Our history


The Ley Clinic first opened on the Ashurst site at Littlemore Hospital. It housed two separate treatment facilities, one for drug users and one for alcoholics. The treatment for drug use came under the medical direction of Dr Bertram Mandelbrote with the assistance of Dr Peter Agulnik, David Kennard (a psychologist) and, later, Lucy Agerholm (a nursing officer).

Although the staff team comprised of people from medically orientated backgrounds, the treatment and philosophy of the programme was based on a self-help therapeutic approach similar to the treatment that Maxwell Jones had tried, with some success, with people suffering from psychiatric illnesses and personality disorders.

It was not long before it was realized that the best people to help addicts were not the doctors and nurses but it was the addicts themselves. It was for this reason that the culture of the Ley Clinic changed.

A new drug free programme was introduced by an ex-addict, John McCabe. This programme was based on the Synanon, Daytop Village and Phoenix House models which had originated in the U.S.A. (John McCabe was a graduate from Phoenix House, New York). During the following two years the foundations of the concept based programme were well established. It had always been the aim to find a house and run the programme outside of a hospital setting.

A small group of professional people from interested and relevant agencies such as the courts, psychiatry, probation, the social services and the local business community gave their help voluntarily and formed a Committee of Management. This Committee of Management was (and still is) rather like a board of directors. The key personnel involved with the Committee of Management included: Dr Bertram Mandelbrote (Clinical Director); Dr Peter Agulnik (Chairperson); Alfred Palmer (Treasurer); Norman Smith (Secretary); Harry Turner – Director of Social Services, Oxfordshire; Ken Thompson – Chief Probation Officer, Oxford. It was the responsibility of the Committee of Management to ensure that the affairs of the community, especially the finances, were run in a responsible manner.

Through the connections that members of the Committee of Management had, an interest free loan over an indefinite period of time was obtained from Pyes – a local building company. Through this loan, Hidsfield House was acquired and the community moved from the clinic to this house. The Ley Community Oxford Ltd. was created to act as a voluntary organization with the aim of providing residential treatment and rehabilitation, independent of, but in conjunction with, the regional Health Authority, for example the community at Hidsfield House no longer came under the control of the NHS but became a private organization with charitable status. This enabled the community to take referrals from a national rather than a regional catchment area.

The Committee of Management met at Hidsfield House every three months when the director of the programme, John McCabe, reported on the progress of the community. John McCabe was made responsible to the Committee of Management who were now his employers.

John McCabe retired after five years as director and Brian Donnelan, also an ex-addict and Ley Community graduate, was appointed as the new director.

After five years at Hidsfield House, the Ley Community had earned a high reputation on account of the high success rate. There was increased demand for the service and larger premises were needed. Sandy Croft was purchased at a bargain price. Sandy Croft had been the family home of a prominent ear, nose and throat doctor – Dr Livingstone. Dr Livingstone was ‘presumed’ to be related in some way to the Dr Livingstone of African fame on account of leaving a signed book from Stanley entitled ‘Darkest Africa’ along with other African artefacts in Sandy Croft.

When the Community moved from Hidsfield House to Sandy Croft there was initially a lot of concern from the local community at having drug/alcohol addicts living locally. As a response to this the residents became involved with cutting the grass in the village, providing a bus service for the elderly, fun runs, raffles, bingo etc. Over a period of time the community was accepted and the community continued to thrive and grow.

The Ley Community’s high reputation continued to spread which resulted in still further demand for the service. With a £175,000.00 grant from the Central Funding Initiative to expand and develop the Ley Community, new premises were built on the site at Sandy Croft. These premises were used by residents in the Phase III part of the programme. The total number of residents the programme could accommodate at this time was 49 (including 12 who remained at the Littlemore site).

Brian Donnelan retired on health grounds after twelve years as director and Paul Toon, also an ex-addict and Ley Community staff member for fifteen years, was appointed as the new director.

Partly, as a response to the spread of HIV/AIDS within the drug using population, a three bedroomed house, 164 Woodstock Road, backing onto the grounds of Sandy Croft was purchased. The ground floor was used as office accommodation and the upstairs for visiting family/friends or people who became ill with AIDS in the programme. The spread of HIV/AIDS meant that residents at the Ley Community presented with new additional needs. There was an increased emphasis on speedy responses, sensitivity and flexibility. In order to help meet these needs the Health, Education and Welfare department was set up.

Continued demand for the service in both the UK and Europe led to the relocation of staff to temporary accommodation which increased the total number of residents the programme could accommodate to 54 (including 12 who remained at the Littlemore site and 3 at 164 Woodstock Road).

In anticipation of central government changes to the structure of local government and the health authority, a new residential house (Palmer House, named after a founding member of the Ley Community Committee of Management) was built on the grounds of Sandy Croft. It was built in order to enable the community to become financially and practically independent of the health authority. At a cost of £250,000.00 these premises provided better access for the disabled, provided accommodation for a further 17 residents and further provided staff ‘sleep-in’ accommodation. The clinic at the Littlemore site was closed and the implementation of the NHS and Community Care Act led to many changes in the running of the community, including staff having to do ’sleep-ins’. As such the total number of residents the programme could accommodate was 58 (including 3 at 164 Woodstock Road).

A new Bail Assessment Scheme was the Inner London Probation Service was introduced whereby people were taken from the courts for an assessment period lasting approximately 4 weeks.

Paul Toon retired and a new organisational structure was developed with the introduction of a new post of Chief Executive. Paul Goodman was recruited as the first Chief Executive. There were many changes in this period with the programme expanding to six stages to include a Resettlement staff team for ongoing support to residents when they leave the community.

2008 – Current
Following the retirement of Paul Goodman, Wendy Dawson was appointed as Chief Executive in September 2008

We launched our own community drug detox in partnership with Gosford Surgery.

We celebrated 40 years and invited Ley Community Graduates, family and friends from across the globe including our first ever graduate Charlie Blach who flew in from Australia having emigrated shortly after completing his programme. In the same year co-hosted a European Federation Therapeutic Communities (EFTC) international conference at Keble College, Oxford and were very proud when over 40 people who came to visit the Ley Community over a weekend said what a wonderful, amazing place for recovery we are.

In January 2013 to ensure the Ley Community was fit for purpose going into the new and emerging commissioning landscape, the Board of Trustees engaged an independent consultant Huseyin Djemil to work with Wendy to undertake a whole systems strategic review. The strategic review looked at everything from the content and delivery of the programme, finance, admissions, administration, policies, procedures, staff, leadership, management, Governance together with a consultation exercise with a wide range of stakeholders; current residents, staff, graduates, family, friends, advocates, commissioners and significant others.

In April 2013 Huseyin presented his report to the Board of Trustees with a recommendation towards a new business model. The Board accepted the report and we began the implementation phase which included a new organisational structure, reduce the main therapeutic intervention to 26 weeks and re-brand ourselves as TLC and re-invent the TC Concepts linked to recovery outcome evidence as our unique selling point.

In June we launched the TLC Facebook and have attracted a huge TLC Graduate Alumni and recovery community. We also held an Open Day to showcase our recovery programme to a range of stakeholders including commissioners, prospective clients, local people, family and friends.

We launched a series of road shows and continue to attend conferences with TLC Graduates promoting an abstinence, peer driven and self-help recovery model based on therapeutic community principles and concepts enables people to recovery from addiction.

We begin to build 5 new recovery move on housing pods.

We will launch our Social Enterprise project TLC Good Grain recycling wood.


At TLC we view recovery as more than abstinence from alcohol and drugs; it’s about building a full, meaningful and productive life in the wider community.

Recovery is a personal journey, however living in a community with others allows you to share experiences and explore different options for your life ahead. Getting to know your peers and supporting each other in recovery is powerful. You only have to speak to people who are further on in their journey and listen to their story, to hear about the incredible difference that taking part in this programme has made to their life and how excited they are about their future.

Our programme will get you to look at your attitudes and behaviours and, as a Therapeutic Community, living and working with others will support you to do this.