The elderly and disabled across West Sussex, lost a valiant champion last week, with the death of Charles Boughton-Leigh, less than a month after he had been honoured with an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Charles, 68, had devoted his adult life to caring and campaigning for the vulnerable across West Sussex and the South East, and was awarded his honour for services to the community within Mid and West Sussex.
“The award was well overdue,” said close friend and fellow rugby fanatic Bob Rodgers.
“Charles has done more than anyone over the past 30 years to improve services and care support for the elderly and disabled.”
Charles and his wife Ann have cared for their twin Downs Syndrome boys, Andrew and James, for the past 41 years, and worked tirelessly to improve the lives of many other disabled and elderly people within West Sussex.
Three decades ago, Charles co-founded the Ferring Country Centre near Worthing, to provide a horse riding centre and meaningful training and work experience for more than 100 people with learning difficulties.
He also Chaired Worthing Mencap, and for 12 years, served as Chief Officer of Age Concern Haywards Heath, and as a Board member of Age Concern South East (now Age UK), and instigated the Saturday Dementia Clubs across the region.
He was also a co-founder of Don’t Cut Us Out, which continues to campaign against the £31m cuts in care support for the vulnerable imposed last year by West Sussex County Council.
It was he who addressed the council in a debate about these controversial cuts in care support last year, and was expected to address the issues again at the next full council meeting in October.
Charles’ other great passion was rugby. A past President of Worthing Rugby Club, he instigated mini rugby at the Club to encourage junior participation within the sport, and saw the concept grow first nationally, and then worldwide.
In 2004, he was honoured by the Rugby Football Union with an England/Wales match at Twickenham for his voluntary work within the sport.
Charles, who has lived and worked in West Sussex throughout his life, was a firm believer in the right enshrined within EU Law that every citizen, irrespective of age or disability, has a right to a life, and not simply an existence.
After being honoured by the Queen in July, Charles explained: “When our two Downs Syndrome boys were born, there was very little available in the way of care support, but parents worked very hard in partnership with West Sussex County Council to turn this around. The services provided for the disabled and elderly across the County became an example for the rest of the Country, but since the cuts, West Sussex has fallen back to being one of the worst ranked counties in England. I am concerned that much of what we achieved will be lost.”
Charles, who lived with his family in East Preston, is survived by his wife Ann, their four sons, Andrew, James, George and Tom, and two grandchildren, Charlie and Archie.
The funeral service for Charles Boughton-Leigh will be held at mid-day on Monday August 6 at East Preston Church, followed by a wake at Worthing Rugby Club.