbook.[48]

Notable people[edit]

  • Group Captain Lord Leonard Cheshire, WWII RAF Group Captain, humanitarian and founder of Leonard Cheshire
  • Lord Justice Alfred Denning, lawyer and judge, first chairman of Leonard Cheshire 1952–1961[49]
  • Geoffrey Chevalier Cheshire, barrister, law academic and father of Group Captain Cheshire, second chairman 1961–1964[50]
  • Edmund Davies, judge and Law Lord, third chairman 1964–1974[51]
  • Ronald Travers, BBC producer and volunteer at Le Court (1956) became Group Captain Cheshire's personal assistant in 1969, setting up the Counselling Service, an early form of Quality Assurance and Safeguarding (before the CQC inspection of social care services began in 2003) and the first International Director in 1979 until his retirement in 1998[52]
  • Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris, WWII fighter pilot and senior RAF commander, fourth Chairman 1974–1982[53]
  • Arthur Bennett, RAF pilot, disabled after a flying accident that resulted in severe burns, first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) from 1979 until his retirement in 1991[54]
  • General Sir Geoffrey Howlett, former Commander in Chief of Allied Forces Northern Europe, sixth chairman 1990–1995[55]
  • Diplomat Sir David Goodall, seventh chairman 1995–2000[56]
  • Banker Charles Morland, eighth chairman 2000–2005 and the first disabled chairman of the charity[57]
  • Diplomat Sir Nigel Broomfield, ninth chairman 2005–2009[58]
  • Technologist Ilyas Khan, tenth chairman 2009–2015[59]
  • Bryan Dutton, Director-General 1998–2008[60]
  • John Knight, disability rights campaigner and public policy analyst, Leonard Cheshire's first Head of Policy in 1999[61]
  • Clare Evans, disability campaigner and Leonard Cheshire's first national Head of Service User Support 1997–2010 [62]
  • Neil Heslop, founder of Blind in Business, the second disabled CEO of Leonard Cheshire from 2017 to 2020[63]
  • Ruth Owen OBE, third disabled and second female CEO of Leonard Cheshire, previous CEO of children's disability charity Whizz-Kids, appointed 2021[64]
  • David Grayson CBE, twelfth chairman (and second chairman to have a disability), appointed 2021; former chair of the National Disability Council[65]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What we do". Retrieved 24 October 2022.
  2. ^ "Top 10 charities by income". Charity Commission. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  3. ^ Hodges, Dan (1 February 2016). "Too many of our 'charities' are nothing of the sort". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  4. ^ "UK's leading disability charity unveils new name". Leonard Cheshire Disability. 17 July 2007. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011.
  5. ^ "Introducing our new brand". Leonard Cheshire. 16 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Leonard Cheshire Disability". Baxter and Bailey. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Our history". Leonard Cheshire. 2021. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  8. ^ Chennai news
  9. ^ Russell, Wilfrid (1980). New Lives for Old: The story of the Cheshire Homes (3 ed.). London: Victor Gollancz. p. 7.
  10. ^ Mantle, Jonathan (2008). The story of Leonard Cheshire Disability. London: James & James. p. 14.
  11. ^ Mantle, Jonathan (2008). The story of Leonard Cheshire Disability. London: James & James. p. 14.
  12. ^ Mantle, Jonathan (2008). The story of Leonard Cheshire Disability. London: James & James. p. 16.
  13. ^ Mantle, Jonathan (2008). The story of Leonard Cheshire Disability. London: James & James. pp. 15–16.
  14. ^ "In conversation with Ronald Travers OBE". By The Dart. 27 June 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  15. ^ "Global Alliance". Leonard Cheshire.
  16. ^ Christopher Foxley-Norris, "Cheshire, (Geoffrey) Leonard, Baron Cheshire (1917–1992)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2008 accessed 18 July 2008
  17. ^ "John Knight". Source Watch. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  18. ^ Mantle, Jonathan (2008). The story of Leonard Cheshire Disability. London: James & James. p. 26.
  19. ^ Mantle, Jonathan (2008). The story of Leonard Cheshire Disability. London: James & James. pp. 22–25.
  20. ^ Jones, Ray (3 December 2018). "Clare Evans obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  21. ^ "Young voices, speaking out for the rights of people with disabilities". Tumblr. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  22. ^ Michael, Ashura. "From community advocacy to an aspiring politician". Leonard Cheshire. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  23. ^ "Exceptional Leonard Cheshire campaigners scoop first ever Queen's Young Leader Awards". Enable magazine. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  24. ^ http://www.lcdisability.org/?lid=14883 2010 Ability Media International Awards
  25. ^ "'Flying' 15 minute care visits still a bleak reality". The OT Magazine. 2017. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  26. ^ "15 Minute Personal Care Visits Still Not Enough for Embattled UK Disabled". Disabled World. 2018. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  27. ^ Clarke, Sarah. "Leonard Cheshire sells 16 care homes to Leeds operator". Care Home Professional. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  28. ^ Monk, Zoe. "Leonard Cheshire puts 17 care homes up for sale in 'difficult decision'". Care Home Professional. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  29. ^ "Sale of 16 services successfully completes". Leonard Cheshire. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  30. ^ Preston, Rob. "Leonard Cheshire's income rises to £176m after 'significant' legacy donation". Civil Society News. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  31. ^ Preston, Rob. "Leonard Cheshire's income rises to £176m after 'significant' legacy donation". Civil Society News. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  32. ^ "DBC letter to Secretary of State on emergency covid-19 measures". Disability Benefits Consortium. March 2020. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  33. ^ "Global Alliance". Leonard Cheshire. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  34. ^ Global alliance global vision 2016-2020 (PDF). Leonard Cheshire. p. 2.
  35. ^ Global alliance global vision 2016-2020 (PDF). Leonard Cheshire. 2016. p. 3. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  36. ^ "The Ryder-Cheshire Mission, registered charity no. 235988". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  37. ^ "The Ryder-Cheshire Foundation, registered charity no. 285746". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  38. ^ "Target Tuberculosis, registered charity no. 1098752". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  39. ^ "Enrych, registered charity no. 1088623". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  40. ^ "About Enrych". Enrych. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  41. ^ Leonard Cheshire Disability & Inclusive Development Centre
  42. ^ "The Raphael Pilgrimage, registered charity no. 1098328". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  43. ^ Ranked by expenditure. Source: Charities Direct: Top 500 Charities – Expenditure Archived 2008-12-02 at the Wayback Machine
  44. ^ Hague, Helen (2 May 2001). "Wiped out". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  45. ^ Clark, Laurence (2003). "Leonard Cheshire vs. The Disabled People's Movement: A Review" (PDF). University of Leeds: Disability Archive UK.
  46. ^ "Leonard Cheshire Foundation in domain name dispute". fundraising.co.uk. 2 February 2001. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  47. ^ "WIPO Domain Name Decision: D2001-0131". www.wipo.int. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  48. ^ Reed, Chris, 1956– (2004). Internet law : text and materials (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-60522-9. OCLC 56632088.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  49. ^ "Lord Denning retires from Chairmanship". The Cheshire Smile. 8: 21. 1962 – via Website Rewind: 7 decades of stories from Leonard Cheshire.
  50. ^ "Retirement of 'The Professor'". The Cheshire Smile. 11: 6. 1965 – via Website Rewind: seven decades of stories from Leonard Cheshire.
  51. ^ "Obituary: Lord Edmund-Davies". The Independent. 2 January 1993. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  52. ^ "In Conversation with... Ronald Travers OBE". The Dart. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  53. ^ "Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris". The Independent. 29 September 2003. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  54. ^ "Tribute". The Cheshire Smile: 5. 1991 – via Website Rewind: seven decades of stories from Leonard Cheshire.
  55. ^ "Geoffrey Howlett ParaData". www.paradata.org.uk. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  56. ^ "Sir David Goodall, British diplomat, Died at 84 History's Greatest". 5 August 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  57. ^ "Charles Francis Harold MORLAND". The Times. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  58. ^ "Post Page". www.hailsoc.net. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  59. ^ Dudman, Jane (September 2009). "Leading questions". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  60. ^ 'Dutton, Maj.-Gen. Bryan Hawkins (born 1 March 1943)' in Who's Who (London A. & C. Black)
  61. ^ "University honours 12 of the best". University of Nottingham. 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
  62. ^ Jones, Ray (3 December 2018). "Clare Evans obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  63. ^ "Neil Heslop Chief Executive, CAF". Shaw Trust Disability Power 100. 2021. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  64. ^ "Our executive team". Leonard Cheshire. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  65. ^ "Our trustees". Leonard Cheshire. Retrieved 22 July 2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • Morris, Richard. Cheshire: The Biography of Leonard Cheshire, VC, OM. London: Viking Press, 2000. ISBN 0-670-86735-7.
  • Mantle, Jonathan. The Story of Leonard Cheshire Disability. London: James & James, 2008. ISBN 1-903942-95-0
  • Cheshire, Leonard. The Hidden World. London: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd. 1981. ISBN 0-00-626479-4.
  • Russell, Wilfrid. New lives for old: The story of the Cheshire Homes. London: Victor Gollancz. 1963, 1969, 1980. ISBN 0-575-02807-6

External links[edit]