Puzzles, pizzas and praise as The Countess of Wessex visits Transform’s Elmbridge Services

25 November 2021

There was much excitement last week when Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex paid a visit to Transform Housing & Support’s Elmbridge services in Walton on Thames.

The Countess, who is Transform’s Royal Patron, met clients and colleagues to find out more about how the housing association has been supporting homeless and vulnerable individuals particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Thursday 18 November, Her Royal Highness was met by Mr Michael More-Molyneux, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey. Mr More-Molyneux presented her to the Surrey High Sheriff Dr Julie Llewelyn, Mayor of Elmbridge Councillor Tony Popham, Transform Chairman Mark Austen and Chief Executive Lawrence Santcross.

Following a briefing to update The Countess on Transform’s recent activities and its work in Elmbridge, Her Royal Highness was introduced to some of Transform’s clients by Theresa – the Housing & Support Manager for Elmbridge.

While playing a game of chess and assisting with the completion of a London Underground jigsaw puzzle, The Countess talked with each client about their relationships with Transform colleagues and how they are moving towards achieving their ambitions and leading independent lives.

“It was clear in conversation with Her Royal Highness that she was well informed on the issue of homelessness,” Theresa said. “I found her to be natural and extremely skilled with the clients and it was lovely that she spoke about how ‘we’ – the Transform family – were supporting them.”

The Countess met with John and another Elmbridge resident in the property’s kitchen where she donned a Transform apron and gloves to join the group with making pizzas for lunch. John said he enjoyed the banter with The Countess when discussing their supported football teams. Her Royal Highness also chatted to two Transform colleagues while creatively assembling toppings.

Once the pizzas were in the oven, The Countess moved out to a marquee in the garden, where she spoke to Head of Housing at Elmbridge Borough Council, Colin Waters. The council has supported Transform with funding for a number of development programmes within Elmbridge, including the Covid cabin project.

“We talked about how the 12 cabins had taken some of our most vulnerable people off the streets and given them shelter during the cold winter months while, critically, reducing the risk of Covid-19 transmission in the local community,” he explained. “The Countess was also interested to hear how the Council has been working with Transform to reduce the numbers of homeless longer-term in Elmbridge.”

Her Royal Highness went on to learn about the personal journeys of two Transform clients.

“She was genuinely interested to hear about my background and how Transform have supported me,” one resident Saul said.

Chief Executive Lawrence Santcross thanked Her Royal Highness for taking the time to come and see Transform in action and presented her with small gifts for her daughter Lady Louise and son James, Viscount Severn.

“It was wonderful to be able to welcome The Countess to our Elmbridge services. We were proud to demonstrate the dedication and compassion that has been shown by colleagues while enabling clients to transform their lives,” he said.

The Countess thanked Lawrence and praised Transform colleagues for their tremendous efforts supporting clients, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

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