All of our staff members have advanced DBS checks and undergo extensive professional reference checks. Staff are selected and matched to meet the individual needs of our clients.
Hannah’s entire career has been spent working with the Rotherham community providing care and enabling access to leisure activities. Hannah provides the vision and strategy that drives our organisation to achieve excellence while providing hands-on support across all our services.
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. My entire life has been spent living and working with children and adults with additional needs. I hate labels, people are just people.”
When you meet Hannah Mounsey you can’t immediately see her red superhero cape. The founder and inspiration behind Enable Unity CIC is sitting quietly at the back of her local Costa when I meet her, hands cupped around a steaming hot chocolate. She hates talking about herself but will do her best, she tells me.
Hannah, 40, was born and raised in Rotherham. Adults and children with additional needs were a normal part of life growing up.
“My uncle has spina bifida and he would let us have races in his wheelchair. And I have a cousin with learning disabilities. “It was no big deal,” says Hannah. “Mum got a job in a residential home when I was 10. I’d go to open days and events and not really notice the differences between us. We were all kids playing together.”
It’s refreshing to encounter what at first appears to be a laid back, bordering on horizontal outlook. Hannah talks easily about the special needs community, no labels, no jargon, just people. She’s walked away from a long and successful career working for organisations, including the YMCA, providing services and support to the disabled community to go it alone. Why risk it all on a community interest company servicing the leisure, play and respite needs?
“I have to,” says Hannah, revealing the first flash of the red cape. “There are parents for who having a child with additional needs is new and terrifying. There are families who hardly every go anywhere together because what suits the children without additional needs isn’t accessible to their special needs brother or sister. And don’t get me started on changing facilities.”
After leaving school Hannah went to university in York to become a PE teacher, but the idea never really filled her with excitement. It wasn’t until the final semester of her final year that a single lecture on the psychology of supporting people with learning disabilities shone a light on a career path that would change her life.
“At that moment it became crystal clear to me. I wanted to support people, I wanted to work in care and I wanted to help people to have access to the same experiences that were available to me.”
Hannah’s first job was a personal support worker for a young woman in her 20s who had autism.
“We did everything from shopping at Tesco to trying every sport you can think of. I loved enabling her to do whatever she wanted to try,” says Hannah.
It wasn’t long before Hannah’s skills were recognised by Rotherham Borough Council where she became a project worker creating summer holiday programmes for children with additional needs.
“You name it, we did it!” she laughs, clearly remembering the fun times. “Safari parks, swimming, hiring out whole cinemas and ice rinks, we did it all.”
But it wasn’t the activities themselves that gave Hannah such a buzz, it was taking children and families into the community alongside the general public.
“For our families the fear of being judged, of making a scene, having an accident is always present. I wanted to put on a red super hero cape, some big red knickers and keep everyone safe under my protection,” laughs Hannah.
Her philosophy was, and still is, that children and adults with any level of additional needs should be able to enjoy their leisure time the same as everyone else, with or without families or carers. The reality of this is meticulous planning, risk assessing and challenging people where access is not always straight forward.
“I put the person at the centre of the plan. I make their enjoyment of the experience the goal and build a plan to make it happen,” she tells me. The hot chocolate is gone and the café is emptying out, but we’re going nowhere. We’re on a roll and I struggle to keep up as Hannah rattles through the next 17 years of her career. More programmes, more families, more responsibility but with fewer resources, less reliable funding and increasing cuts to services.
Hannah stops. Remembers a moment. A line in the sand. The turning point.
“It was just before Christmas 2016 and a parent approached me, concern written all over her face. She wanted to know if I had submitted my bid for funding and whether we would be carrying on the following year. I thought to myself, a parent should be looking forward to Christmas with their family not worrying if a charity has submitted a funding bid.”
The answer came for Hannah in the form of redundancy from her post of director for disability services for the YMCA White Rose. The funding was gone.
“I was 38 and had barely stopped for breath for all those years. I could jump straight back onto the merry-go-round or I could stop and use my time to change things.”
She decided on the latter. Turning her spare room into a think tank Hannah spent months devising a new care model that would provide the services people needed with the financial surety that would guarantee stability and security.
In early 2018, Enable Unity CIC was established.
“I networked, attended workshops and met with financial advisors. My expertise was in caring not business. It was such a challenge,” admits Hannah.
Then, in September with her redundancy money and savings almost gone she had a breakthrough. At a business networking event she met a woman from Key Fund Investments, an organisation providing loans to social enterprises and community interest companies.
“It seemed like a great opportunity, except I still didn’t know what I wanted to fund. I had lots of ideas and plans, but not the one cohesive idea to bring them together.”
Then a friend told her that Sensory Planet at Thurnscoe was coming up for sale.
“All I knew was that it was a centre with some sensory equipment. Nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced as I walked through the door. It wasn’t just the rooms kitted out with the most amazing sensory play equipment it was an absolute certainty that I’d found what I’d been searching for.”
Within weeks Hannah secured a Key Fund loan and bought Sensory Planet.
“My vision for what we can achieve for families in the region is so clear,” explains Hannah. “This will be a sensory centre for the use of children and adults with additional needs and it will be the hub for all of the services provided by Enable Unity CIC.”
We’re done. We pull on our winter coats and scarves and walk out to the car park together. No one else notices the superhero in their midst. Little do they know that for hundreds of families, children and adult’s life just got a little bit easier, a little bit more independent and a whole lot more fun.