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.

Quite.

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
Subject: FW: LEADING DISABILITY ARCHIVE PROJECT SECURES MAJOR NATIONAL LOTTERY GRANT

PRESS RELEASE
HIGH RES PIX AVAILABLE

  • 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.

ENDS

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.

gang-and-cops

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.

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