Leonard Cheshire was a game changer for me


Natasha took part in Leonard Cheshire’s Change 100 programme in 2014.

My experience on the Change 100 scheme didn't just develop me as an employee, but as a future employer.

For some disabled people, with some circumstances, working won’t be the right choice for them.

But for anybody who has a desire to, that opportunity shouldn’t be taken away — for the sake of both the individual and the organisation recruiting.

Before I became disabled I had no doubt that I would work. I had ideas and ambitions around a range of possible futures. It was different though, having doctors advise me not to pursue my exams and physiotherapists gently suggest that I abandon any plans of ever working full time. Seeing people like myself in the news or the media, relegated to the side lines of the working world — volunteers possibly, expert service users potentially, but rarely the paid professional.

What really was a key factor in enabling me to bridge the gap between my illness experience and my aspirations, however, was the Leonard Cheshire Change 100 programme. I spent three months with the policy and campaigns team at Leonard Cheshire and was given a formal job title, real work with real outcomes and ongoing mentoring and peer learning throughout and beyond the scheme. I learnt a lot during my time with them — I learnt how to work on specific types of tasks, such as completing a parliamentary effectiveness audit and responding to a Select Committee’s Call for Evidence. I learnt how to work with different types of people within a professional environment.

Most importantly, I learnt that I could work. I learnt that my contributions were valuable, and that I would be a benefit to employers. And I learnt that there were hundreds and thousands of other people like myself, unsure if they could work, if their CV or their medical records would be more relevant to the recruiter.

Leonard Cheshire was a game changer for me. I walked into an office where I saw lots of employees, with and without disabilities, working in different ways, ways that allowed them to be their best. I was given the opportunity to show them my skills and was rewarded with challenging work, trusted as a competent, capable colleague. I went from being unsure whether I was precluded from being part of the working world to realising that I had unique strengths and a diverse perspective to offer.

Leonard Cheshire’s Change 100 work is also about supporting employers to understand more about disability. By combatting presumption they’re enabling recruiters to access a much bigger pool of applicants, often with unique insights and developed competencies to supplement their competitive CVs, competencies like resilience and adaptability which are essential in the modern workforce.

In doing this, employers are also able to demonstrate their forward-thinking to existing employees, boosting staff loyalty and morale. Thinking and working in an equitable way is not just the right thing to do, it makes business sense. My experience on the Change 100 scheme didn’t just develop me as an employee, but as a future employer.

Leonard Cheshire unravelled the misunderstandings and structural barriers that stop people like and unlike myself from pursuing our aspirations and demonstrating our abilities. Thanks to the scheme I’ve been empowered to pursue everything I’d hoped for and to try to broaden the horizon for others as Leonard Cheshire did for me.