Message from the chief executive

Clare PelhamIlyas has looked back over an extremely rewarding period in our history, and it seems right that I should look to the future. Especially since we have recently agreed ambitious strategies to do more to support more disabled people worldwide. It may seem odd to respond to straitened times across many countries with a plan for growth. But the need is there and we must respond.

We are very conscious that our charity was founded in 1948 during a time of austerity and has grown steadily since, in good times and in bad. The wonderful generosity of the British public has meant that even when times were hard, and perhaps especially then, there was always thought for those who most need support. That’s why I am delighted that in the next five years we shall be doubling our international programmes enabling disabled children to go to school in many countries where this would not otherwise be possible; and working in partnership with great employers to find training and work after school that enables them to live independently.

In this country, supporting disabled people to realise their ambition at work is also an important part of what we do. And we are looking forward to expanding our Change100 employment programme, which gives young disabled people the opportunity to work for some of the best-known businesses in the UK. This enables them of course to develop their skills and confidence, and for employers it is an opportunity to identify much-needed talented people to help their business grow. That must be why 100% of them recommend Change100.

But our ambitions for next year go much further. Our Future Choices programme is perhaps our most ambitious project yet, and will allow us to speak to every single person using our social care services to see how they wish to live their lives in future and how they wish to be supported to achieve these ambitions.

We already try to ensure that the care and support that we provide is centred on the choices and preferences of disabled people. Future Choices builds on this experience and extends it so that we can ensure that everything the charity does is based on this understanding. We might, for example, learn that in one community many disabled people would achieve fuller lives if local buses were accessible; or if more support were available for job interview practice from mentors. This will help to guide our work in terms of the services we provide and, importantly, influencing others to do likewise. We are told that we are the only charity planning this kind of programme on such a large scale. To us it is simply about formalising the way we try to work every day, with the individual at the heart of all that we do.

There is a danger that in all our enthusiasm for the good work that the charity can do, that I do not mention the undoubted effect of the worldwide economic recession. This has hit many families, but 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. It has also sharply affected the amount of funding available to pay care staff who do an extraordinary job. We shall continue to press for sufficient social care funding to be available so that all disabled people who need it can receive good quality support and all care staff who provide it can be suitably paid.

I think it is important to say that every day thousands of our staff come to work determined to do the best they can for disabled people. We know that we are not perfect and that we sometimes fall short of our own high standards. When that happens, I hope that we are always quick to say sorry and to try to learn from our mistakes and improve. But we also know how much our front-line care staff are valued by all those they support as well as those who work alongside them.

And the work of our wonderful staff is supplemented by many thousands of volunteers. Every day they make an amazing impact on the lives of many, many disabled people, whether it is by enabling digital technology that brings with it life-changing opportunities or by providing transport and touchline support for a really rough game of wheelchair rugby.

And none of this would be possible without our fantastic donors. We know that many of you prefer to be unknown, but we want you to know that every sponsored walk, every cake sale and every raffle ticket really contributes to making someone’s life better. Together, staff, volunteers, donors and all our supporters across many countries, we are making a difference.

Thank you.

Clare Pelham signature

Clare Pelham
Chief executive