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40 years of history

From humble beginnings in just a few bungalows in Sussex to becoming the UK’s biggest not-for-profit acquired brain injury charity, Brainkind has spent over 40 years changing lives and attitudes.

Transforming lives for over 40 years

Six bungalows in Sussex. It was a small start for Brainkind, formerly The Disabilities Trust, and the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT). Forty years ago, we supported 35 people – today it is over 600.

In 1980 a small group of passionate and determined people felt that everybody should have the right to live in an environment suited to them.  They created the foundations of a remarkable legacy, which we continue to build on.

We have evolved and expanded in the last 40 years, but our  passion and commitment are still central to our work. Our focus remains on improving the lives of the people that we support.

Our History

We are proud of our evolution and progress – and the impact we have made on people’s lives

Our journey started in the 1980s and continues today.

  • The 1980s

    In 1981, our founders purchased enough land for six purpose-built bungalows. Ernest Kleinwort Court in Burgess Hill, Sussex, became our first residential service for 35 adults with physical disabilities.

  • The 1990s

    The Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT) was established within the Disabled Housing Trust in 1991. Brainkind’s first specialist brain injury rehabilitation service, Thomas Edward Mitton House, opened in Milton Keynes soon after.

    By 1993, Brainkind purchased and rented houses for small groups of people to live together with greater independence while still getting the support they needed.

    1994 saw the opening of Kent House, Aylesbury, a dedicated service for 22 people with acquired brain injuries.

    In 1999, we opened our first independent centre for people with acquired brain injuries, complex needs or challenging behaviours, in partnership with mental health provider The Retreat. Phase one of York House, initially for 14 people, opened in October of the same year.

  • The 2000s

    The 2000s was a transformative time for Brainkind, as we opened new services across the UK, alongside improving our existing network.

    Our specialist-acquired brain injury centre in Birmingham, West Heath House, opened in 2000, followed by phase two of York House three years later.

    In 2005, Fen House, Ely, opened to meet the needs of people with acquired brain injury across the East Anglia region.

    Then in 2006, Kerwin Court, a new purpose-built brain injury rehabilitation centre, opened in West Sussex, bringing the total number of brain injury centres run by Brainkind to eight.

    2006 also saw the launch of 1101 Bristol Road, fulfilling an important role in Birmingham between the intensive acquired brain injury rehabilitation offered by West Heath House and the supported accommodation.

    Brainkind joined forces with the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in October 2007, setting up a new neurorehabilitation centre based at Goole and District Hospital.

    In 2009, Glasgow’s Graham Anderson House was opened by HRH Princess Royal, providing 25 beds for people with acquired brain injury.

  • The 2010s

    In 2011, following a generous donation of £105,000, we upgraded equipment across our UK services, including new physiotherapy kits, IT facilities, garden areas and kitchens to practise cooking – all to support people with acquired brain injuries.

    Launched in 2012, our new Brain Injury Screening Index (BISI) was aimed at homeless people and offenders with brain injuries receive the support they deserve.

    By 2013, we had two new BIRT services in operation. Osman House in Yorkshire provides specialist care and support in a smaller residential environment for adults with an acquired brain injury.

    2015 sees our service network expand again. Ty Aberdafen opened in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, offering a range of high-quality assessment and rehabilitation options for up to 24 people with complex psychological and physical needs following brain injury.

    Filmmaker Louis Theroux raises awareness of what it’s like to live with a brain injury in his 2016 BBC Two documentary A Different Brain. The documentary focused on two of our centres, Redford Court and Daniel Yorath House, looking at how people and their families face this life-changing condition.

    In 2019, we opened a supported living service for four people in the South East to access care and support following rehab.

    Our brain injury assessment tool, the Brain Injury Needs Indicator (BINI), was now available to the public and downloaded over 1,500 times by professionals. Brainkind’s Brain Injury Screening Index (BISI) is also used to screen MPs in parliament to raise awareness.

  • The 2020s

    Throughout the decade, we have used music therapy to improve the physical and mental well-being of people with brain injuries, helping them to express themselves and feel motivated.

    Brainkind always calls for more support for people with brain injuries in the prison and probation system. 2020 was a milestone year for our policy work. In February 2020, we shared the findings of The Making Link (a study carried out at Drake Hall, a women’s prison and young offender institution) with parliament.

    Domestic abuse protection orders also consider acquired brain injury as part of any survivor’s needs. As a result, prisoners with brain injuries at HMP Cardiff were provided with one-to-one support through our Brain Injury Linkworker Service. Our research also helped change the law to screen prisoners for brain injuries.

    New technology made an impact in 2020. At the pandemic’s start, we put new equipment in place to deliver clinical assessments virtually. This ensured we could continue providing rehabilitation and support to the people who use our services.

    2021 heralded the opening of new supported living services in Liverpool and Glasgow, creating opportunities for people with brain injuries to live more independently. Glasgow also sees more extensions to Eastfields, a brain injury rehabilitation unit next to Graham Anderson House Hospital. It allows more people with brain injuries to move from an acute hospital to a residential unit to continue their rehabilitation.

    In 2022, we made the decision to focus our strategic efforts where we could have the most impact – supporting people with a brain injury. This saw us make the difficult decision to divest of our learning disability and autism services to a provider who could better support them.

    In 2023, The Disabilities Trust and BIRT become Brainkind – the UK’s leading charity helping people to thrive after brain injury. We also open the Brainkind Neurological Centre in York, our state-of-the-art facility to provide rehabilitation to people with a brain injury and other complex needs.

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