Ten months at Leonard Cheshire


For the tenth day of Christmas, our CEO Ruth Owen looks back on her first ten months at Leonard Cheshire since she joined in February 2021.

Ruth Owen OBE

It’s been a whirlwind year in just about every way. I started a fantastic new job that’s close to my heart; my mum having been a nurse at a Leonard Cheshire service. I’ve always had a deep connection to the charity and its cause. My new colleagues have been incredibly welcoming, and it’s lovely to be part of the work Leonard Cheshire does.

It’s undeniable that recent years have been extremely difficult for charities and organisations such as ours that are working at the frontline of the pandemic. 

What’s struck me from day one has of my job here has been the extraordinary passion and commitment of staff and volunteers across the whole organisation. Together we are putting in place the foundations for Leonard Cheshire to transform more lives each year. We want to have a bigger voice confronting the injustices disabled people face daily.

Here’s to 2022 and beyond. But for now, here are my top ten memories from my first ten months on the job. Merry Christmas!

February

New year, new job! And what a time to be starting a new position. It was a month of highs and lows. The UK was in some of the darkest days of the pandemic, and all social care providers were under huge pressure. We launched a fresh emergency appeal for PPE funding on the same day I started in post, with our spending on this equipment alone about 20 times above pre-pandemic levels. Across the charity, everyone was doing all they could to keep disabled people safe and connected. I couldn’t wait to get to work

March

One of the first things I got to do at Leonard Cheshire was helping to support International Woman’s Day. Internally and externally, we highlighted the discrimination girls with disabilities can face. Across the UK, in many areas, there are not enough supported living and accessible housing options for disabled people, particularly young adults. We welcomed the first residents of our new supported living scheme in Shanklin as part of our commitment to help disabled people live independently. Other schemes followed later in the year, with many more in the pipeline.

April

Disabled rapper Kray-Z Legz worked with us to draw attention to the day-to-day outdated and discriminatory language used about disability. This sparked quite a bit of debate over which words were acceptable – but the fact is, if the words hurt, then we shouldn’t use them. After the campaign, Kray-Z Legz joined us as an ambassador, which was great news.
Also…the first restrictions began to lift!

May

I got plenty done this month…but I didn’t walk 600 miles, like fundraiser John Barrett! John kicked off his trek in Somerset this month, and he’d go on to raise over £2300 for us with an odyssey across the South-West.

June

The pandemic had put social care’s value and future in the spotlight like never before. We shared research showing that investment in social care would pay for itself – and could boost the economy by up to £20billion! Meanwhile, we recognised the achievement of long-term volunteer Syd Barber who’s spent 20 years befriending residents and transforming lives at Cheshire House in Inverness. The contribution our volunteers make to the success of the organisation is amazing.

July

The month we dared to hope…while our Euro dreams were dashed at Wembley, we highlighted the genuine need for reform and investment in the social care sector. And the long-awaited National Disability Strategy arrived: a great small step, but not the definitive moment some might have wanted it to be. 

August

This was an incredibly proud month. We saw our Ambassadors Sophie Morgan and Olivia Breen head to Tokyo for the Paralympics, with Sophie being part of Channel 4's coverage and Olivia picking up a bronze medal!

September

With the first days of Autumn came the last big sporting event in our calendar to return in full force after the pandemic – the London Marathon. Among our runners was Gurbir Singh Parmar, also known as Arnie, who was running his 81st (!) long-distance race to raise money for us. 

October

This month, it gave us no pleasure to report that hate crimes against disabled people had risen in lockdown. But our findings, released in partnership with United Response, caught people’s attention, and there have since been moves to strengthen laws on these crimes since.

November

This month we teamed up with the TUC called on the government to do more to ensure young disabled people were not left behind by the economic recovery from covid. We found that 89% of young disabled people had seen their work impacted by the pandemic – they, as our report said, ‘Still Locked Out’ of the labour market.

December

And just like that, ten months flew by. But we’re not stopping there. With a new year round the corner, we’ve just launched the Healthier Ways in 21 Days Challenge. This challenge aims to get the nation into enjoyable new habits while raising awareness of our work to help people lead active and fulfilling lives.