Leonard Cheshire’s bonfire of user empowerment

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Apr 272016

Governance failures

charities02-opinionI’ve already noted all is not well at Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD): the Chief Executive and the Head of HR left at no notice. (LCD’s PR team told a Third Sector magazine journalist that Pelham would stay on until replaced, but now LCD refute having said any such thing.) Now the Interim Chief Executive has announced that she’s leaving LCD too as soon as LCD appoints a new CEO (anticipated in September / October.)

We now know why this is happening: LCD have a £750,000 hole in their budget for the year. (They primarily blame the National “Living” Wage for this; though we know that they did precious little to prepare for the increased wage bill – and what they did claim to do was proven to be a lie.) The new Chair of the Trustees has conducted exit interviews of senior staff, whom have been very forthright about Clare Pelham. It is widely acknowledged that Clare was only motivated by the wish to become “Lady Pelham”. LCD have lost industry confidence due to pervasive doubts about their governance – a large consultancy decided not to bid for a contract valued at £200,000 per year due to their significant concerns about LCD’s management competence.

The senior directors aren’t any loss; but the other staff LCD’s making redundant most definitely are – both in the homes they are closing and elsewhere.

In earlier years, LCD had a reasonably successful “Service User Support Team” (SUST). These disabled employees worked as facilitators and mentors throughout the UK, tasked with empowering service users to achieve greater independence. This had some moderate success. As one (charming) resident in a LCD care home put it:

Every time I see a cabbage it reminds me that I could still have been in the cabbage patch myself, if I hadn’t been persuaded that there was a life for me outside.

Leonard Cheshire obviously couldn’t let a moderately successful user empowerment project stay unmolested, so they attempted to shut it down. There was an outcry, so in the end LCD just got rid of most of the employees, leaving a vestigial staff of 14 isolated disabled people dotted round the country, in the renamed “Customer Support Team” (CST). Each part-time staff member was charged with single-handedly empowering hundreds of care home residents and domiciliary care service users across their (massive) patch. Despite being manifestly overstretched and under resourced, they made a genuine difference to disabled people’s lives, because these workers genuinely cared about the rights of Leonard Cheshire’s service users.

Disabled user empowerment workers made redundant

"And when we want your opinion, we'll tell you what it is!" - "Federation of Charities for the Disabled"Leonard Cheshire are annihilating them. LCD has cut the Customer Support Team budget from £450,000 to £0,000 overnight. LCD is starting a sham “consultation” on 9th May (a bit like their sham “consultation” on the closure of Honresfeld home) but as there is no money, it is pretty clear that LCD will make all CST staff redundant. (Some have already announced their redundancy.)

The reason LCD gave for this budget cut is that its trustees took so long to consider the team’s future (over 5 months) that its budget for 2016/17 was still undecided come April 1st. That would be bad enough if it was genuine; however I note that £450,000 p.a. is a significant saving towards the £750,000 deficit, and I suspect this is the real reason. Meanwhile the “consultation” can’t start until 9th May because Mark Elliott (Leonard Cheshire’s non-disabled Director of Development) is on a multi-week holiday in South Africa. (Good of him to check everything was A-OK with his team before swanning off [not] – perhaps he should bugger off permanently like Clare Pelham [CEO] and Vicki Hemming [HR director.])

Leonard Cheshire hasn’t told its own service users about this. Senior staff are discouraging the CST from telling us, which puts the employees in an invidious position – do they risk their references by telling service users their empowerment service is being given the boot? The CST’s dedicated team of disabled people already have to cope with being told at three weeks notice that there’s no budget for their wages, forcing them to seek employment elsewhere with great urgency (and we know disabled people experience many barriers when seeking employment, even at the best of times.) In the meantime, LCD are refusing to answer any questions about the situation (from anybody, including from the CST) until the “consultation” process starts.

The Customer Action Network, a user-led organisation attempting to provide representation of LCD service users despite continual interference and undermining by LCD, wants to start a petition to save the CST – but is being asked to delay this until the CST are under formal review. I’m glad to say the Network sent it out anyway – the petition is here.

That’s how LCD are treating the dedicated, hard-working and caring disabled people who (until now) did their best to empower LCD service users despite inadequate resources and lack of support. (i.e. those whom actually attempted the user empowerment for which LCD claims credit.)

Where their priorities really lie…

LCD have four directors who each earn between £100,000 and £150,000 per year, between them earning the equivalent of the Customer Support Team’s  entire budget. The Customer Support Team are the only posts in the charity ring-fenced for disabled people. They’re the only posts specifically aimed at empowering service users.

I think LCD’s treatment of the CST and of Honresfeld residents and staff proves that LCD’s claim to be focussed on disabled people’s rights is as hollow as so many people have said for years.

(With thanks to the excellent Crippen / Dave Lupton Cartoons for both cartoons on this page, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.)

Apr 142016

Leonard Cheshire announced on 11th March that their CEO Clare Pelham was resigning.

A spokeswoman for the charity said Pelham, who has no immediate role to move to, would stay in post until her successor was appointed and had no set date for leaving.

“Acting” Chief Executive

Leonard Cheshire’s website was updated on the afternoon of 11th April. There is now an “acting Chief Executive” – former Director of Services, Rosemarie Pardington.

So what happened to Clare Pelham’s promise to “stay in post until her successor was appointed“? There’s been no announcement by Leonard Cheshire, or by Clare Pelham (on Twitter or in the Huff; she doesn’t seem to have a Linked In profile.) As I previously noted, there’s no way that a career politician like Clare would have left voluntarily without another job lined up. Now she’s left / been given the kick without even working her notice.

Given LCD’s typical silence, we are left guessing WHY she’s gone. I note that they have form for CEOs botching things and leaving at no notice, and Goodness knows there are enough reasons for getting rid of the odious, duplicitous, disempowering, disablist, cripple-kicking Clare Pelham, but it’s unlikely this is why (after all, LCD rarely let reason cloud their judgement.)

HR director also buggered off

I think we may draw some inference from the fact that their People Director, Vicky Hemming, has ALSO gone –  without waiting for a replacement, leaving Patricia Williamson as interim People Director (whose 7+ previous positions strongly suggest adherence to the Seagull school of management.)

We may remember that former people director Vicky Hemming had lied. She claimed that Leonard Cheshire Disability had written to all local authorities asking for increases in fees so that LCD could pay their carers the Living Wage, but that was proven irrefutably untrue.

Where’s the money?

Rumour is that our Clare and Vicky have left Leonard Cheshire in severe financial difficulties. They failed to prepare for the increased National Minimum Wage (which Osborne disingenuously refers to as the “National Living Wage“.) This has resulted in rapid closure of LCD homes with an “uncaring disregard for the wellbeing of residents” (to quote Rochdale Council and Rochdale Clinical Commissioning Group – and I now hear that other LCD homes are closing.)

It has also caused operating difficulties throughout the charity, because whilst carers‘ wages have increased, senior carers‘ wages haven’t for years and are now pretty much equal to carers‘. This has led many seniors to wonder why they should take on the extra responsibility of administering medication and running shifts, when they aren’t paid. It has also led to LCD returning to their favourite tactic of evicting residents who dare to raise concerns.


There’s undoubtedly much more to this story than meets the eye, but LCD are about as open as the Gestapo (albeit about as competent as Herr Flick) so unless and until some kind soul leaks again to Third Sector, one can only speculate. (and hope against experience that this won’t affect service users.)

Still, we have little enough reason to celebrate these days, and I think that dumping Clare Pelham and Vicky Hemming can only be a good thing – so Cheers! (And potential new employers of either – Caveat emptor!)


Mar 132016

Clare Pelham, CEO of Leonard Cheshire, is resigning.


She’s resigning without another job to go to.

She’s a career politician. She was previously first chief executive of the Judicial Appointments Commission, the body charged with introducing more diversity into the Judiciary, and was under fire in the Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs for the Commission’s poor record in the first year.  (She restricted appointments to her commission to existing Civil Servants, thus perpetuating the lack of diversity.)

Before then Clare Pelham held senior civil service positions at the Cabinet Office, the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs. She has also a senior manager at IBM and was a member of the Executive Committee of Coca-Cola.

She has given no reasons for leaving her £150,000 job at Leonard Cheshire. I don’t need a reason, I can celebrate without one. But I smell a rat. I simply can’t see a career person like this leaving her job without some other well-paid, ego-stroking job to go to, without a serious reason.

I think she is leaving before the shit hits the fan.

OR somebody has finally GIVEN HER THE PUSH!

Leonard Cheshire are in financial trouble.

They have written to staff telling them that any Leonard Cheshire home may close, citing increased costs due to the need to pay their carers the Government’s new “National Living Wage” from 1st April. They are closing Honresfeld home with indecent haste and “an uncaring disregard for the wellbeing of residents” according to the Council and CCG, citing economic factors.

I think Clare Pelham can see the writing on the wall, doesn’t want to be associated with this looming PR disaster (she doesn’t give a stuff about the residents and staff, of course) and is escaping quick before she gets mired with the resultant bad publicity. (After all, her career and public profile were always her prime motivation anyway.) She perhaps has in mind the indecent spectacle of her predecessor, Eric Prescott. LCD brought him in as a “hatchet man” to cut costs, but left halfway through after staff morale hit rock bottom – tales of groups of staff forced to cluster round speakerphones to listen to recorded messages about the future of their employment were not confidence-inspiring.

Either that, or Leonard Cheshire have realised that her indifference to the charity’s own services has sabotaged them, and is thus giving her the push.

Leonard Cheshire didn’t prepare for the National Living Wage.

Leonard Cheshire didn’t even begin the process of asking Councils for extra money due to the increase in costs caused by the mandatory National Living Wage (due 1st April 2016), until December 2015. We already know that they hadn’t bothered asking for more money to enable them to pay their carers the  (entirely different) Living Wage Foundation’s Living Wage, until I forced them to do so (in a desultory and non-comprehensive fashion.) Councils have either refused due to their shrinking budgets, or told Leonard Cheshire it will have to wait for a decision pending multiple fee review meetings.

Worries for staff and residents

So LCD have done too little and left it too late. Now staff round the country are demoralised and worried for their jobs, and care home residents around the country (+ their relatives etc.) (with whom Leonard Cheshire have not deigned to communicate on this matter) are left not knowing if their home will be shut in two months with all of them evicted.

This situation is looking increasingly like a repeat Southern Cross. Yeah, thanks for that, Leonard Cheshire Disability.

I quote the founder again:

As time passed, professionalism advanced, and trustee numbers rose. In 1985 the trustees debated proposals which in Cheshire’s eyes “seemed to be based on the assumption that the foundation was moving towards being run by full-time professional staff, with the trustees responsible only for broad policy“. He opposed this, predicting that it would lead to “a radical change in the foundation’s way of thinking.” There would be less local involvement, diminished local fund-raising and a decline in voluntary help. Against this, core costs would rise, and the foundation “would become more and more like the NHS or social services“. (my emphasis)

Do Cheshire Homes have a future?

Mar 032016

Leonard Cheshire has decided to close Honresfeld Cheshire Home, Littleborough. It notified the residents and staff on 27th January of the impending closure at the end of March. 22 disabled people with high support needs live there. Arranging new accommodation and moving is difficult and traumatic enough for people without severe impairments. Imagine trying to sort out suitable care, equipment and accommodation at such short notice

Leonard Cheshire claim that they are consulting over this closure; but it is clear that they have decided they will close it, and rapidly. Their two months notice is in breach of the standard contract with Leonard Cheshire residents, which states:

7.6 In addition to any other rights it has to do so, Leonard Cheshire Disability may terminate this Agreement by giving at least three months written notice to the Service User at any time if Leonard Cheshire Disability proposes to close, temporarily or permanently, or to modify or redevelop the Home and believes that it is not possible in such circumstances to continue this Agreement beyond the end of that notice period.

So Leonard Cheshire Disability have to give residents three months notice. They gave them two months. Why?

As I say, they claim they were consulting on their closure. This doesn’t seem to be a consultation on if they will close, but how. They then decided to give residents an extra couple of months to get out – how generous! Given their own contracts say they have to give three months notice, I have concluded that they always intended on shutting in four months, but went for two just so they can show they are being “responsive” to the “consultation”.

cartoon by Crippen

And when we want your opinion, we’ll tell you what it is! Cartoon c/o the excellent Crippen. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 UK

So why do they have to close anyway, and so quickly?

Leonard Cheshire says that it’s because:

the service is no longer financially viable in the current market. Our charity has been financially supporting the service for a number of years and sadly this is no longer possible.

In addition, the Victorian building requires substantial investment to bring it up to modern-day standards. (my emphasis.)

If Leonard Cheshire have been funding the home for “a number of years”, why the urgent rush to shut it? Is the home that unviable and that skint? The Council and the NHS deny this:

The council and the CCG thoroughly and absolutely refute that the levels of fees paid to Leonard Cheshire, the owners of the home, by Rochdale Borough Council and others can be attributed to their decision to close the home.

We are strongly of the view that with efficient use of resources, the care home could remain open.

We would welcome the opportunity to examine the accounts of Leonard Cheshire and will gladly work with them to provide assistance to review their staffing and care costs in order to find efficiencies to support the home to be viable.

The state of the building and the costs of the works needed to bring it up to standard is a separate issue. We understand that Leonard Cheshire has to make decisions about use of its resources, although we note that according to the last accounts published by the Charity Commission, the organisation has significant levels of reserves.

As a council and CCG we must respect Leonard Cheshire’s commercial decision to close this home as the building needs significant capital investment. We are also aware that any subsequent sale of the land is likely to provide significant additional sale value for the organisation.

We are, however, very disappointed at the way in which Leonard Cheshire has communicated and managed this situation to date. A letter was sent to residents and families on 25 January with the intention to close the home by 31 March.

In our view this shows an uncaring disregard for the wellbeing of residents, some of whom have lived in the home for over 20 years. With better planning and more notice Leonard Cheshire could have worked with Rochdale Borough Council and the CCG to plan the closure and the enforced move for residents more sensitively. (my emphasis.)

So the Council and the NHS think the rapid closure is unnecessary. Leonard Cheshire undoubtedly won’t let them examine their books, Leonard Cheshire is about as transparent and accountable as Colditz. We therfore have to examine other figures.

  • Rochdale council pays Leonard Cheshire on average 44% more per placement than for analogous placements with other providers.
  • They’re not alone: 55 of 71 other councils that place residents in LCD care homes similarly pay more to Leonard Cheshire than to others. (reference)

Perhaps they pay their carers more?

Nope. As previously noted, despite their Chief Executive advocating that carers should be paid the Living Wage as set by the Independent Living Foundation, Leonard Cheshire routinely pays just above the minimum wage. The minimum wage for people aged over 21 outside London is £6.70 per hour. The Living Wage as set by the Independent Living foundation is £8.25 per hour. Leonard Cheshire is currently advertising for carers:

Support Worker (Residential Services) Penzance: £6.77 per hour.

£6.77 per hour.

Leonard Cheshire repeatedly claim that they have “written to all local authorities who commission our services about our desire to pay the living wage” but in fact they still haven’t; for example Manchester City Council contract Leonard Cheshire but have never received any correspondence from them whatsoever asking for increases in fees to enable them to pay the living wage.

So it doesn’t go on carer’s wages. Where does it go?

Good question!

As of April 2015, there were 14 LCD employees who earn more than MPs. (An increase from 11 employees the previous year.) (from their Annual Accounts.) Between them, these LCD employees earn at least £1,300,000 per year (+ private medical care, pensions and other bonuses.) That £1,300,000 is considerably more than Honresfeld residents’ fees. (Assuming that residents’ fees are about £39,000 per year, based upon figures supplied by Rochdale Council, the fee income for Honresfeld is around £850,000 pa.)

Just think: if LCD cut the salaries of their top 14 employees to that of a carer (i.e. the people who actually do the work that makes a difference to disabled people), they could save well over £1,000,000 per year. This saving could more than double the contribution from Honresfeld residents’ fees.

Leonard Cheshire evictions

Leonard Cheshire has a long history of attempting to evicttroublesome” and “non-profitable” people. In the 1950s, it attempted to evict a number of residents  who protested at having to be in their pyjamas by 6pm every day. In 2002, Leonard Cheshire argued for – and got – the legal precedent that they don’t have to respect residents’ human rights, so that they could evict residents from Le Court (the original Cheshire home.) In 2010, “a range of senior (LCD) management” were found to have committed institutional and psychological abuse of me over a number of years, in the process of which they illegitimately attempted to evict me without any justification. Now they are evicting Honresfeld residents with unneeded and cruel haste because they aren’t “profitable“.

I know what Leonard Cheshire the man would have thought. He’s on record. To quote Richard Morris’s biography of him:

As time passed, professionalism advanced, and trustee numbers rose. In 1985 the trustees debated proposals which in Cheshire’s eyes “seemed to be based on the assumption that the foundation was moving towards being run by full-time professional staff, with the trustees responsible only for broad policy“. He opposed this, predicting that it would lead to “a radical change in the foundation’s way of thinking.” There would be less local involvement, diminished local fund-raising and a decline in voluntary help. Against this, core costs would rise, and the foundation “would become more and more like the NHS or social services“. (my emphasis)

In response to the Leonard Cheshire Foundation’s attempt to evict those who objected to the pyjama curfew:

he responded by advising the Management Committee that a Cheshire Home was a home for life.

Honresfeld resident Harry Roach said:

It can’t be right that we can be thrown out after two months. I’ve been here 10 years and I’m happy here.

I thought that they would at least give us a year.

When they said two months I thought ‘You are having a laugh’.

Two months to sort your life out? It would be hard for somebody not disabled, let alone someone in a wheelchair.


There is a petition to stop the closure of Honresfeld Cheshire Home.

Nov 212015
cartoon by Crippen

And when we want your opinion, we’ll tell you what it is!

Clare Pelham, Leonard Cheshire’s Chief Executive Officer, was interviewed by Peter White today on Radio 4 “You and Yours” about disabled peoples’ difficulties in accessing buses. This is because their survey of 179 wheelchair users found “over nine out of ten (92%) wheelchair users had been refused a space on a bus” and “three in five (61%) people identified buggies in the wheelchair space as the biggest problem they faced. This was way ahead of other problems faced by those using wheelchairs“.

Peter White asked her specifically if she thought that the Paulley vs Firstbus case would find in my favour at Supreme Court.

Peter White: “So this case, that is still going to the Supreme Court, are you expecting that to be restored? Mr Paulley‘s right to get on the bus?”

Clare Pelham: “I don’t think I would even presume to guess what Supreme Court judges would find. But actually, I think this shouldn’t be a case for the law. This should be a case for the people, the people to do what’s right, whether they are bus drivers or passengers, we all want to have public transport that enables all of the public to travel.”

That obviously works well, doesn’t it. People with pushchairs, other passengers, drivers, they all know and understand that if the wheelchair space isn’t made available, a wheelchair user can’t travel. Yet by her own figures, 61% of wheelchair users identify buggies in the wheelchair space as the biggest problem they face. Just how does she think the few people with pushchairs, other passengers and drivers who currently prevent wheelchair users traveling are suddenly going to realise the error of their ways? How, precisely, is she going to instill this magnanimity into the British populace? Through simpering on Radio 4?

Leonard Cheshire try to claim to be the voice of disabled people, a campaigning force to be reckoned with. That’s why they spend £735,000 per year on “campaigning”, and why they have posh offices in Vauxhaul – ostensibly so they can toddle round the corner to lobby Parliament. (They grew too big for their previous offices in Millbank.) Yet they don’t have any legitimacy. They don’t have a constituency, and politically active disabled people despise them. They also don’t walk the walk for the talk they talk, as demonstrated by Northumbria University’s research – an apposite quote below.

“One of the problems it (user involvement) causes is when residents become more empowered and aware of the opportunities of life they’re likely to ask for more. In asking for more, it usually involves staff, and resources are already very scarce and limited, and centred mainly in providing basic daily care in washing, dressing, eating and they occupy an awful lot of time. Empowerment creates problems of staff support. And if the choice of empowerment involves travel then that’s a further added burden. Not necessarily to pay the cost of travelling but to have the opportunity with limited transport or escort.” – A resident in a Leonard Cheshire care home.

Yet even Leonard Cheshire recognise that the Firstbus case is an important fight. Andy Cole (Minister for Administrative Aff – sorry, Director of Corporate Affairs) told BBC News that Leonard Cheshire was disappointed with the Appeal Court judgement as it did not provide “clarity and certainty for disabled bus passengers that the space they need will definitely be made available“, and further that if the case moved to the Supreme Court he hoped any judgement would provide that certainty. (He even gave me a back-handed compliment; “The case shows the immense impact that individual campaigners can have“).

One wonders what planet Clare Pelham is on. Out of touch with service users, disabled people, her own care-workers and even her own campaign team (or at least her Ashley Maddison rep – sorry, “Director of Corporate Affairs”.)

Non-disabled and on £150,000 per year plus private medical treatment and other benefits – surely Clare Pelham should shut up or carry on her disempowering self-serving greasy-pole-climbing elsewhere?

With thanks as ever to the wonderful Dave Lupton / Crippen for his excellent cartoon.

Oct 092015

Leonard Cheshire have announced that the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded them £242,250 to “enable the charity to use its archives to raise awareness about the history of disabled people“, topped up to £305,500 by two other charities.

Cartoon by the wonderful Crippen / Dave Lupton Cartoons: www crippencartoons.co.uk

Cartoon by the wonderful Crippen / Dave Lupton Cartoons www.crippencartoons.co.uk

For their full, nauseating and uninteresting press release (why do charities write such?),

View press release

From: Selina Mills [mailto:Selina.Mills@leonardcheshire.org] Sent: 09 October 2015 12:54
To: Selina Mills


  • Leonard Cheshire Disability ‘REWIND’ project secures £242,250 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)
  • Archive will show history of disabled people’s lives over 70 years
  • Project will increase access to archive materials
  • Total amount raised for the project is £305,500

Leading charity Leonard Cheshire Disability is delighted to have been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £242,250 which will enable the charity to use its archives to raise awareness about the history of disabled people.

The HLF grant will be used to fund ‘Rewind – seven decades of stories from Leonard Cheshire Disability’ project. It will support vital conservation work, digitise archive material and record new oral history interviews with disabled people. The project will create an accessible website and allow online public access to the collections for the first time.

It comes alongside contributions to the project from the Sobell Foundation and the Brighton and Worthing Charitable Trust. The total amount raised for the project is £305,500.

This project uses archive materials from the home of the founder of the charity, Leonard Cheshire, called ‘Le Court’ which was adapted for its disabled residents. Le Court had a film unit, radio station, publishers, archive and artists group run by disabled people and played a significant role in the beginnings of the disability rights movement.

Stephanie Nield, Leonard Cheshire Disability Archivist, said:
“We have such a rich and diverse archive and as a result, the heritage we hold from Le Court forms a unique part of a rarely documented social and disability history.

“Our founder, Leonard Cheshire, started our charity in 1948 with a single act of kindness when he took disabled veteran Arthur Dykes into his own home to care for him. This is an important step in helping us shape our history to share this dynamic story with the world.”

Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we’re able to support Leonard Cheshire Disability’s project that will explore, raise awareness and share the heritage of disabled people over the last 70 years. This is particularly timely as 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act – so it’s the perfect time to uncover this largely hidden part of our history.”

A community engagement programme is also planned and will run in six locations in the Home Counties of Surrey, West Sussex, Essex and Kent with trained volunteers assisting community groups to share memories and experiences. Volunteers will also record the oral histories of people who had contact with and experience of the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, as well as capturing the experience of disabled people over seventy years.

The project will increase the opportunities for of disabled people to talk about and share their experiences of care and capture a unique part of UK social history.


For further information, images and interviews, please contact Selina Mills in the Press Office on 020 3242 0298 or on Selina.Mills@leonardcheshire.org

Notes to editors

The Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery

Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services to disabled people. We support thousands of people with physical and learning disabilities in the UK and we work with Cheshire partner organisations in 54 countries around the world. We campaign for change and provide innovative services that give disabled people the opportunity to live life their way. Visit www.leonardcheshire.org


I hope the opening-up of Leonard Cheshire’s archives will be “warts and all” and not an exercise in nauseating saccharine-sweet deification of the organisation, but I suspect they will be true to form. (I also hope that they put the £242,350 to good use: shame they can’t use it to pay carers the living wage. Mind you, it wouldn’t even pay a year’s salary of their two highest earning staff.)

The history of Leonard Cheshire Disability is not insignificant to the development of the disabled peoples’ rights movement, throughout the UK and indeed the world; though probably not in the way that they would really like people to believe. I wonder if their archive will release some of the following history.

It’s ironic that Leonard Cheshire Disability are releasing their archives as a result of a Lottery grant, because Leonard Cheshire Disability had to wrestle their domain name off a disabled ex-trustee, who was using the domain to show LCD were duplicitous in their treatment of disabled people and were allegedly fraudulent in their grant application to the Lottery.

But there’s much more history than that.

The seminal Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation, the founder of the disabled peoples’ movement and the originators of the Social Model, occurred as a result of Paul Hunt‘s reaction to institutionalised care and  segregation in Le Court, the inaugural Leonard Cheshire home.

The residents of Le Court resisted the disabling regime. They did so initially through sending the staff to Coventry in 1956 to 1958. They went on to stage the infamous “pyjama protest” – they instituted a protest of mass defiance of the rule that they had to change into their pyjamas by 6pm. Their protests earned them eviction notices, which Leonard Cheshire served against multiple residents and only rescinded following a direct appeal to Group Captain Leonard Cheshire himself.  “Our Len” said that a Cheshire home was a home for life, words which echo down the ages…

Paul felt that these charities, by focussing on Residential Care, were basically wrong. He saw disabled people’s place as being in the community. In addition Paul felt that these existing long established ‘disability’ organisations did not reflect the interests of disabled people and that disabled people should organise and form their own organisations.

The same clarion call across the decades: Leonard Cheshire would have you believe that they are disabled peoples’ mouthpiece, yet they don’t represent disabled people and they don’t always practice what they preach in their own service provision.

I hope the archive will show documents from when residents challenged Leonard Cheshire after LCD chose to close Le Court in 2002. Leonard Cheshire won by creating the legal precedent that (despite being paid hundreds of millions of pounds in taxpayers money) they are not subject to the Human Rights Act, including the obligation to respect disabled peoples’ right to choice over their homes. As a result, they can – and did – shut Le Court against residents’ wishes, evicting the disabled people living there.

I wonder if the archive will include the two pieces of research (by Peter Beresford and Northumbria University) commissioned by LCD’s Trustees but then quietly hidden as they showed that Leonard Cheshire actively undermined residents’ rights to basic everyday choices and support?

Will it include that they spent hundreds of thousands of pounds changing their brand and their name; in the process failing to tell or consult Leonard Cheshire’s family? Or that BBC presenters suggested that they choose a name that describes what they do, e.g. “jobs for the boys” or “keep us out of sight, out of mind you bastard”?

I hope Dr Laurence Clark‘s research paper, “Leonard Cheshire vs. The Disabled People’s Movement: A Review” is given due prominence:

Oliver (1990, page 39) points outs that the post-war ‘rescuing’ of disabled adults from other unsuitable provision by the Cheshire Foundation may subsequently be reinterpreted as “incarceration” by historians. Although the organisation would argue that in recent years it has changed to an “enabling” approach, the movement maintains that it “continues to appropriate our language as efficiently as it corrupts our image and comodifies our lives to ensure its thriving status as the leading charity provider of services for disabled people in the UK today” (Carr, 2000).

To be fair and comprehensive, it would have to include the many protests by disabled people against the Leonard Cheshire. For example, in 2007 disabled people stopped Leonard Cheshire’s glitzy ball by blockading it and letting off stink-bombs, as a protest against the “prison like regime” in many Leonard Cheshire homes.


Perhaps it should include Leonard Cheshire’s tragic failures: incidents where their cost-cutting and incompetence have resulted in people dying. For example, Leonard Cheshire killed one young man because they left an unsupervised voluntary worker who don’t know his care plan, to feed him without supervision, even though the Council paid the home £1,700 per week for his care. (That home eventually shut.)

Leonard Cheshire have repeatedly demonstrated that they are unable to run any new services. For example, Waltham Forrest council abandoned using Leonard Cheshire’s services shortly after appointing them, due to this debacle which caused misery and suffering for many disabled people.

Leonard Cheshire sunk a lot of other people’s money (including mine, from my fees to another care home) into an Acquired Brain Injury unit in Goole. It shut shortly after it opened due to a shortage of clients, because Leonard Cheshire’s regional director annoyed a neurological consultant. Leonard Cheshire had to cut their losses, yet another provider has since opened the same unit. It’s now profitable and providing a decent service.

“Since the closure of the nearly-new 1.5m Leonard Cheshire unit in 2003, people from the Goole area have had to travel to Leeds or York for treatment. But the unit is now reopening in August thanks to a joint venture between the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT) and Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Trust (NLAG).” Strange that, I wonder why this Trust could run it but Leonard Cheshire failed…

I hope the published archives include my little comma in the history of the organisation. Leonard Cheshire had the only enforcement notice ever issued against a charity by the Information Commissioner’s Office, after they tried to hide from me that senior managers called me a “git” and a “plonker” and attempted to sabotage funding for a holiday I’d booked, in recompense for me raising issues that residents had been overcharged by hundreds of pounds due to LCD’s failure to follow its own transport procedures.

They then attempted to evict me whilst still going through the façade of mediating with me; resulting in the local safeguarding adults’ board reaching a formal finding that Leonard Cheshire had subjected me to institutional abuse. Leonard Cheshire threatened judicial review, following which the Board re-investigated and concluded that their first conclusion was too light. They unanimously concluded that Leonard Cheshire had subjected me to institutional abuse, and specifically psychological abuse, by a range of senior management over a period of years.

I guess in one respect we should thank Leonard Cheshire for creating such amazing disability activists as John EvansPaul Hunt, Liz Carr and Paul Darke, and prompting them to create the Social Model; much as we should “thank” PW Botha‘s South African apartheid regime for creating Desmond Tutu and Madiba Mandela, and for prompting them to create the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Leonard Cheshire Disability’s CEO Clare Pelham on poverty

 Leonard Cheshire  Comments Off on Leonard Cheshire Disability’s CEO Clare Pelham on poverty
Aug 232015

Clare Pelham had this to say in Leonard Cheshire’s annual accounts 2014-2015:

Disabled people are more likely to be living in poverty and less likely to have savings than most. The pressures on social care funding available to councils in this country have increased and this has affected many disabled people.

She ought to know about poverty; after all, she’s only paid between £140,000 and £150,000 per year. She is one of 25 staff earning more than £60,000 – none of whom are directly engaged in the core activity of providing personal care and support to disabled people. Indeed, the number of staff in the charity earning £100,000 or more actually increased this year. To put that in context, MPs’ salaries are £67,060.

The report also lists the following risk and mitigation: (my emphasis)

Rising wages costs and our ambition to pay all staff at least the Living Wage could impact the financial sustainability of some or all of the Charity’s operations
  1. Annual increases in our fees requested from commissioners to offset the cost of wage increases and to support our efforts to work towards paying the Living Wage.
  2. Annual budget and business planning cycle.


This is perhaps progress, because even though Clare Pelham had this to say in September last year:

At the very least we should celebrate care as a wonderful career choice with great training; and nothing less than a living-wage should be acceptable.

the charity continues to pay its carers less than the living wage. They claim it’s because commissioners don’t pay them enough:

Commissioners are working under increasing financial pressure, so in many cases achieving living wage rates is not possible immediately

Yet until I kicked off about this in January, they’d not asked any commissioners to pay more so they could pay carers the living wage – and even now they’ve only recently written to a small proportion of commissioners to start the conversation. (At least I’ve forced them to go through the motions.)

In fact, the company reduced their spending on staff wages by over £2,000,000 in financial year 2014-2015 compared to 2013-2014, despite receiving an increased income of over £1,000,000 from fees paid by councils, part of their £7,500,000 overall increase in income. (£6,000,000 of the increased income is sat in their bank accounts – Goodness knows where the rest is.)  Check their annual reports and accounts (PDF file) – hold your nose to get past the odious self-congratulatory bollocks in the first half of the report; their figures for income are on p64, staff costs on p91, and the salaries of their most senior employees on p92.

One wonders if the reflection in their annual report may indeed by correct. It’s my view that they don’t give a stuff about their low wages to carers; they are only interested in appearing to give a stuff about their carers’ pay, and they don’t view the living wage as something to aspire to but as a threat to their business model.

Leonard Cheshire advertise for rehab workers at less than the Living Wage

 Leonard Cheshire  Comments Off on Leonard Cheshire advertise for rehab workers at less than the Living Wage
Jul 092015

This advert for a rehabilitation worker demonstrates how Leonard Cheshire underpay their staff.

It’s for a rehabilitation worker in a specialist acquired brain injury (ABI) unit. Think head injuries from motorbike accidents, severe strokes and so on. Pretty specialist and full on work, in my view. The responsibilities include giving out medication, handling challenging behaviour, undertaking clinical interventions as directed by senior staff and so on.

The weekday pay is £7.16 per hour, or £7.41 for people with a relevant NVQ. (There is a 20% uplift for night and weekend work.)

The Living Wage is £7.85.

How can it possibly be right that Leonard Cheshire pay carers taking on this amount of responsibility, this commitment and making such a difference to people with severe brain injuries less than the living wage?

Jun 062015

I raised in blogs passim that Clare Pelham, Chief Executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability (salary: £150k+) had this to say in the Huff 9 months ago:

At the very least we should celebrate care as a wonderful career choice with great training; and nothing less than a living-wage should be acceptable.

rates-currentThe Eye picked up that pay rates in LCD’s job adverts are less than the Living Wage ( £9.15 in London, £7.85 in the rest of the UK). In fact, they’re still not paying it. Here’s a current advert for a carer at Leonard Cheshire Disability in rural Carmarthenshire (posted 1st April 2015 and valid until the end of June) – salary: £6.53 an hour.

In response to my previous complaint that they don’t pay the living wage, Leonard Cheshire Disability said that they would like to but they aren’t paid enough by councils for residents’ care, so they can’t pay their carers the living wage. I was suspicious, so in January, I sent freedom of information requests to every council with social services responsibilities in England, Wales and Scotland, and every health and social care trust in Northern Ireland, to ask them whether Leonard Cheshire had asked councils to pay more so they can pay their carers the living wage, and how much Leonard Cheshire charges the council for residential care for people with physical impairments under the age of 65 compared to how much other providers charge. Here are a few sample responses.

There are 172 councils with social care responsibility and Northern Irish health and social care trusts in the UK. 168 have responded (four are with the Information Commissioner.) Of those, 123 councils hold contracts with Leonard Cheshire. 2 have lost their correspondence with Leonard Cheshire; that leaves 121 who hold correspondence from Leonard Cheshire about their fees levels. (The full data are available in this spreadsheet.)

Of those 121, how many councils do you think Leonard Cheshire asked to increase their payments so that Leonard Cheshire could pay the living wage?


Not one single one. As of January, LCD had not asked any council to increase their fees so they could pay the living wage. 0%.

Leonard Cheshire had written to the councils asking for increases, but cited inflationary increase only – here’s an example letter.

So let’s see; maybe Leonard Cheshire charge less than their competitors, and that’s why they have to pay less. This is less clear-cut: councils generally agree the fees paid to residential care service providers based on the needs of each client. 72 councils provided usable comparative details of fees paid to both LCD and other providers for residential care for adults under 65 whose primary need is physical impairment (other councils had few clients and thus either couldn’t give scientifically significant data or couldn’t give information without risking identifying residents and so on.)  Of these 72 councils, 8 councils paid LCD less per client than other providers; 7 paid roughly the same to LCD and to other providers; and 56 councils paid more to Leonard Cheshire Disability than other providers.

78% of councils pay LCD more than other providers.

Okay; so LCD say that “nothing less than a living wage should be acceptable” for care workers; but they haven’t and still don’t pay it. They say it’s because they don’t get enough money from councils, but in 78% of councils they get paid more than other care providers, and they haven’t asked ANY council for more money so that they could pay their carers the living wage.

My Dad confronted Leonard Cheshire about this.

Vicky Hemming, People Director at Leonard Cheshire, said this in this letter of 22nd May:

“We remain in regular dialogue with commissioners, and have in fact recently written to all local authorities who commission our services about our desire to pay the living wage.

Oh, really? I thought I would check. I put in further Freedom of Information Requests to 21 councils who had been particularly helpful the first time round.

Anglesey: (nearest LCD service: Carmarthen, whose job advert I quote above)

I have summarised your request as: “any representation Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) has made to your council to increase fees paid by yourselves to LCD in order to enable LCD to pay its carers the Living Wage”.

I have discussed your request with the relevant Senior Manager who provided me with copies of communications between LCD and the Isle of Anglesey County Council and the North Wales Commissioning Hub (NWCH) response. As a result I can confirm that the correspondence related to fees, but had no mention of Living wage.

East Yorkshire’s response:

We have been in correspondence with LCD about fees levels but this has not being regarding the living wage.


Monmouthshire County Council has received further correspondence from Leonard Cheshire Disability about fees but no mention has been made of the Living Wage.

How can Leonard Cheshire claim to have “written to all local authorities who commission our services about our desire to pay the living wage” and yet three councils (so far, many are yet to respond) have had NO correspondence whatsoever about the living wage from LCD? Is there a fit of collective amnesia, or some careful manipulation of the truth?

The truth is straightforward and totally borne out by all the above research.

  1. Leonard Cheshire Disability claim that “nothing less than the living wage is acceptable” for carers.
  2. Leonard Cheshire Disability comprehensively pay less than the living wage to its carers.
  3. Leonard Cheshire Disability have lied about the reasons they don’t pay their carers the living wage.
  4. Leonard Cheshire Disability have lied about their supposed actions taken to enable them to pay their carers the living wage.

The implications:

  • Leonard Cheshire Disability’s claim to value their carers is obviously complete rubbish, as they don’t pay their carers a living wage.
  • Whilst they want the good PR of appearing to support the Living Wage, the reality is that they don’t and that they use illegitimate excuses for not doing so.
  • Leonard Cheshire Disability have lied about the actions they have taken to enable them to pay the Living Wage. In reality, they have done VERY little.
  • This is a sad indictment of Leonard Cheshire Disability’s treatment of its staff, and – by proxy – its service users.
  • Leonard Cheshire Disability can’t be trusted in their public pronouncements.

When are they going to actually start paying the living wage?


Since publishing this post, so far the following councils have responded about whether they have had LCD’s supposed recent missive on the Living Wage.


I can confirm that Torfaen Social Care Service has not received the correspondence you refer to below.


Brighton & Hove Commissioning & Contracts Team have not received correspondence from Leonard Cheshire Foundation regarding the Living Wage.

West Lothian:

 I can confirm that West Lothian Council has received no further correspondence from Leonard Cheshire Disability in relation to increase in fees for services.

Kensington and Chelsea:

We received correspondence from Leonard Cheshire but there was no reference to the Living Wage.


We have not received any request from Leonard Cheshire Disability about their desire to pay the living wage to their carers.


I can confirm that we have received letters from LCD requesting an increase in fees to reflect inflation, but have no record of any correspondence referring to the living wage.

Milton Keynes:

we are not aware that the Joint Commissioning Team has received any correspondence from The Leonard Cheshire Disability regarding the living wage.

Barnet: (Hallelujia! Blimey! We’ve struck gold! A council that has actually had correspondence from LCD on the living wage! This is better than nothing, but hardly hard talking to the Council to make it happen, in my view.)

We fully support the recommendation of both commissions that social care should become a living wage sector.
While we recognise that this relies on a sustainable funding settlement from central government, I would welcome an opportunity to discuss this further with you, including ways in which we can work together to address this important issue for the sector.

Devon: (back to reality)

Devon County Council are not aware of having received any correspondence from Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) in relation to the living wage.


I have been informed that the Authority received a letter from LCD dated 19 December 2014 (copy attached). (aside: letter does not mention the Living Wage.) Since then the Authority has only received an email from LCD asking for a decision on the matter

Leeds: (Will wonders never cease? Another council that has had the same letter as Barnet.)

Leeds City Council Adult Social Care can confirm that we have received correspondence from Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) which refers to a living wage for the care sector

Southern Health and Social Care Trust (Northern Ireland):

The Trust has not received the correspondence you have referred to.

Birmingham: At the point that Leonard Cheshire claimed it had recently written to all commissioning authorities about the Living Wage (22nd May), Birmingham Council had not received any such letter. They have since received a letter about the living wage (dated 16th June) referring to the previous letter. LCD’s 2nd letter says: “In recent months we have sought to highlight this issue” – I wonder what prompted them to do that?! They further request a meeting to “discuss ways in which we can work together to address this.”
If my exposure of LCD’s duplicity has contributed in any way to forcing them to start to address the Living Wage, then I am pleased, even if they’re just going through the motions. Carers deserve better pay.

The Authority did not receive the letter which preceded this

Cumbria: Had not received any letter from LCD at the time LCD claimed it had written to all commissioning authorities.

Leonard Cheshire Disability wrote to the Interim Director for Health and Care Services at Cumbria County Council on 16th June 2015. The letter goes on to state that…LCD wrote to CCC on 25th March…

Buckinghamshire: DID receive the communication from Leonard Cheshire.


Dec 222014

I am truly humbled and embarrassed to have been selected by Professor Peter Beresford OBE as his choice of “Hero” for the year. For those that don’t know him, he is a tireless fighter for human rights for disabled people and others who has done a phenomenal amount to influence the social policy agenda towards the rights and needs of people. I have immense respect for him. To be declared a hero by such a stalwart… I am speechless.

crop-54885dc7cedfe-imgID8404369As his villain, Peter chose Ian Duncan-Smith. I agree entirely. IDS has been found to have massaged figures, he demonises welfare benefit recipients and has caused the death and suffering of innumerable people, most notably disabled people. He is a ring-leader in the nasty cripple-kicking, disemboweling and most destructive Government I have ever experienced. But given that Peter has already chosen him, I will choose somebody else.

I am in danger of falling into a trite trap: award recipients and givers always say “There is too much good competition and it is too hard to choose” – but it is. Many people are unsung heroes and have made a massive, positive impact in my life this last year: family (especially parents), friends, care workers (especially Mike), Church staff and volunteers, Oxfam staff (Louisa), volunteers and customers etc. – but they aren’t public figures.

I have been truly flabbergasted by the huge support I have received from all quarters in my recent public battle over wheelchair spaces. Chris Fry, Natalie Rodgers, Unity Law and Cloisters Chambers have really stuck their neck out, without them my legal battles would not have been what they are; and indeed the Equality and Human Rights Commission who have funded my case.


I’ve decided to choose a Group of people as my “Hero” of 2014: Transport for All.

I have found them truly revelatory and awe-inspiring: their staff – especially Lianna and Faryal – and their members. I was in tears when I saw the number of people who had come out in support of “my” case against FirstBus. There are far too many influential and powerful people to mention here – but special mentions must include Chris (Squirrelpot), Sue Groves, Tracey Proudlock, Martha Ellis, Paula Peters and so, so many others. You guys have truly inspired me: I am in awe of all that you achieve (Crossrail, for example) through your incredible energy and constant, hugely successful campaigning. Long may you continue, and God bless you all.


Pelham-20140930105114887Clare Pelham, CEO of Leonard Cheshire.

Clare Pelham is a phony.

In my view, she is the antithesis to everything good about Transport for All. She is an overpaid (£140,000+) leader of a charity that fundamentally provides social (notably residential) care to disabled people (including me,) yet she has self-appointed herself as ambassador and representative of disabled people (of which she is not one) and seems to measure her success purely in the number of column inches she manages to glean for herself and her band of self-selected (non-disabled) cronies. Any disabled peoples’ rights she spouts are purely a mechanism to this end.

2014-12-19 18.37.13She is a purveyor of saccharine sweet vomit-inducing homilies whilst actively undermining and disempowering both those who deliver the services for which she claims credit AND those disabled people she illegitimately claims to represent. She has actively attacked service user involvement and co-production within Leonard Cheshire, and shown at best complete disinterest about the quality of the services “her” residents pay for.

It is clear to me, and to many other right-thinking disabled people, that she is only interested in campaigning and not in service provision; and even then she only campaigns when it serves her purposes of self-aggrandisement and career-building. She jumps on the bandwagon of campaigns, but only if if they give her exposure.

As usual, I am expressing widely held views by a wide range of committed disabled people, but Clare Pelham probably isn’t even aware people think this of her as she surrounds herself solely with people she thinks important, blanking everybody else. Her judgement as to who is important is warped: she brown noses the “Great and the Good” (usually non-disabled do-gooders) whilst treating service users and advocates etc. with contempt to the point of blatant rudeness.

Worst of all, she is a duplicitous fraud, as exposed in the current (Christmas) issue of Private Eye (which references this chintzy horrificness at the Huff, the Leonard Cheshire Jobs Page and her salary as quoted in Leonard Cheshire’s Annual Report and Accounts.)

I could be accused of biting the hand that feeds me here, as Leonard Cheshire are paid £1,000 per week for me to live in one of their care homes; also I could be accused of bias, given that the charity has previously been found to have institutionally abused me – but the truth is I think that most disabled people would agree that their cause would be better served if Clare Pelham was not around; if she buggered off back to Coca Cola, IBM, the Judicial Appointments Commission or any of her other numerous previous positions.

I say so as she does not represent anybody, is transparently solely interested in her own status and as her presence actively undermines the voices of those “hard to reach” groups she claims to represent.

I now await the inevitable backlash for daring to speak my mind against the oligarchy – I wonder how long it will take, and how blatant or pseudo-underhand it will be this time


On to 2015! Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year to all; and may we inch ever further towards rights and equality.

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