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Our team

Our board of trustees

  • Professor Dame Carol Black


    Carol chairs the Think Ahead board and has provided a dedicated commitment to the organisation since we were founded in 2014. As a former consultant rheumatologist she provides expert advice to the Department of Health and Public Health England on a range of health and social care policy areas, conducting many reviews and consultations. She is also the Principal of Newnham College Cambridge and Chairman of the Nuffield Trust for health policy.

  • Dr Ruth Allen

    Board member

    Ruth is Chief Executive of the British Association of Social Workers and has been a qualified social worker since 1994. Ruth was formerly Director of Social Work for South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust and Research Fellow at St George’s University of London. She is Chair of the national Social Care Strategic Network for mental health, and an advisor to the Chief Social Worker for adults. Ruth is currently working with the Department of Health on the ‘Social Work for Better Mental Health’ initiative, and she is a spokesperson for social work and social care in a variety of other forums.

  • Professor Kamaldeep Bhui

    Board member

    Kamaldeep holds a wide range of roles across mental health, research, and academia. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry and Nuffield Department of Primary Health Care Sciences at the University of Oxford. He is also Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at East London NHS Foundation Trust and Editor in Chief of the British Journal of Psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, amongst other roles. Kamaldeep has a strong interest in preventing health inequalities and improving mental health services for diverse communities. His research interests include multimorbidity and ethnicity, and ethnic inequalities in experiences and outcomes of severe mental illness.

  • Levi Chambers-Cook

    Board member

    Levi was a participant on the Think Ahead programme from 2016 to 2018, joining in our very first year. She started her social work training with South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, and has since moved to Manchester where she continues to practise as a mental health social worker. Working in a Community Mental Health Team, Levi supports people experiencing a range of severe mental health problems, such as psychosis, personality disorders, and eating disorders. She is currently training to become an Approved Mental Health Professional at the University of Manchester.

  • Professor David Croisdale-Appleby OBE

    Board member

    David is Executive Chair of the Government Standing Commission on Carers, Dementia UK, and the Public Health Advisory Committee at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. He is also the board member for Higher Education, Medical Education and the NHS Leadership Academy at Health Education England. A former Chair of Skills for Care and Hft, in 2014 David authored the Croisdale-Appleby Review, Re-visioning Social Work Education for the UK government. He is the UK Ambassador to the Nelson Mandela Legacy Programme, including the creation of the first specialist paediatric hospital for the 14 nations of South African Development Community.

  • James Darley

    Board member

    James is the Chief Executive of Transform Society. Previously, he headed up the Teach First graduate recruitment department and saw Teach First grow from a ‘modest’ recruiter to become the largest graduate recruiter in the UK. James was previously European Head of Graduate Recruitment at Credit Suisse. He was previously the Chair of the Board for Police Now and is currently on the Board for Unlocked Graduates.

  • Dr Navina Evans CBE

    Board member

    Navina is the Chief Executive of Health Education England and former Chief Executive of East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT). She has over twenty years’ clinical experience in psychiatry, medicine and paediatrics, and came to East London in 1997 as a Consultant Psychiatrist. Navina has been involved in Medical Education at Barts and The London Medical School as Honorary Senior Lecturer, Associate Dean. She has considerable experience of working across organisational boundaries, especially with Local Authorities, Voluntary Sector, Acute and Community Services and Primary Care. More recently she has taken an active role in the development of local Integrated Care Systems. She was also involved in the development of the NHS Long Term Plan and the NHS People Plan.

  • Professor Sir Julian le Grand

    Board member

    Sir Julian has been the Richard Titmuss Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics since 1993 and was awarded a knighthood for services to social sciences and public service in 2015. In addition to his academic writing and career, Julian has worked as a Senior Policy Adviser at Number 10, and chaired the Social Work Practices Working Group for the Department for Children, Schools and Families (now the Department for Education). He was also the Chair of the National Reference Group for Health and Well-Being for the Department of Health.

  • John Lawlor

    Board member

    John joined Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust in June 2014 as Chief Executive.  He is also Chair of the Children and Young People’s mental health inpatient Quality Improvement Taskforce across England. His earlier career included roles as a Chief Executive of a Primary Care Trust in West Yorkshire between 2010 and 2013 and as Chief Executive of Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust between 2006 and 2009. Prior to his NHS career John worked as a Civil Servant  in the Department of Health and prior to that as a school teacher in South Yorkshire.

  • Donald Peck

    Board member

    Donald is active in the charity and social enterprise sector, with his background in development finance and venture capital. Donald has successfully set up and invested a number of venture capital funds for CDC and Actis in India. He chairs a social business in Latin America and, until recently, a health charity operating in 12 of the poorest developing countries. Donald is also Treasurer of IPPR.

  • Sharon Rice-Oxley

    Board member

    Sharon is a partner and co-founder of Q5, an international consultancy specialising in organisation change. She has been a consultant for over 20 years and has worked with a wide range of FTSE 100 companies across most industries both as an external and internal consultant supporting leaders of those businesses to review, change and ensure their organisation is fit and healthy. She previously worked at BAA and Accenture. She is a fellow of the CIPD and has an MBA from City University Business School. Sharon leads the Q5 foundation which works with a number of mental health charities including Think Ahead and MQ.

  • Nicholas Timmins

    Board member

    Nicholas is a former public policy editor at the Financial Times and is currently a senior fellow at the Institute for Government and the King’s Fund. He is also a visiting professor in social policy at the London School of Economics, an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, and author of the award winning The Five Giants: A Biography of the Welfare State, along with other publications including A Terrible Beauty: A short history of NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). He worked previously for the science journal Nature, the Press Association, The Times and The Independent.

Our Service User and Carer Reference Group

  • Chaired by Oliver Wood

    How our Service User and Carer Reference Group works is currently being independently reviewed by Steve Gilbert OBE, in order to ensure we are using the most effective and inclusive approaches. We aim to continuously improve the way we involve service users and carers, and will keep this page updated.

    We believe it is crucial to involve people with lived experience of mental health problems, and accessing mental health services, in all our work – to ensure that the needs of service users and carers are represented and reflected in everything we do.

    Think Ahead’s Service User and Carer Reference Group was established in November 2014. The members of the group provide us with a wealth of knowledge, experience, and invaluable advice, and their input fundamentally shapes our work. For example, since the group’s creation it has been involved in developing:

    • Our approach to participant recruitment and assessment.
    • The design of practice placements.
    • The programme’s academic curriculum.
    • Our brand and our communications strategy.

    The Service User and Carer Reference Group meets regularly throughout the year. Outside of these meetings, members can also get involved in various aspects of our work such as assessing, teaching, and presenting at events.

    The group is led by an independent chair, Oliver Wood. Oliver has been involved in the service user movement for nearly twenty years. Drawing on his ongoing experience as a mental health service user, he works to promote inclusion and improve services. Oliver believes that by including those who use services in their design, delivery and evaluation we can work together to deliver real change. Oliver is currently working as a Lay Member with Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group and provides sessional input into the training of Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists at Northumbria University.

Our Leadership Team

  • Ella Joseph

    Chief Executive

    Ella has led Think Ahead since it was founded in 2014. She brings over 10 years senior leadership experience across a number of Whitehall departments managing large teams and complex projects in key areas of social policy and education. Most recently, Ella led the government’s work on special educational needs and on children’s health and wellbeing. She is passionate about giving adult mental health the level of interest, innovation, and support it deserves.

  • Liz Ambekar

    Finance and Operations Director

    Liz is responsible for Finance, People, Strategy and Operations. She has worked in the charity (including health, education and social welfare charities) and public sectors for most of her career. Having seen the impact on close family members Liz is committed to improving the lives of people affected by mental health problems. Liz volunteers for a local youth club and hosts and promotes a foodbank donation point. She loves the arts and has become a keen crocheter.

  • Penny East

    External Relations Director

    Penny is responsible for our external relations strategy and brand. Before Think Ahead, she headed up the communications  team at domestic abuse charity SafeLives. Penny has worked in digital and media teams for organisations such as Comic Relief and The Prince’s Charities. In 2017, she became a Clore Social Leadership Fellow, specialising in gender equality. She also has an MA in Journalism and is a keen writer.

  • Rachel Slade

    Programme Director

    Rachel is responsible for the delivery and quality assurance of the Think Ahead programme. Rachel has over 15 years of experience within the charity sector. Most recently she was working as Head of Operations for a large national social integration charity delivering a large youth and community programme to tens of thousands of young people each year.

  • Ivan Wise

    Recruitment Director

    Ivan is responsible for the delivery of the Think Ahead programme and strategic overview of our participant recruitment. Before Think Ahead, he was Head of Staffing at The Challenge, recruiting thousands of youth workers for the National Citizen Service programme. He previously led a national project for WorldWide Volunteering, promoting voluntary work in schools, prisons and care homes.

Our Practice Specialists

  • Jacqui Bell

    Lead Practice Specialist

    Jacqui joined Think Ahead in April 2016 as a Practice Specialist supporting the first programme cohort and became Lead Practice Specialist in 2018. Jacqui qualified as a social worker in 1993, working mainly in East and Central London throughout her career. She has been a frontline practitioner and practice educator, a senior practitioner and team manager in teams including learning disabilities, adults, and older adults. Jacqui holds a role as an independent vice chair of a fostering and adoption panel.

  • Alexia Fenwick

    Practice Specialist

    Alexia is a Practice Specialist and CSW Lead. She is an experienced mental health social worker, qualifying in 2007 with an MA from Durham University. Since then she has worked in local authorities and NHS Trusts in Durham, Newcastle and London boroughs of Westminster, Hackney and Tower Hamlets. She has worked in adult, older adult and forensic mental health services as a social worker and AMHP. Alexia is passionate about supporting students in placement learning and became a practice educator in 2015, leaving frontline practice to join Think Ahead programme team in 2018.

  • Sarah Fitzgerald

    Practice Specialist

    Sarah became a Practice Specialist at Think Ahead in 2021. After taking a job as a care worker in a nursing home, her family history of mental health issues led her to train as a mental health social worker. She has a wealth of experience working with new service users, young men, people with personality disorders and older adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s. She is passionate about bridging the gap between social work and mental health services and issues surrounding eating disorders.

  • Izzy McNichol

    Practice Specialist

    Izzy joined in 2022 as a Practice Specialist. She has been worked within Children Social care and mental health services for over 18 years, working in a variety of health and local authority settings in the North East of England. Izzy worked in adults CMHT’s has managed an Older Peoples adult mental health services and a Ongoing assessment and intervention team. She is also worked an AMHP for several years. She has the Practice Educator qualification and is passionate about social work education.

  • Amanda Questel-Lewis

    Practice Specialist

    Amanda joined the team of Practice Specialists in April 2019. She has been a Social Worker since 1996 working mainly in the North West within statutory, voluntary and public sectors. She has worked in the Local Authority Children & Families with Disabilities Team, for the NSPCC as a Children’s Service Practitioner, and in CMHTs as a Senior CAMHS practitioner. She is also a qualified Practice Educator, Systemic Family Practitioner and Coaching/Mentoring who enjoys developing others in their social work experience.

Recruitment Team

  • Katie Evans

    Recruitment Associate

    Katie joined Think Ahead after working for a health and social care recruitment organisation in London, supporting people in gaining employment in the NHS and support work sector. She is an International Relations graduate from the University of Birmingham and has a keen in interest in government policy, particularly surrounding mental health.

  • Joe Marshall-Brown

    Recruitment Associate

    Joe is part of the recruitment team and is responsible for running attraction campaigns, screening potential candidates, managing assessment centres, and assisting participants joining the programme. He has experience in a variety of recruitment and project-based roles within the housebuilding, education, and charity sectors. He has an undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature and is currently undertaking a Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy. He is a big fan of Fulham FC.

  • Paula Mesia

    Recruitment Associate

    Paula joined Think Ahead after working for a housing and addiction charity in Bristol, where she supported in campaign development across teams, such as gambling. She also worked at the University of Bristol Careers Service, providing support to graduates and students with interviews and applications and building relationships with employers from Transform Society.

  • Gaia Pabla

    Recruitment Manager

  • Zilla Scott-Davis

    Recruitment Associate

  • Sumitra Tase

    Recruitment and Programme Administrator

    Sumitra works across both the Recruitment and Programme teams. She supports applicants during the application process and continues to do so once they join the programme. Before Think Ahead she completed a BA in Liberal Arts from the University of Leeds. She has worked primarily in admin and education related roles. She has always been passionate about the charity sector and volunteered for various charities based in Leeds and Mumbai.

Programme and Alumni Team

  • Perran Byles

    Programme Development Manager

    Perran is responsible for programme policies, processes and the monitoring and evaluation of the Think Ahead programme. She came to this role having spent the last 7 years working in the delivery of training programmes, including those with a focus on children’s social work and teacher training.

  • Amrit Kaur

    Alumni Associate

  • Tyler Moorehead

    Leadership Manager

  • Sian Silverstone

    Programme Engagement Manager

    Sian is responsible for the team delivering programme logistics and communications to participants- she oversees the participant experience and leads Think Ahead’s Retention and Engagement strategy. Before Think Ahead, she worked in the charity sector leading events, and lived in Saigon for three years teaching at and managing an English language centre.

  • Roxanne Timmis

    Head of Partnerships

    Roxanne joined Think Ahead in 2019 and is responsible for our external partnerships. Roxanne has 20 years experience working within the charity sector, 15 of these as a frontline mental health practitioner within homelessness and criminal justice services. Roxanne is passionate about improving services for service users and before joining Think Ahead she worked closely with many different social care organisations, consulting on and providing training around assessment and support planning. Roxanne also leads our Service User and Carer Reference Group.

  • Jingyi Ye

    Programme Partnership Associate

    Jingyi works with our partnerships of NHS Trusts and Local authorities, growing and engaging our network. She also works with our Service User and Carer Reference Group and academic partner to ensure lived experience is reflected in the programme. She has previously worked in other charities such as Prostate Cancer UK and Groundworks London.

External Relations Team

  • Alex Hesketh

    Senior Communications Officer

    Alex joined Think Ahead in 2021 and supports the external relations team’s activity across the organisation. Before Think Ahead, Alex was part of the communications team for Mental Health First Aid England, moving to the third sector after working for a public relations agency and some broadcasting work for the BBC. He is interested in politics, and is passionate about storytelling and challenging mental health stigma.

  • Katie Leay

    Senior External Relations Manager

    Katie joined Think Ahead in 2016 when our first cohort were just about to start the programme, and has really enjoyed being part of the organisation’s growth and development since then. Katie’s role involves sharing stories of our participants and the people they support, in order to help more people to understand the value of social work and the broader mental health workforce. Before joining Think Ahead Katie was a journalist and then worked for a disabled children’s charity.

  • Emma Macdonald

    External Relations Manager

Finance and Operations Team

  • Alan Bough

    Finance and Operations Manager

  • Jessica Gray

    People and Operations Manager

    Jess is responsible for HR and operations at head office, looking after our staff and particularly focussing on staff culture and development. In 2021, she completed a CIPD qualification in Human Resource Management. Prior to this role, Jess was the executive assistant to our CEO and our HR administrator.

  • Ellen Haile

    Finance and Office Administrator

  • Elliot Trevithick

    Head of Strategy, Research and Business Development

    Elliot leads our work on evaluation, and supports the senior management team on strategy and business development. Before Think Ahead he worked for an evaluation consultancy, supporting charities and their funders to maximise their impact. He has a master’s in civil conflict and terrorism, loves board games and cinema, and enjoys spreadsheets a little too much.

  • Katy Webb

    HR and Operations Administrator

    Katy is responsible for HR and Operational work alongside being an executive assistant to Think Ahead’s CEO Ella Joseph. Before joining Think Ahead, Katy was studying at SOAS University of London and has a MA in Politics. She has also spent time volunteering for Amnesty International, working in the charity’s Artists and Events team.