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Richard Barber shares his memories of Hft as part of our Hft 60 celebrations

How and when were you introduced to Hft? What is your connection to the charity?

My family’s association with Hft goes back nearly 58 years, when my sister Lucinda came to Frocester Manor as one of the first girls to enter the new Home Farm Trust (Hft’s former name) in 1964. She has been secure, happy and wonderfully cared for ever since.

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How did you feel when your family first started receiving support from Hft?

Our whole family was thrilled to know how happy Lucinda was at Frocester after some difficult times at one of her previous schools. My parents had organised her placement, with enthusiastic support from the County Council of Derbyshire where our family lived.

How is your sister Lucinda supported today? 

Throughout the 58 years that she has been with Hft, Lucinda has lived an active and engaged life. She has made numerous friends down the years with staff and residents alike, including her long-time boyfriend Robert who was in the first cohort to come into Hft at Frocester in 1962. She moved from Frocester to supported living at Ryeford Court in 2018, and now goes into Stroud every week with Robert for shopping and lunch, together with their wonderful carer Sorcha.

At 76 years old, while now wheelchair-bound, Lucinda fully retains her unique personality, with unquenchable curiosity, trenchant views, conducting correspondence with her family and friends far and wide and living a fulfilled life supported by the Ryeford staff in ways that are beyond praise – and often beyond the call of duty.

Why do you still support Hft? Why do you think organisations like Hft are so important?

The number of people in the country with learning disabilities is growing and placements to help them live fulfilled lives are in very short supply and in great demand.

My family’s involvement with Hft goes back to the 1960s when my father played a significant role in Hft’s early days, supporting Frocester Manor through its perilous beginnings and raising most of the funds to start a new Hft service at Fairthorn in Sheffield. So my brother Nicholas and I are keen to continue our family’s tradition of support, both because of our sister Lucinda and also because, throughout its history, Hft has so wonderfully fulfilled our founders’ inspiring vision of supporting people with learning disabilities to live the very best life they can.

The story of these 60 years should be read with gratitude by the families whose relatives today are supported by Hft; with admiration by future generations of Hft families; and with inspiration by the wider public to know how determination, care and an inspiring vision can overcome seemingly insuperable odds and really change people’s lives.

Do you have a positive story of the support Hft have provided that you would like to share?

In 2010, one of the people we supported was Peter at our Bishop’s Stortford service. He had a sunny personality and among his favourite things in life were meeting people, wearing different hats, listening to Gilbert & Sullivan and marching up and down.

One day there was a large regional staff meeting at Bishop’s Stortford. Half way through the meeting, Peter marched slowly past the window wearing a cowboy hat. The meeting was momentarily diverted. A few minutes later he marched slowly past in the other direction, wearing a Native American headdress. The meeting began to falter.

A minute or two after that, Peter came marching slowly back again past the window, this time sporting a policeman’s helmet and also wearing a rather outsize jacket belonging to one of the people at the meeting. The session broke up in helpless laughter. Everyone knew that it was due to Hft that Peter’s personality and sense of humour could flourish so happily throughout his lifetime.

Peter died in 2012 at the age of seventy-seven; at that time he was the oldest person in the country with Down’s Syndrome.

Could you sum up Hft in a few words?

Hft remains as committed today to its founders’ core values as they were 60 years ago, namely:

  • Putting the best interests of the people we support at the centre of everything they do, and supporting them to choose how to live their lives to the full;
  • Creating the best possible working environment to motivate, train and retain happy staff;
  • Encouraging people at all levels to be open with their ideas, comments, suggestions and criticisms, and being responsive to these;
  • Giving central importance to the involvement of families.

With these values, Hft continues to fulfil its founders’ vision to remain far into the future at the forefront of organisations which ensure happy, fulfilled lives for everyone in their care.

It’s our 60th anniversary this year; do you have a celebratory message for the people we support and our staff?

Everything you do in Hft stems from the quality of the staff, and your devotion to supporting every one of our relatives throughout the Covid19 crisis has been beyond praise. Your selfless dedication has drawn our admiration and gratitude in equal measure. We feel so lucky in having such devoted, hard-working and selfless staff members to carry out all that you have done in this time and we are thrilled to share your 60th anniversary celebrations with you. We shall continue to support your work in every way we can and every Hft family sends you all a very sincere Thank You, hoping that you will wish to continue to develop your careers with Hft.