New chair for leading social housing provider

One of the UK’s largest social housing providers, Stonewater, has announced Sheila Collins as its new chairman, succeeding George Blunden who stepped down this month.

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Sheila played an integral role in the creation of Stonewater, through the merger of Jephson and Raglan in 2014, and has previously served on the organisation’s Governance HR and nominations sub-committees. She has a wealth of experience at board and trustee level with a range of organisations predominantly in the health, education and housing sectors.

As chair of Stonewater’s board, Sheila will continue to build on Stonewater’s success to work towards its vision ‘for everyone to have the opportunity to have a place that they can call home’. This includes building 4,500 additional high-quality, affordable homes by 2022 as part of its strategic partnership with Guinness and Homes England.

George Blunden, former chair of Stonewater’s board says: “Sheila has a clear understanding of the organisation’s ethos and her previous experience will bring a degree of continuity with the Board which already has a number of recently appointed members. Her experience, combined with her skills and personal passion for improved social mobility, gives me great confidence that Sheila is the right choice to take Stonewater forward and deliver our ambitions around excellent customer service and providing as many homes as we can, for those who need them most.”

In addition to a successful career in Law, Sheila has worked in non-executive roles for Bournemouth University and Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Sheila was the Trust’s chairman at a time when the hospital was awarded the accolade of Best District Hospital by the Health Service Journal.

Reflecting on her background, Sheila says: “Growing up, not only did I live in a home rented from the local authority, but I was lucky enough to have my tuition and living expenses paid for at University and at Law School by that same local authority.

“I’m acutely aware that subsequent generations no longer have those sorts of advantages and I will continue to push for change to help more people reach their goals - and for me that starts with housing. Having the security of a comfortable and affordable home, as created by Stonewater, is not only important for stability, it’s a platform for so many other opportunities, including work, health and educational outcomes.

"I’m particularly keen to see more joined-up thinking and innovation for some of the most vulnerable in our society, including young people. Positive support and intervention really can change lives and modern HAs have a critical role to play in specialist and supported housing, more of which is so desperately needed.”

Members of Stonewater’s board and executive team have been working closely with Sheila to ensure a smooth transition in leadership as she takes up her appointment.