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HRH The Princess Royal joins Livability for thanksgiving service in charity’s 180th year

January 24 2024

Charity beneficiaries, staff and supporters came together in the oldest church in the City of London.

Livability was proud to host a commemorative thanksgiving service yesterday at All Hallows by the Tower in the City of London. HRH The Princess Royal joined with people supported by Livability, supporters and staff, to reflect back on a rich heritage trail-blazed by social reform pioneer Lord Shaftesbury, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. Her Royal Highness has been Patron of Livability since 2002.

This year, the charity celebrates 180 years since Livability’s founder, Lord Shaftesbury, became President of the Ragged School Union. In 1944 the Ragged School Union became known as The Shaftesbury Society and later as today’s charity, Livability. During this time, society has changed significantly as have care services and education provision for young people with disabilities.

Motivated by his strong Christian faith, the ‘poor man’s Earl’ used his influence to doggedly push through helpful legislation. This protected children and adults in some of the dirtiest, most dangerous industries, including factory work, chimney sweeping and coal mining. Lord Shaftesbury was quick to support the work of the Ragged School Union, which provided daytime, evening and weekend education for those in poverty, including meals and spiritual support. He was passionately committed to this work, writing:

‘If the Ragged School system were to fail, I should not die in the course of nature, I should die of a broken heart.’[1]

The event celebrated Livability’s past, present and future:

“This year saw us expand into children’s care services in the North East, and open Livability Millie College in Dorset which provides specialist support for students aged 16 to 25+ with complex disabilities. The provision provides indoor and outdoor learning in a beautiful environment of 300 acres. In 2024 we plan to support more children, young people and adults and we will continue to place each person at the heart of all we do”.

Sally Chivers, CEO

Over the decades Livability has:

  • pioneered free school education and sheltered workshops, which were among the first of their kind in the 1800s
  • broken new ground by taking disabled young people out of hospital wards and into schools
  • supported people with disabilities in our schools and colleges, improving vocational opportunities for many
  • worked with one in three local authorities in the UK. We provide services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • been at the forefront of raising awareness for disability and mental health issues within the UK
  • introduced Life Sums for the children, young people and adults we support

Livability runs a wide range of disability services, including residential care homes, independent living, brain injury rehabilitation and education centres.

Hannah, student from Livability Victoria School presented a posy to HRH Princess Anne, she said:

“I’m excited to see her and give her the flowers! I am thankful to the staff at the school for helping me, they explain things in a way I can understand.”

As did Lord Shaftesbury, Livability works in a context of disability and disadvantage, where people with disabilities face daily barriers.

Today, the charity focuses its work on disability, enabling those with disabilities to live flourishing lives. Our Christian ethos, springing from our founder in 1884, remains central to our work. Livability’s services are needed as much now as they were in 1884.


[1] Battiscombe, Georgina (1974). Shaftesbury: A Biography of the Seventh Earl, 1801-1885. Constable. ISBN 9780094578401.


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