Skills for Care

In this section

  • Our board, leadership team and fellows

Meet our board, leadership team and fellows. 

Our board

Our board is employer led with 60% of members being employers in the adult social care sector, meeting four times a year to make strategic decisions for Skills for Care.

Members have four main duties.

  1. Safeguard and promote the values and mission of Skills for Care.
  2. Determine the strategy and structure of Skills for Care.
  3. Ensure Skills for Care operates in an effective, responsible and accountable manner.
  4. Ensure the effective functioning of Skills for Care’s board.

Our board members are:

  • John Coughlan CBE - Chair
  • Neil Taylor - Vice Chair - CEO, Langdon
  • Louise Bladen - Director, Home Affairs value for money audit at UK National Audit Office
  • Dr Mahiben Maruthappu MBE - CEO, Cera
  • Mark Lever OBE - CEO, Helpforce
  • Mandy Thorn MBE DL - Director, Marches Consultancy Ltd
  • Sue Bott CBE - Retired, formerly Deputy Chief Executive, Disability Rights UK
  • Sue McMillan - Retired, formerly Deputy Chief Inspector, Care Quality Commission
  • Suzie Bailey - Director of Leadership and Organisational Development, The King’s Fund
  • Steve Scown - Retired, formerly CEO, Dimensions
  • Paul Snell - CEO, Walsingham Support
  • Munira Thobani - Independent executive coach and organisational development consultant
  • Dr Mark Ward - CEO, Borough Care


Our leadership team

Our Leadership Team meets regularly to set our strategic and operational direction based on our business plan. 

Oonagh Smyth, Chief Executive Officer

Oonagh Smyth is CEO of Skills for Care. Oonagh has a Masters in Human Rights Law and a Masters in Executive Coaching from Ashridge Business School, and is an accredited executive coach.

Prior to starting in Skills for Care in 2020, Oonagh was the Executive Director of Strategy and Influence in Mencap for eight years, her role covered three countries and she led governance, strategy, programme delivery, legal advocacy and influencing work.

Oonagh has held senior roles at the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action and the Northern Ireland Equality Commission, Westminster Equalities Partnership, and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

She is a former Co-chair of the Care and Support Alliance, which is a cross-sector alliance of 80 social care organisations influencing at the highest government levels.


Tricia Pereira, Director of Operations

Tricia Pereira is a qualified social worker and is the Director of Operations at Skills for Care.

Her previous roles include Head of Adults Social Care and Adult Safeguarding in local authority statutory settings and Practitioner Development Lead with London ADASS.

Tricia is the Co-chair of the Department of Health and Social Care Social Care Workforce Race Equalities Standards Advisory Group and Co-chair of the BAME Communities Advisory Group for the Department of Health Social Care sector, COVID-19 Support Taskforce.

She is a former Co-chair of the Adults Principal Social Worker Network for England.


Georgina Turner, Director of Engagement 

Georgina has over 10 years of experience in the Social Care and Health sectors. Her previous role at Skills for Care was programme head for employer engagement with responsibility for developing and implementing approaches to engagement with specific groups of employers, and managing the delivery of nationwide services and programmes.

Georgina is an experienced and programme and project manager with specific insight into the adult social care market and its supply chains, grant investment and management and stakeholder engagement.

Georgina has a BSC Honours in Psychology and a Masters in Business Administration and is a Trustee of People Matters (West Yorkshire).


Sarah Shimmin Gilbert, Director of Strategy, Impact and Policy (job share)

Sarah Shimmin Gilbert is one of the Strategy, Impact and Policy Directors at Skills for Care.

Prior to joining Skills for Care Sarah was an Interim Executive Director of Strategy and Influence at Mencap, where she played a key role in leading Mencap through the COVID-19 pandemic as well as leading Mencap's Learning Disability Helpline, legal support to families, and Mencap's campaigning and local advocacy.

Through her work with the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and as an independent consultant, Sarah has worked with a range of organisations leading and delivering consultancy and training in strategy, evaluation and impact, research, and campaigning and influencing. Sarah has worked with universities and charity sector organisations, has written and contributed to a range of publications, and held a range of roles in charities including working in social and health policy influencing.


Jenny Paton, Director of Strategy, Impact and Policy (job share)

Jenny Paton is one of the Strategy, Impact and Policy Directors at Skills for Care. 

She has supported the cultural and charity sectors in a strategic capacity, most recently as Head of Strategy and Impact for Mencap before joining Skills for Care. 

Jenny is Vice Chair of the Mental Health Foundation.  Previous roles include supporting the Wellcome Trust – a global charity dedicated to improving health –to improve diversity and inclusivity.

From 2011-2014, Jenny was Executive Director and joint Chief Executive of Camden People’s Theatre. Jenny continues to support a number of small arts organisations with strategy on an informal basis.


Sue Shaw, Finance Director

Sue has a BSc Honours degree in Economics and Statistics from Leeds University and a Diploma in Entrepreneurship from Manchester Business School. 

Sue is a qualified Chartered Accountant, who trained with one of the big four international accounting and auditing firms. After qualification she gained experience including corporate taxation, receiverships/ liquidations/ bank security reviews and due diligence.

She has managed a portfolio of audit clients including commercial companies, pension schemes and a portfolio of charitable, not for profit, voluntary sector and social housing clients mainly based in Yorkshire.

Sue joined Skills for Care nine years ago and has worked in finance and accountancy for over 25 years.


Ruth Stickler, Director of People

Ruth has been in HR for over 20 years and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

People are central to quality social care that supports those who need it, and our people here at Skills for Care are crucial to enabling us to support those working in our sector. Ruth’s focus is on ensuring that Skills for Care is an excellent employer, creating a culture which is values led, where everyone feels a sense of belonging and that our people can utilise their knowledge, skills and expertise in support of the social care workforce.


Sarah-Jane Dale, Director of Development

Sarah-Jane is also Chief Operating Officer of Affina Organisation Development (part of the Skills for Care Group). She has held senior roles in health and social care workforce, organisation and business development for over 10 years.

Sarah-Jane has led strategic and operational business development in a range of sectors, working with both dedicated teams and remote associates, across the UK and Ireland, and has been a key partner leading pioneering work focused on dignity in care across northern Europe.

Sarah Jane is an experienced organisation development practitioner committed to collective and compassionate leadership.A Masters level qualified software engineer, social science graduate and lean business improvement facilitator.


Our fellows

Our fellows are senior leaders who have a shared passion and commitment to improve the workforce in the adult social care sector. Each of our fellows have made a significant contribution to the adult social care workforce agenda over the course of their careers and have worked in partnership with Skills for Care on workforce issues.

Our fellows act as ambassadors for Skills for Care and for adult social care using their expertise and insight to advise us and shape our work.


Anita Astle

Anita has managed Wren Hall Nursing Home for the past 26 years and is the Registered Manager there. Anita trained as a Registered General Nurse in 1984 and worked as a Staff Nurse on the Burns Unit, and later Intensive Care unit at Nottingham City Hospital. Anita has been an active member of the Nottingham University School of Nursing Practice Learning Team since its inception in 2000.

She has been Vice Chair of the Nottinghamshire Partnership for Social Care Workforce Development, Regional Chair and Board member for Skills for Care.


Clenton Farquharson

Clenton has extensive knowledge around health and social care, particularly in relation to equality and co-production due to both personal and professional experience. He is a member of the National Co-production Advisory Group, which is a partner of the Think Local, Act Personal partnership. He is also a member of the Coalition for Collaborative Care Co-production Group, which brings together people, including people with long-term conditions, and organisations from across health and social care. Clenton is Director of Community Navigator Services CIC and a trustee of Lench's Trust and of CHANGE; a learning disability rights charity. Clenton was awarded an MBE for services to people with disabilities in the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours List.


Peter Hodkinson

A leader in the field of social care Peter has dedicated over 25 years of his career to the care sector. He is passionate about ensuring everyone who needs care in later life can access outstanding and personalised care whatever their situation.

As current Chair of the Leeds Care Association, (the representative body for independent sector care providers in Leeds), Peter champions the simple aim of the organisation’s members: to promote the very best quality care in the Leeds and the surrounding area.

He is also Managing Director of Westward Care, which has undertaken many pioneering initiatives around workforce and quality. Westward Care also provides innovative ‘housing with care’ schemes which aim to provide greater choice for people needing care and support in later life. Peter is particularly renowned for his partnership work with the local authority public sector.

In addition, he is also a Trustee of ‘Holbeck Together’, a neighbourhood network supporting families and older people in inner city Leeds and serves as Chair for NICHE Leeds (Nurturing Innovation in Care Home Excellence in Leeds).

He also served as a former board director at ‘Skills for Care’ for 12 years and now acts as a ‘Skills for Care’ Fellow. This Fellowship is awarded to a handful of senior leaders who have made a significant contribution to the adult social care workforce agenda over the course of their careers and who continue to work in partnership with ‘Skills for Care’ on workforce issues.

In 2014, Peter was awarded the ‘outstanding contribution award’ for social care at the Great Yorkshire & Humber Care Awards.


Jill Manthorpe

Jill is Professor of Social Work at King’s College London and Director of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit. She also has much experience in the voluntary sector and is a Trustee of the not for profit care provider the Orders of St John Care Trust. Jill’s unit at King’s focuses on the social care workforce and publishes particularly on the subjects of dementia, risk, safeguarding and care. She is a social gerontologist by academic discipline and is a Fellow of the Academy for Social Sciences and a Senior Researcher Emerita of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).


Bill Mumford

Bill has 40 years’ experience in the health and social care sector, starting as a live-in care assistant at Barnardo's. More recently he was the CEO of Eden Valley and Jigsaw Hospice for adults and children in Cumbria and before the CEO of the charity MacIntyre. Whilst at MacIntyre he created the Great Interactions values-based recruitment programme which won the Skills for Care Winner of Winners Accolade. 

Additional roles held include: Non-Executive Director of NICE having joined the board as its first social care representative; Chair of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group; Chair of the National Market Development Forum and Director of the Winterbourne Joint Improvement Programme. He’s currently working in a freelance capacity specialising in leadership development, mentoring and facilitation.


Julia Scott

Julia has been Chief Executive at the College of Occupational Therapists since 2006. Prior to this, she held the position of Vice Chair of the COT Council. Julia is an Honorary Fellow at Brunel and NICE. Julia started her career as an Occupational therapist in the NHS and subsequently went on to work with GPs and Practice nurses on a Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention project.  Having moved in to social care, Julia’s career has developed across a variety of roles and in 2001 she was seconded to the Department of Health.  Prior to joining the College, Julia was Head of Disability services at Kensington and Chelsea Social Services in London.


Melanie Weatherley

Melanie is Chief Executive of Walnut Care at Home, a domiciliary care provider in Lincolnshire providing more than 5,000 hours per week. Melanie is acting Chair of Lincolnshire Care Association (LinCA) which is represents residential, domiciliary, and community care providers in the county. In 2015 Melanie established LinCA Workforce Development which works closely with Local Authority and NHS colleagues to provide an integrated response to the sector by developing and commissioning programmes and resources. Melanie is a chartered accountant and has worked in both the UK and USA in this field.