Colourful pins of Barnwood Trust

We spoke to Ann Santry, new Chair at Barnwood Trust

We took the opportunity to talk with Ann about her new role at Barnwood Trust and what it means to her.

Please could you introduce yourself, your experience prior to joining Barnwood Trust and could you explain a little about your role and Barnwood Trust?

I am really pleased to have this opportunity to introduce myself and to share my early reflections on Barnwood and the visionary work that the organisation is doing.

By way of background I was at school in Cheltenham and my mother still lives here, so I have a long-standing connection with the town. After almost 40 years away – via Nottingham, London and Hampshire – we returned to live in Gloucestershire last Autumn. This was part of my plan as I had decided to step down from full time work in 2018.

Apart from a year in accountancy, I have spent the whole of my working life in the social housing sector – working with people who were unable to afford market housing for a variety of different reasons.

In June 2018 I retired from full time employment after 18 years as CEO of the Sovereign Housing Association. Sovereign is a top 10 housing association, with a turnover of £350m a year and 2000 employees. I was responsible for leading the growth of the organisation from 11,000 to 56,000 homes, with a new housebuilding programme of 1,200 homes a year.

My experience also includes non-executive and Trustee roles in both the charity and voluntary sector. I was previously Vice Chair of the Rose Road Association in Southampton, a charity working with children and young adults with complex and multiple disabilities.

I am currently on the Board of the States of Jersey Development Company and MOR Homes PLC, a new funding vehicle set up to raise money for housing associations.

What made you want to join the Trust? 

In planning my retirement one of the things I was keen to do was to become involved with a social purpose organisation in Gloucestershire. Having worked in the third sector for almost 40 years, I was keen to use my experience to support my local community, and it was also a way for me to make some new connections in the county.

In something of a serendipitous fashion, I became aware of the Barnwood opportunity, and so undertook some research to find out more about the Trust. The more I researched the more interested and excited I became.

Ultimately what attracted me most about Barnwood was the history, vision and ambition of the organisation. For an organisation that is over 200 years old it was refreshing to see that the strategy was innovative and forward thinking, and from my perspective reflected the approach of the Trust’s founders.

As someone who has worked in the social sector I am very aware of the issues for disabled people in the community and I am very impressed by the Asset Based Community Development model being used by Barnwood.

Barnwood Trust’s new Chair of  Trustees, Ann Santry CBE

What value do you think the Trust’s work has in the county and beyond?

Barnwood is in a unique position as it has the resources to develop and test new approaches to support disabled people, and there is a great deal of interest from local partners in both the statutory and voluntary sectors.

Going forward, the research that the Trust is undertaking will be key to demonstrating the tangible outcomes that this innovative work has delivered. It will also be important to share the learning with other organisations that work with disabled people so that the benefits can be shared. Equally it is important for Barnwood to learn from others and make connections both within the county and beyond.

What do the Trust’s vision and values mean to you?

Many organisations have a vision and values statement but in my experience the words don’t always match reality. The vision of Barnwood – ‘to create the best possible environment in Gloucestershire for people with disabilities and mental health challenges to make the most of their lives’ – really resonates with me and more importantly I have already seen the results in action on the ground.

Supporting disabled people to shape where they live, discover opportunities and become an integral part of the local community is a commitment that everyone can sign up to. Grant giving is part of the solution – an important one – but it is creating connections that makes the biggest difference to people and helps to ’build belonging’.

 What are your hopes for the future of the Trust’s work?

That the Trust continues to achieve real culture change to increase opportunity and welcome across the county, using a process that involves people living with disabilities at its core, not an increase in the services provided to people living with those disabilities.

This is a different approach and it will take some time to demonstrate tangible results. However real change is never achieved without innovation and this is something that, given the Trust’s resources, is something that we must continue. It is also in the Trust’s DNA – after all, establishing a hospital for the ‘care and treatment of the mentally ill’ in the early 1800s would have been very innovative and for the time probably quite controversial.

To read more about the Trust’s work visit our About Us or our What We Do pages or to find our more about our grants programmes, visit the grants pages. Want to get in touch? Send us an email at