The James Trust

Enhancing Life Chances

Head shot of Richard James

The James Trust's ethos is to enhance the life chances and quality of life of adults and young people with a learning disability, or who have a dual diagnosis of a learning disability and a mental health diagnosis, who live within the London Borough of Sutton. We give priority to those organisations, large or small, who deliver innovative and collaborative programmes.

Who We Are

The James Trust was the vision of the late Richard James, a lifelong resident of the London Borough of Sutton who remained in his parents’ Sutton home until his death. As a young man Richard studied art at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, and was at one time a window designer for the Gorringes department store in Buckingham Palace Road, London which closed in the 1960s. For many years he ran a Puppet Theatre, designing and making his own puppets and delivering shows all over the area. He was a lifelong Opera enthusiast and Friend of the English National Opera, travelling across the UK and Europe to see performances, gaining him a wide circle of friends.


As far back as the 1960s Richard conceived the idea of using and sharing his family home as a safe and comfortable environment for those with a learning disability who would benefit from independent living. For over 30 years he was part of the Sutton Adult Placement Scheme a fostering programme, now called the Shared Lives Scheme, sharing his home with David Hunt who had a dual diagnosis of a learning disability and a mental health diagnosis.

He set up the James Trust prior to his death in 2007. The Trust continued to support David, in Richard’s home, until David’s untimely death in 2014. The house was then sold and the Trust now focusses on giving grants to organisations and groups both large and small who provide life chances for those with a learning disability* or who may have a dual diagnosis of a learning disability and a mental health diagnosis, and who live within the London Borough of Sutton. Grant giving ceased in 2016.

Today the James Trust is working closely with SCVS and local organisations to set up a major project under the working title of Safe Space for Arts. A feasibility study is currently being undertaken. The aim is to create a community space for all where Art in all its various forms can be undertaken – a fitting legacy for a man for whom Art was everything.


Sarah Irwin-Davis, Chair

Sarah Irwin-Davis, Chair

Sarah is a cousin to Richard James and knew him from early childhood, and in her teens helped him with his Puppet Theatre. Her background is in Administration and because of that Richard asked her, before his death, to become a Trustee. She has lived abroad for much of her life in Africa, the Middle and Far East, and has been an HR and Volunteer Manager working in the cultural heritage/charity sector for over 20 years. A Mum and a Grandmother she is now retired and lives with her husband in North Yorkshire.

Mike James, Administrator

Mike James, Administrator

Mike is a lifetime resident of Sutton. He worked in the voluntary sector for 13 years before his retirement, managing the Community Payroll and assisting voluntary organisations with Accounting support. Through supporting the Puppet theatre with its finances he met Richard and subsequently helped support David Hunt at Crossways. He has been a volunteer and Trustee for local charities and still works part time for a housing charity.

Diane Holloway, Secretary

Diane Holloway, Secretary

Diane has collaborated with various charities in West Yorkshire designing curriculum studies for disabled children, has worked with adults and their carers designing work programmes and undertaken voluntary work for the Leeds Alternative to Custody and Care. She studied and qualified as a counsellor with the British Association of Counsellors and later trained as a Life Coach. The philosophy behind both these qualifications helped her to connect with people outside her usual realm of teaching. In addition it has helped her to empathise with clients and assist them in overcoming the ‘I can’t do’ syndrome. As an NVQ manager she was able to bring out a confidence within clients that they hitherto felt was not within their capabilities. She has also worked in museum education both here and in America delivering schemes to encourage the use of local facilities.

Barbara McIntosh, Trustee

Barbara McIntosh, Trustee

Barbara has worked in both Learning Disability and Mental Health services for 30 years. She has worked as a Commissioner of Learning Disability Services in Local Government, as a programme lead at the Kings Fund and King’s College, London University, as as the Director of the Learning Disability programme at the Mental Health Foundation. Barbara has lived in Sutton for 35 years, coming originally from Canada and is currently a Director at Health Watch Sutton and a Trustee for HFT and Swanton Community Trust.

Marian James, Trustee

Marian James, Trustee

Marian’s background is in social care working with a diverse range of client groups. She has worked in both the statutory and voluntary sector with young people and adults. She has lived and worked in the London Borough of Sutton for over 20 years and has a good knowledge of the voluntary and community sector. She has been instrumental in setting up new organisations and developing innovative services. Her work in Sutton brought her into contact with Richard James and subsequently she supported David Hunt in his daily living. Having recently retired, Marian is now a local councillor with a keen interest in Social Services, local communities, and the voluntary sector.

Who We are Currently Funding

Sutton Mencap

The Sutton MENCAP "Circles of Support" project aims to provide a long-term way for helping those with a learning disability achieve their own personal goals in life. Each person has a circle of people who can meet together on a regular basis to support them in their endeavours. This may include work, relationships, leisure activities or being part of the local community. The needs are different for each person.

Sutton Futures

This is a programme created by The Change Foundation. Over a three-year period, they aim to engage with 120 individuals who will each be assigned a Mentor to help create a tailored personal development plan around Sport, Dance and Drama. It is anticipated that most will also undertake work placements. The programme will increase life skills and reduce social isolation.

Transform Housing and Support

This organisation has created new Homes for Life at Pear Tree Manor, offering quality independent living for those with a learning disability. The James Trust has provided grand aid to create a garden for use by residents which will become a focal point for residents to meet and interact with one another.

Nickel Support

Nickel have developed a recycling project that reuses old furniture in various ways. They offer paid employment to people with learning disabilities to upcycle the furniture and sell it on thus generating incoming and reducing landfill. Nickel aim to engage and support a minimum of 100 people with learning disabilities throughout the life of the project and for at least 25 to gain part-time, paid employment with them.

Sutton Community Farm

The farm hosts groups with learning disabilities to carry out important tasks such as looking after herbs (which are included in veg boxes), weeding, watering, tending plants and building paths, in fact all those tasks associated with growing vegetables. They are also introducing "magic muck", a composting project, a veg packing project off site, publicity work for the farm and a scheme for other volunteers to "buddy" those with a learning disability and their carers to feel comfortable as numbers increase.

Please note that the James Trust is no longer giving grants to individual organisations. They are currently involved in setting up a major project in Sutton in conjunction with SCVS and other partners entitled Safe Space for Arts. If you are interested in becoming part of that project please contact Mike James at