How It All Began


The concept of Ellingham has its roots back in the mid 1970’s. Back then Adult Training Centres run by Local Authority Social Services Departments were the accepted day provision for people with learning disabilities.

The popularity of these services saw the day centre population grow, and across the country many large centres were built, often with a capacity for up to one hundred and fifty people or more.

The drawback was that centres became small communities in their own right, becoming more secluded and insular and not offering the people who used them the opportunity to integrate with the rest of the community.

Enter Chris Bailey

Ellingham’s founder Chris Bailey came to work in one of these Day Centres in East London in the mid 1970’s. Chris came from a business background, and immediately began formulating ideas on how services could be improved. Chris felt strongly that it would be possible to improve the clients skills, but he felt the building and its regime were counterproductive and were to blame for a lack of development. Chris felt that many of the negative behaviours that clients exhibited were actually being reinforced by having such large numbers of people in a building.

The employment concept

Chris felt that the clients should be participating in more productive activities within the community and became particularly interested in developing them towards employment. Chris then took a sabatical during which time he qualified, gaining his diploma for which he wrote a dissertation on Employment. On his return to the day centre he began to pursue his concept.

Over the ensuing year Chris built up a considerable work team, consisting of clients with learning disabilities who were supported to go out into the community delivering leaflets. To Chris the benefits were clear, in terms of building the clients self esteem, self confidence and empowering them to earn some income for the first time. However the Director of Social Services did not share the vision and directed that the work training group be disbanded in favour of ‘internal’ style projects’.

Going it alone

Chris refused to give up as he was determined that the project was too positive to close. He became even more motivated to pursue any and all avenues in order to continue and further develop a clear programme of employment.

Eventually Chris approached the Local MENCAP group, who were a forward thinking and pro active branch. He put his case to the Chair who was simulaneously impressed and incensed that such a beneficial project was not appreciated. The Chair took a bold step to source funding for this innovative concept and worked with Chris to explore funding for a specific ‘work training unit’ – which at the time was a unique concept in day service provision.

Funding was found along with a suitable premises in Ellingham Rd (hence our name) and Chris Bailey as the initiator of the whole concept was then asked to run the project.

Ellingham is born

Ellingham was officially opened in April 1985, with Chris Bailey at the helm. Since then Ellingham has built a strong bond with many employers across East London, and our reputation as one of the major players in Supported Employment has become well known and highly respected .

30 years of success

The rest, as they say, is history. Chris Bailey’s vision, once derided by his fellow day centre colleagues as “unworkable” and “fanciful”, has developed into a thriving and successful organisiation. Hundreds of people with learning disabilities have been found paid employment with a range of employers, whilst hundreds more have gained accredited qualifications.

Ellingham has continued to promote the abilities of people with learning disabilities and led the way in proving our clients can succeed in meaningful and valued employment. We are proud to have been such a ’thorn’ in developing and changing the thinking towards services that are being provided today.