The CEO of the Enham Trust has paid tribute to staff and residents as he reflects on the centenary of the disabilities’ charity.

Heath Gunn thanked them for their service in improving the lives of disabled people for the past 100 years, whether during war or in the midst of the Covid pandemic. It comes ahead of the charity gearing up for a series of fundraising drives to support its activities for another century.

“That support means the world,” said Heath. “It makes a massive difference to the lives of the people we support, knowing they’ve got that support beyond the organisation advocating and wanting things to improve.”

Enham Trust has a history stretching back to 1921

Enham Trust has a history stretching back to 1921

While war-wounded servicemen started residing in Enham in 1919, it wasn’t until 1921 that the Enham Trust was officially incorporated, and at the time was known as the Enham Village Centre. Over the past 100 years, the trust has been on the frontline of providing support for injured servicemen, and then those with disabilities in general, with plenty of stories to tell.

The Prince of Wales visiting the Enham Trust in 1926

The Prince of Wales visiting the Enham Trust in 1926

“Enham is like a treasure trove of new little nuggets of things that have gone on,” said Heath. “I was talking with Steven in our communications team the other day and when you start digging out some of the archive pictures, you see things like the Prince of Wales from 1926 stood on the steps of the hall. It’s just incredible.

Engineering at the Enham Trust in the 1950s

Engineering at the Enham Trust in the 1950s

“One of the things I found out recently was that the factory in the middle of the village, Montgomery House, built training gliders in the Second World War for the RAF. Who knew? It’s amazing and to be able to find out new things, and be part of that is quite humbling, especially with the amount of stuff that has gone on, and the people who have played a part over the years.”

One of the biggest changes across this time is the focus of the charity, which Heath says changed from being an inward looking organisation to a national one.

He said: “Although we still play an integral part in the village, and in letting people from the village get what they want from their lives, we’re very much more a regional and national disabilities charity now.

“I think that shift would be a million miles away from where they thought the organisation might be if you’d asked them 100 years ago. I don’t think they would ever have thought they were going to be lobbying policy nationally for the good of people with disabilities.”

Parachute games at the Enham Trust

Parachute games at the Enham Trust

Heath said that the focus of the Enham Trust was now to support people with disabilities to advocate for themselves as much as possible, and increase the volume of their voices rather than advocating on their behalf, as may have happened in the past.

“It’s a cultural and linguistic change,” he said. “We work a lot with other organisations across the country who provide disabilities services and that person-centred focus is something that’s only been around for the last 10/15 years. That’s really recent in terms of disability support, and I think the cultural shift still has to happen in wider society.

“I think people have more of an appreciation of people with disabilities and what they want and need to be included, but I don’t think inclusion is the norm yet.”

He said that people framing individuals in terms of their disability was ‘adding a barrier’ to allowing them to live their lives, and was the next step for Enham.

“I think there’ll be a lot of movement in the next five to 10 years,” said Heath. “It’s thinking over that barrier that many don’t perceive is there.”

The charity supports 6,500 people across the South West, and aims to support many of those to employ their own car teams. However, that doesn’t mean there’s still space for higher support where needed.

Heath said: “We have care services around Andover and Alton to provide support in their own homes, but there is still a place for registered care and for a higher level of care provision, but that’s becoming less so. The more the commissioning landscape changes, and it’s starting to move to a place where people with more complex needs can be supported at home, then the more we can provide the right package of care to get people the support they need without having to go into a care home.

“I think the need for care homes, as such, will become less, so our natural lens moves into people’s homes and supporting people to live how they want to live. That’s where we need to get to with people with disabilities.”

Jade and Robert from the Enham Trust

Jade and Robert from the Enham Trust

Covid has been a challenge for the charity, with Heath issuing an emotional appeal earlier this year for its residents to be prioritised for vaccination. However, he said that staff had been “phenomenal” in adapting to it.

“It’s been a really tough year, but our staff have just been amazing. They’ve adapted, they’ve changed, they’ve just reassessed everything they’ve done to make things accessible and be able to carry on for the people we support.

“Every service, whether that’s our care or our housing teams or maintenance teams or the social enterprises that we run, wherever it is our teams have just done the most phenomenal job under the most extreme pressure that hasn’t let up.

“I really take my hat off to my team, whether they’re providing a front line care service or whether they’re maintenance teams going round making repairs, they’ve all just got on with it, stepped up to the plate and taken their responsibilities for keeping people safe really seriously.”

One issue he noted was the lack of accessibility of Covid guidelines, particularly for those with learning disabilities.

“Government guidance is not an easy read for people with learning disabilities, and it has to be translated for them,” he said.

“We’ve been doing that for the past year and reducing the level of fear because there’s been quite a high level of fear with those with learning disabilities and fluctuating mental health, and we wanted to ensure they understood what’s going on, why they were being asked to stay at home and why their carers were wearing gloves and masks. The wellbeing side of support from our staff has been a huge part of that this year.”

As Covid restrictions begin to die down, the Enham Trust is looking forward to a series of events they’ve put together after their initial plans were stopped by the pandemic.

The Duchess of Gloucester opening an Enham Trust facility

The Duchess of Gloucester opening an Enham Trust facility

“Ringing a bell and celebrating 100 years when everything is locked down is very weird,” Heath said. All the plans we had, as we’ve been planning for this for a good couple of years, have gone out the window. We were planning to start the year with a bang with a big gala dinner with the Duchess of Gloucester but that’s had to be put back.”

The charity is launching the 100 challenge, which is looking for 100 people or groups to take part in a fundraising activity for them.

Skydiving to raise funds for the Enham Trust

Skydiving to raise funds for the Enham Trust

“It’s so broad,” said Heath. “We’ve got our standard stuff we do every year like the London Marathon, wing walking and sky diving but also if people want to bake 100 cakes or do a 100 cross-stitches, there’s all kinds of things that people can do to get involved.

“I think the more they can get energised and get involved, I hope it will help them galvanise and have a bit of a focus while having a bit of fun and helping us celebrate our 100 years.”

The funds will be a part of a larger “centenary ask”, which aims to provide a number of projects in Enham and beyond. This includes refurbishing the Landale Wilson hall, as well as extending the Enham Trust charity shop and converting part of the space into a tearoom.

Beyond that, the charity intends to continue lobbying on behalf of those with disabilities, and providing the services they need. Part of this will involve the construction of accessible homes, whether alone or in partnership with others.

“I think our job as a disability charity is to plug that gap that isn’t provided for by statutory services or standard housing providers,” said Heath. “It’s stuff that’s not necessarily in Enham Alamein. Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they want to live in rural Hampshire. They want to live in a town centre where they can get to shops, nightlife and what they want to do with their family and friends.”

For now, Heath is looking forward to seeing where the next hundred years of the charity take them, and said it was “a real privilege” to be in charge.

“To not only be in the chair that I’m in,” he said, “but to be part of the team that’s taking it through its centenary and into the next 100 years, is a real privilege.”

To find out more about the 100 challenge, visit: