Facing a second battle today
8 November 2015
by Clare Pelham
On Remembrance Sunday, our thoughts are with those who have given their lives in conflict so that we may live as we do.
This time of year is very resonant to me personally as our founder Leonard Cheshire, the famous and decorated hero of the Second World War, started our charity by giving disabled veterans a home when they had nowhere else to go.
Nearly 70 years on from this act of kindness, Leonard Cheshire’s legacy lives on through our work, which is still as important as ever.
We know that today’s disabled veterans face a second battle on the home front. They battle first to get the care they need, then they battle to find housing and finally to get a job or the support they need to start a small business.
Today, disabled young people are twice as likely to be out of education, employment or training. And qualifications offer little protection, with disabled people more than twice as likely to be lacking, but wanting work, at every qualification level. It’s the same whether you are a graduate officer or a fully qualified mechanical engineer.
Why do we deny ourselves the invaluable contribution that disabled people can make to our society? The disability employment gap is more than two million disabled people senselessly out of work. The government has made a great commitment to halve it, but why stop there? Don’t halve it, close it. That would be just one way to pay tribute to the heroes we remember.
And so, at this reflective time, I ask we think about how long it has been since the first Remembrance Day in 1919. And that we don’t forget the many sacrifices made by all who serve, and how much more is still to be done to give disabled veterans self-respect that comes from economic independence — whether that’s from running a business or holding down a job.
Those who gave their lives in conflict did it for us all. Up and down the country we will say at the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.
This year let’s not just say the words but also give meaning to them in the way we live now.
Clare Pelham is chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability.