How Leonard Cheshire's vision is still relevant today

Ruth Owen


On the 30th anniversary of our founder's death, we look at how things have changed over the years but Leonard Cheshire's vision is still relevant.

A girl in a wheelchair shaking hands with Leonard Cheshire who has crouched down so he is at eye level.
Leonard Cheshire with a young resident of Harare, Zimbabwe © Norman Potter, taken around 1977

It’s fast approaching 75 years since our charity was formed on one man’s vision of a better world for disabled people. Much has changed at the charity that still bears Leonard Cheshire’s name, but some things have not.

Our founder’s aspirations for greater independence and choice for disabled people, in where they live, how they fulfil their ambitions, pursue hobbies and access support, remain as relevant today as they were in the shadows of World War Two. We are particularly conscious of this as we acknowledge the anniversary of Leonard Cheshire’s death.

How social care needs to change

Social care and support, whether in residential, nursing or supported living services across the UK, remains at the core of what we do.

What independence and choice means has, of course, changed over the years. Technology is one example of how new developments have opened up opportunities for both, which were impossible even a decade ago. Like all social care providers, we need to recognise the potential of developments in assistive technology.

In our services, we must also be responsive to the different preferences and challenges faced by today’s generation of disabled people and those to come. We must evolve, adapt and modernise.

A long-term solution for funding social care remains as vital as ever. It must remain a priority for the government and any incoming Prime Minister.

There was very little in the way of suitable housing and support for disabled people when we were founded, and the organisation grew rapidly. But even now, disabled people can struggle to find the right level of support or accommodation in their area – so they can stay close to friends and family, for example. Leonard Cheshire does its best to fill some of these gaps through its new developments.

But decades of underfunding social care, and stretched local authority budgets, have limited the options available to many disabled people and put huge pressure on providers. A long-term solution for funding social care remains as vital as ever. It must remain a priority for the government and any incoming Prime Minister.

Looking to the future

Good social care opens up independence and choice for disabled people, including making the difference between being able to seek employment or not. Proper funding of the system is vital and urgent. But we also need to change the expectations of what ‘good’ actually looks like in social care and how we embed far greater choice in day-to-day delivery.

Leonard Cheshire will aim to have a central role in defining what the future looks like and play our part in trying to raise the bar.

What will your name stand for?

Leonard’s legacy became our legacy.

Leave us a gift in your Will to Leonard Cheshire, and your name will stand for independence, kindness and hope for disabled people.

Find out how to leave a gift in your Will