The 50th anniversary of The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust by Shelagh Creegan


Shelagh Creegan, an occupational therapist from Dundee, attended a special event at Sir Winston Churchill’s birthplace of Blenheim Palace, on Wednesday 27th May, to mark the 50th anniversary of his living legacy – The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT), and 50 years since his passing.

 blenShelagh went on her Travelling Fellowship in 1993 to USA and Canada to investigate vocational programmes for adults with a severe and enduring mental health condition.  Her visits to a range of programme models clearly demonstrated that employability is achievable if the person is provided with appropriate services and support.

From the institutionalised care of the 20th Century, fast forward to 2015 and Scotland’s dynamic health and care policy environment has focused its ambition on delivering integrated health and social care, reducing or removing the damaging impacts of health inequalities and ensuring the provision of safe, effective and person centred care for everyone accessing health and care services.  The strategic and operational contributions allied health professionals (AHPs) make to progressing this policy agenda is clearly set out in the national AHP delivery plan,  AHPs as Agents of Change in Health and Social care.

Mental health is a core component of this policy context, spearheaded by the Mental Health Strategy for Scotland: 2011-2015 and Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy 2013-2016.  Realising Potential, launched in 2010, explicitly set out the role AHPs can play in supporting people with mental health problems and their carers and improving mental health and wellbeing in Scotland.

The new ways of working Realising Potential promoted – co-production, intersectoral partnerships and collaboration, person centred approaches and self-management – are very much in tune with the wider policy agenda.  Notable success has been achieved in the promotion of vocational rehabilitation with AHPs adopting a range of creative approaches that are enabling people with a mental health condition to maximise their potential and achieve their aspirations.

For example, the national Strategic Mental Health AHP Leadership  Group has supported the creation of a national vocational rehabilitation network with an AHP vocational rehabilitation lead identified for each Health Board.  In Tayside, as in many Health Board areas, this has led to the development of a local vocational rehabilitation network which has focused on improving clinical governance and the development and implementation of evidence based practice including :

  • creation of a Tayside page on the national Good Work: Good Health, Knowledge Network, VR Community of Practice
  • training for all mental health occupational therapists in the standardised work assessment, the worker role interview (WRI)
  • training of a small number of AHPs in the Individual Placement Support (IPS) model with the intention being to roll out IPS programmes across Tayside to support people with a mental health condition into paid employment
  • development and testing of an employability pathway
  • collaboration with local colleges to deliver supported education programmes improving access for people with a mental health conditon into further education
  • supporting people in forensic and adult mental health services to develop employability skills through engagement with local social enterprise companies
  • through volunteering, the development of work habits, routines and skills in preparation for return to work
  • the provision of work placements for NHS Tayside Healthcare Academy students
  • showcasing best practice at national conferences and publications

Returning to the special event and over 1000 Fellows and their guests, from every decade since 1965 attended the day, which was hosted by the Duke of Marlborough’s sister – Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill, who is herself a generational cousin of Sir Winston, and a member of the WCMT Advisory Council.

Shelagh joined a small gathering of Scottish Fellows at Blenheim Palace.  It was a wonderful opportunity to renew old acquaintances before going on to meet Fellows from all parts of the United Kingdom.  The rich diversity of Fellows travel experiences, the learning gained and the leadership displayed in translating evidence into practice was truly inspiring.


Members of the Churchill family, including Sir Winston’s grandson Jeremy Soames; and his great-grandson, Randolph, were also present; as well as many of the Trustees and Advisory Council from the WCMT.

Highlights of the day included presentations given by Fellows from 1968 to 2014, about how their Fellowship has shaped their lives and careers.  Internationally acclaimed Churchill experts, including historian Sir David Cannedine, also gave talks.

The special day was rounded off with a spectacular Spitfire Display, followed by Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill and Randolph Churchill taking the salute at a Beating Retreat given by a marching band.

blenheim 007blenheim 016

Since 1965, over 5000 British citizens have been awarded Churchill Fellowships, from over 100,000 applicants, to travel overseas to study areas of topical and personal interest.  The knowledge and innovative ideas they bring back are widely shared, for the benefit of their profession, their community, and, in lots of cases, the nation.  For many people a Churchill Fellowship proves transformational, and they go on to achieve great things – effecting positive change within society.

To mark its half century, the Trust has awarded a record number of 150 Travelling Fellowships in 2015 – investing over £1.3m in British citizens.  This year’s Fellows will travel to 58 countries between them, across six continents, where they will carry out a wide range of projects.  The average length of a Fellowship is 6 weeks.

Many events are being held throughout the year to celebrate Sir Winston’s life and legacy.

“It is fitting to hold our 50th anniversary event at Blenheim Palace, and to come together with hundreds of Fellows from across the past 5 decades, to celebrate the life of this great leader.  Sir Winston’s legacy lives on through our Fellows – individuals who, like him, have vision, leadership, a passion with a purpose, and a commitment to help their fellow citizens” says Jamie Balfour, Director General of The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.


For further information please contact:

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust on 020 7799  1660 or or @wcmtuk

Shelagh Creegan is the Associate AHP Director for Mental Health and Learning Disabilities with NHS Tayside.  Email:  Twitter: @ShelaghAHP


AHPs as Agents of Change in Health and Social 2012-2015 Care

Mental Health Strategy for Scotland: 2011-2015

Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy 2013-2016

Realising potential 2010

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