Former Board Chair receives British Empire Medal

Stonewater is delighted that former Board Chair, George Blunden, has received a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

George Blunden

The award is in recognition of George’s work in the housing sector with Stonewater and in setting up the Longleigh Foundation, a unique charity which has continued to flourish since its inception back in 2015.

George was instrumental in the creation of Stonewater, from the merger of two smaller Housing Associations (Raglan and Jephson), in 2015. Today, Stonewater is a multi-award winning organisation, listed in The Sunday Times Best Companies Top 100 Not-For-Profit Companies, as well as being among the 25 Best Housing Associations to work for.

Serving over 75,000 customers, it has one of the UK’s most significant and progressive house-building programmes, aiming to build a minimum of 1,500 new homes a year from 2022/23. A leading voice for the sector’s net zero decarbonisation challenge, Stonewater was the first UK housing association to partner with the Community Forest Trust, planting six new trees for every home built.

During his time as Chair, George also established the Longleigh Foundation to address the ever-increasing gap between the needs of residents and the availability and accessibility of services to provide extra support. Driven by this vision, Longleigh was set up as an independent charitable foundation, designed to make a significant difference to local communities and go beyond what Stonewater could achieve as a landlord alone. In the last year alone, Longleigh has provided funding worth over £1.3 million, to individuals and communities served by the social housing sector.

Stonewater Chief Executive, Nicholas Harris, says the Queen’s Honour is well earned and well-deserved: “I had the pleasure and privilege of working with George for nine years before he stepped down as Board Chair in 2019, and saw first-hand how his vision and commitment touched so many people’s lives, in so many positive ways. George is driven by a fundamental belief that having a safe, comfortable home is central to our ability to thrive and flourish. George’s recognition and empathy with those who are disadvantaged – whether financially or socially – lay at the heart of his leadership and he displays a rare combination of acumen and integrity, never losing sight of social purpose.”

It's a sentiment echoed by Longleigh Chief Executive, Andy Peers: “We are in the minority of funders that provide grants to both individuals and organisations. This helps us direct targeted support where it’s most needed, and also - via our strategic research grants - to influence long term change at a wider, societal level. Longleigh’s social mission is rooted in George’s vision around compassion, equality and practical transformation – all themes that are more relevant than ever today, in a post-pandemic environment.”

George is still very active in the charitable sector, currently serving as Chair at The Housing Finance Corporation - providing funding for housing associations - and as Chair of Revitalise, which offers respite breaks and holidays for disabled people and carers.

He describes his Honour as a great surprise and feels humbled by the nomination: “There are so many people, quietly working selflessly in the interests of others in our communities, it was an unexpected call. My work with Stonewater was driven by the belief that homes are about so much more than bricks and mortar – it’s about building cohesive communities and developing services which allow people to thrive, including creating places which meet the needs of the marginalised (such as refuges and foyers), where futures are transformed. The Honours list is testament to the many people making a difference in all walks of life and I feel privileged to be named among them.”