Our team

Our Executive Team, Trustees and Patrons

Executive Team
Mike Trace Following a period of 12 years working on and managing projects that provided treatment to the homeless, drug users and offenders, Mike held the post of Deputy UK Anti-Drug Co-ordinator from 1997 until 2001. His duties included the creation of the UK’s first National Drug Strategy and the oversight of its initial implementation. From 2000 to 2003, he was the chair of the European Union drugs agency, the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). Here he steered a three-year work plan which involved the collation and dissemination of research and analysis on drug use, problems and responses across Europe. During 2001 to 2002, Mike also held the post of director of performance at the National Treatment Agency, set up by the UK government to oversee the rapid expansion of the drug treatment sector. In November 2002, he left to work for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna. Leaving his United Nations post in early 2003, Mike returned to the UK, and the non-governmental sector. After a year as chief executive of The Blenheim Project, a provider of community treatment services in London, he took up his current post as chief executive of RAPt in 2004. Mike continues to engage in policy issues as Co-ordinator of the International Drug Policy Forum, a global network of non-government organisations (NGOs) with an interest in the promotion of evidence-based drug policy. 
Carwyn Gravell Divisional Director Business Development
Carwyn Gravell Carwyn joined The Forward Trust (then Blue Sky) in 2014 as Head of Fundraising. He has since taken on a wider role as Forward's Divisional Director of Business Development. His areas of responsibility now include Business Development, Research, Communications and Fundraising. Carwyn was previously a partner at leading social research organisation Lemos&Crane and was instrumental in developing ground-breaking initiatives in the field of criminal justice including Prisoner Action Net and The Good Prison Award. He is a Philosophy graduate from Warwick University and a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.


Divisional Director Business Development
John Biggin OBE Chief Operating Officer
John Biggin OBE John Biggin is a highly experienced and versatile Operations Director with current and previous experience of managing in highly complex and high-profile environments.  Having over 31 years’ experience within the Criminal Justice sector and having worked in both the public and private sector delivering complex operations including directing Court operations across London and managing three challenging and complex prisons.  Most recently John led on transforming Community Payback on behalf of the London Community Rehabilitation Company. John brings extensive experience of providing strategic direction as well as full performance and P&L accountability of complex and challenging multi layered operations where leadership, excellent stakeholder management and a performance focus were key. This includes complex relationships with either directly commissioned or co-commissioned services where direct in-depth knowledge of delivery lay with the provider. John has extensive knowledge of the commissioning process and in the past, has operated as Contract Manager to large public sector operations.


Chief Operating Officer
Jason Moore Divisional Director of Substance Misuse Services
Jason Moore Jason joined the organisation in 2014 following a 21 year career with the National Offender Management Service (now HMPPS). As a senior operational manager he specialised in offender management, resettlement, healthcare and substance misuse services. During this time he worked closely with the NHS and local authorities in the commissioning of substance misuse services for both the community and custodial environment.  In August 2017 Jason became the Forward Trusts Divisional Director of Substance Misuse Services following 3½ years as the Head of Governance and Quality. This role provided him with a wealth of experience in dealing with regulators and inspectorates such as the Care Quality Commission, NHS Improvements, Information Commissioners Office and HM Inspector of Prisons. Jason is qualified with the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in advanced health service governance. Over the years Jason has seen the good work that positive people and effective service provision can bring to those who need help and support. His aim as Director of Substance Misuse Services is to ensure that high levels of safety and quality are achieved across all of Forward’s services.


Divisional Director of Substance Misuse Services
Asi Panditharatna Director of Employment Services
Asi Panditharatna Asi joined The Forward Trust in June 2018. Asi has over 20 years’ experience as a manager and leader in the post 16 skills, apprenticeships, training and employability industry. Prior to joining Forward Asi was Director of Apprenticeships and Employability at Catch22 where he secured its first ever Ofsted Grade Good in apprenticeships and skills, as well as securing its first apprenticeship levy customers.  Asi was a member of the Mayor of London’s Skills for Londoners Task Force that developed the inaugural skills strategy for London.  Asi is a member of the AELP London Advisory Board and former chair of the ERSA Youth Employability Forum. In his spare time Asi is a School Governor with lead responsibility for Special Education Needs and supports community initiatives in Sri-Lanka and Bangladesh.


Director of Employment Services
Senior Management Team
James Parker Head of Services
James Parker James joined the Forward Trust in 2013 as Head of Services after having a variety of positions working across the social care and substance misuse treatment spectrum since 1991, when he started as a practitioner. He has had extensive experience of working within statutory services in the NHS, and also in the voluntary sector delivering criminal justice and treatment services in the community. Prior to his arrival at The Forward Trust he had been part of successful tender applications for prison and community tenders and he has carried on this work with Forward Trust, and was an integral part of the team that won the East Kent contract and retained the Kent prisons contract. He brings a combination of operational and organisational experience and has greatly enjoyed learning about the delivery component of prison-based substance misuse services. Having helped so many clients to achieve their recovery goals in his career he brings this enthusiasm and desire to provide the right environment to facilitate change to his approach to service design and operational management of the services he oversees. Working for The Forward Trust has helped him to achieve his own ambitions to develop into a strategic leader shaping the way services are delivered, and he wants to help deliver and design services that place this aspiration of helping others achieve their goals at the heart of all that we do.  
Sarah Baldock Head of Services
Sarah Baldock Sarah joined the organisation in November 2016 after working for a period with a Medical organisation managing National Needle Exchange contracts in pharmacies, Hospitals and Community Drug Services. Sarah started her career working for Kent Police as a Police Officer in Kent in 2000 before moving on to develop a Young Persons Substance misuse Service in West Kent where she progressed through the ranks, leading to Sarah managing the services and developing work with Young Offenders Teams. Sarah then moved onto work with adults in the criminal justice services through police custodies and courts to then managing these services. In 2013 Sarah moved into managing Integrated Treatment services in Kent and Sussex for adult service users managing one of the PBR pilot areas successfully. Sarah has worked in substance misuse and CJ for 18 years since leaving university on both sides of the CJ arena. Now using her knowledge of working in the sector in the prison world.    
Dr Pamela Walters Clinical Director
Dr Pamela Walters Pamela joined Forward in November 2017. She is a dually trained consultant in Forensic and Addiction Psychiatry having worked at Europe’s largest prison HMP Wandsworth for the past 10 years. She has worked in high & medium security including Broadmoor High Secure Hospital and within community addiction services including clinics proving injectable opiates. Pamela has extensive experiences across the offender health pathway including giving evidence in court for magistrates, immigration, parole board and crown court hearings. She served as an expert advisor to the Royal College of Psychiatrists from 2012-2016. She has been a member of the National Clinical Reference Group for Offender Health on behalf of NHS England since 2013. She has recently worked as one of 2 National psychiatric advisors for the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. Pamela is the addictions advisor to the Royal College of Psychiatrists Sports and Exercise special interest group and is passionate about the benefits of sports and exercise in both optimising mental & physical health and as an adjunct to the recovery from substance misuse. She has been an expert advisor to NICE –National Institute for Clinical Excellence, lectured at the Middle Temple – Inn’s of advocacy and the London Deanery and Institute of Psychiatry for trainee doctors and peers. Pamela is an expert forensic & addictions advisor for the International Journal of Prisoner Health. Her current roles for the Forward Trust include, Clinical Director, Caldicott Guardian and Responsible Officer.
Ishbel Straker Director of Nursing
Ishbel Straker Ishbel joined the organisation in 2017 following a 10 year career in the addiction field. Prior to The Forward Trust Ishbel has worked as Clinical Director for Cranstoun and National Head of Nursing for Turning Point. As an RMN, NMP Ishbel has set up nurse led community services as a pilot for NHS England during a position in Addaction and was the first Nursing Clinical Lead for a northern service cluster within Turning Point. Ishbel is passionate about nursing and sits on the board of International Association of Addiction Nursing and is a columnist for the nursing field for DDN Magazine, having historically published for the Nursing Times. In October 2017 Ishbel joined The Forward Trust as the Director of Nursing and works to ensure good quality care is provided to all clients whilst supporting the nurses in best practice. Ishbel is keen to ensure nurses across the country look to The Forward Trust as a safe and supportive environment to work.
Julie Muir Head of Recovery
Julie Muir Julie has worked for The Forward Trust for over 8 years as a member of the Recovery Support team. Julie’s role is to develop and embed a recovery culture throughout the organisation. As a former RAPt Graduate from HMP Send Julie felt she had something important to contribute, which is one of the main reasons she wanted to take on this exciting challenge. Moving forward Julie aims to ensure that a recovery culture becomes far more visible and that Forward is a charity people in recovery feel proud to work for.  
Oliver Wilcox Head of Business Development
Oliver Wilcox Ollie joined The Forward Trust’s Research and Development team in 2016 having worked with various providers in the Drug and Alcohol treatment field in a business development capacity at ILLY Systems. Since joining Forward he has been involved in the successful East Kent Integrated Community Drug & Alcohol Service bid and the retention of the Kent and Medway prisons Integrated Substance Misuse Treatment contract. Ollie now heads up the Business Development team which is focussed on delivering bids, partnerships, and proposals which will expand Forward’s footprint across Substance Misuse, Employment, Mental Health, and Housing. He aims to drive innovation and service development across the organisation through bidding and commercial processes.


Head of Business Development
Jo Ritchie Head of Communications
Jo Ritchie Jo joined the Forward Trust in September 2018 with over twenty years’ experience in healthcare communications and stakeholder engagement – both in the public and private sectors. She is adept at creating effective communications strategy and leading teams to plan, implement and evaluate. Jo heads a team who are responsible for overseeing all internal and external communications at the Forward Trust, including digital channels. She also has a number of years’ experience in personal and business coaching, as well as teaching martial arts and yoga – the latter two being great ways to de-stress from work! Jo has a strong belief that people are capable of amazing things and of transforming their own lives.


Head of Communications
Helen Greenard Head of Research
Helen Greenard Helen joined the organisation in 2013 as a Business Development Manager and has since moved into the role of Head of Research. Helen is responsible for the organisations research strategy generating insight into the needs of our service users, working across the organisation to identify and implement innovative ideas with a focus on how we can evidence the effectiveness of what we do and the impact it has. She currently is also leading on key organisational projects including Forwards digital strategy and the commissioning of a new Case Management System. Prior to joining Forward Helen held a variety of roles including a Probation manager leading a resettlement project in HMP Manchester, commissioner of substance misuse services for a local authority and she has also worked as a senior drug and alcohol practitioner in a community setting.  
Chandni Radia Head of Fundraising
Chandni Radia Chandni joined The Forward Trust in May 2016 and has over 10 years of experience in the fundraising field. She has worked for a range of organisations in the charity sector leading their fundraising efforts, including a London-based children’s mentoring charity, global counter-extremism think tank and most recently the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). Prior to this, Chandni worked as a Consultant, helping Government and Government organisations to help shape their grant making processes, and supporting charitable organisations to develop and implement achievable fundraising strategies – all to achieve lasting social change. At Forward, Chandni manages our fundraising team and is responsible for securing charitable income to ensure that we are able to deliver the most effective services possible for those experiencing substance misuse and ex-offenders. Chandni has a degree in Architecture, MSc in Development and Planning and MA in Urban and Regional Planning. She is also a member of the Institute of Fundraising.  
Gee Punia Head of Employability
Gee Punia An expert operational leader with 17 years’ experience of driving performance, profitability and exceeding contractual and business targets in hugely variable, complex Welfare to Work related contracts. Gee has significant experience of developing and delivering solutions to meet a broad range of funders’ requirements across a breadth of client groups including the long-term unemployed, ex-offenders, people living with disabilities, youth and people living with health conditions.  Gee is a highly energetic and inspirational principal, with a steadfast commitment to providing excellent levels of customer service, building successful teams and delivering outcomes against contractual measures, all while handling all interactions with a high degree of personal integrity.


Head of Employability
John Chesters Commercial Director- Employment Services
John Chesters John joined Forward in 2010 as Commercial Director of Blue Sky with more than 20 years’ experience in the horticultural, waste and recycling industries. This has included the management of private sector collection and disposal contracts for multiple London boroughs, and leading grounds maintenance contracts. As well as a range of vocational, managerial, H&S and other qualifications, John holds the Kew Diploma in Horticulture (Hons) and was awarded an MBA in 2008.


Commercial Director- Employment Services
Donia Slyzuk Head of Operations- Employment Services
Donia Slyzuk Donia Slyzuk is Head of Operations for Employment Services at The Forward Trust where she is responsible for the management of Blue Sky Agency. Blue Sky is a commercial agency employing ex-offenders in a number of labour markets. With over 20 years’ experience of working in the public, private and voluntary sector, Donia has worked as a commissioner and deliverer of services across a wide range of client groups including offenders, substance misuse, and mental health in a number of sectors including regeneration and supported housing. Prior to working for the Forward Trust, Donia worked with Sodexo at Norfolk and Suffolk Community Rehabilitation Company where she was involved in the transformation and implementation of the new target operating model for Transforming Rehabilitation. Leading on the CRC’s Through the Gate offer she worked closely with prisons and third sector supply chain providers across Norfolk and Suffolk around the resettlement agenda including employment. Donia is committed to providing, through co-production, best value, attractive, culturally sensitive, innovative, relevant and safe services that make a difference.  Services that enable individuals to fulfil their potential and live the lives they choose that address the needs of service users, their families, carers and the community and providing hope, opportunity and building emotional resilience.


Head of Operations- Employment Services
Elspeth Holmes Finance & Commercial Director
Elspeth Holmes Elspeth started her career in non finance roles in the commercial sector before audit training at BDO and qualifying as a Chartered Accountant (ICAEW). After 9 years of leading the finance function for owner managed SME’s she set up her own consultancy to enable a move over to the third sector: Clients included acting as subcontractor to Buzzacotts LLP and 10 direct long-run and short-term projects including St Martin in the Fields and Southwark Diocese. The experience gained enabled her to take up her first full time position in the non profit sector at the Old Royal Naval College as Finance and Commercial Director followed by interim roles at the London Symphony Orchestra and Combat Stress. She brings a wealth of technical and commercial insight from across a breadth of sectors and 18 years’ experience in developing finance functions. Her personal interest and studies in psychology, CPTSD and trauma treatment provides an affinity with the core of the Forward Trust.


Finance & Commercial Director
John Tyson Head of Finance
John Tyson John (JT) joined The Forward Trust in May 2018, as part of the organisation’s goal to strengthen its financial reporting.  With a strong background in charity accounting, he has been tasked with several projects aimed at tightening and streamlining core financial processes.  John has previously worked at Forum for the Future, the National Citizen Service, and Scope, as well as various commercial and professional ventures, so brings a wide range of skills to the table.  Having honed ten years’ experience across finance functions in these organisations, he is ideally placed to help develop the Finance teams delivery and strategy. John is qualified with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.
Natasha Simpson Head of HR
Natasha Simpson Natasha first joined the organisation in 2000 as an HR Administrator, gradually working her way up to HR Director, she was a member of the senior management team until 2011. During this time, Natasha gained in-depth knowledge and experience in areas of Employment Law, Organisational Design and Change management, on top of operational elements of people management across the full employee life cycle. Through the years Natasha also developed an insightful understanding and appreciation of the culture and ethos within Forward, which remains at the heart of everything we do. After taking a career break to live abroad and raise a family, Natasha returned to Forward in 2016; to a very different landscape, now with a workforce almost double the size and a wealth of new and different services under the Forward umbrella, Natasha came back on board and took on the operational running of the HR function. As Head of HR, Natasha has taken oversight of the whole HR function, including, from 2018, the Learning & Development arm. With an academic background in Psychology, an invaluable understanding of our raison d’etre and over a decade of HR experience in a senior management position, Natasha is very well placed to head up the People side of our organisation.
Caroline Scott Head of Governance
Caroline Scott
Chris Timmins Head of IT
Chris Timmins
Trustees
The Hon David Bernstein Chair
The Hon David Bernstein David has worked in the civil service, as a lawyer and is now on the boards of a small food importing company and a private investment company, both based in London. He sits on the boards of three other voluntary organisations, and of two grant-giving foundations. He is interested not only in penal affairs, but also alcohol and drug addiction more widely, human rights and refugee issues.


Chair
Lady Gibbings Trustee
Lady Gibbings Louise is one of the founding trustees of Forward and has been involved with the criminal justice system and the treatment of addiction for many years. She has worked for the national charity SOVA, served on the Board of Visitors at HMP Wandsworth for 15 years, and has been a trustee for the Wandsworth Prison Counselling Service and the Blenheim/Community Drug Project. At present she is a member of the Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Wayland and is also a trustee of the St Giles Trust. 


Trustee
Ben Houghton Trustee
Ben Houghton Ben is a former army officer and senior executive in the financial services sector. He was chairman of Disability Sport England for five years. His other current commitments include treasurer of Missing People, investment trustee of Haig Homes and chairman of a board of school governors.  


Trustee
The Hon Isabelle Laurent Trustee
The Hon Isabelle Laurent Isabelle has been committed to the tenets of Forward for over 25 years, and has been a trustee of Forward since its instigation in 1991. Isabelle is also member of the board (known as the Council) of King’s College, London.


Trustee
John Mason Trustee
John Mason John is a qualified counsellor and works as project coordinator of an aftercare service in Westminster. He has first-hand experience of the criminal justice system as a detainee, and is a graduate of the Forward's rehabilitation programme. He has worked in service delivery in a number of different rehabilitation and treatment contexts including the Drugs Intervention Programme and a rehabilitation programme for gamblers. John is also a trustee of a theatre company that works in prison with offenders and ex-offenders.


Trustee
Dame Benita Refson DBE Trustee
Dame Benita Refson DBE Benita is a founding Trustee of Place2Be and a qualified counsellor. After 19 years, Benita stepped down as CEO in 2014 and continues to support the organisation enthusiastically through her new role as President. Benita received an OBE for Services to Children and Families in 2007; was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of East London in 2009; received The Beacon Judges' Special Prize for Outstanding Philanthropic Achievement in 2010; and in 2014 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Institute of Education, University of London. Benita  was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Birthday 2016 Honours List in recognition of services to education, and has been a trustee of Forward since 2012.


Trustee
David Riddle Trustee
David Riddle David has a long and distinguished record in the waste management industry. He is a member of the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group. He was also Executive Chairman and Chief Executive of Cory Environmental Holdings, which manages long-term contracts for the landfill disposal of Local Authority waste and operates landfill sites, transfer stations and a tug and barge fleet on the River Thames. David has been a member of Defra Waste Implementation Programme Steering Committee and Chairman of the Data Advisory Pane. He has also served as a trustee for the Cory Environmental Trust in Thurrock and the Huron University USA in London. David is a Freeman of the City of London and is a lifetime member of the Environmental Services Association.


Trustee
MJG Taylor Trustee
MJG Taylor MJ is a UKCP-registered senior adult psychotherapist and clinical supervisor who for over 20 years has worked in the UK in charitable, NHS and private settings as well as academia.  The main area of emphasis in psychotherapeutic work involves socio-economically disadvantaged individuals, especially those in forensic settings. Coming to psychotherapy from a career in senior management in both the business and voluntary sectors in Europe, the United States and Latin America, MJ also serves currently as a trustee for several charities.


Trustee
John Wates OBE JP Trustee
John Wates OBE JP John has had a long interest in the criminal justice system and was a magistrate for 20 years. He chairs the Wates Foundation and is involved with numerous other charities. He has a keen interest in the recovery principle in mental health and addiction.


Trustee
Andrew Wylie Trustee
Andrew Wylie Andrew Wylie is the Head of Investment Funds at DLA Piper, a global law firm, and has been a partner in City law firms for over 10 years.  Andrew has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Cambridge. Andrew has given seminars at a number of leading international law schools and business schools about the global investment funds industry.  In Europe, these include the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, London Business School and INSEAD.  In the USA, these include Columbia Business School, Harvard Law School and Yale Law School. Since 2011 Andrew has been a trustee of Blue Sky, a charity which aims to break the cycle of re-offending by offering employment to ex-offenders through contracts with local authorities and private sector businesses.


Trustee
Patrons
Dame Judi Dench Patron
Dame Judi Dench “I am proud and honoured to be a patron of the Forward Trust whose professional team of counsellors and staff do so much to help and encourage men and women to recover from their alcohol or drug addiction. It is wonderful that so many of them then go on to lead positive, fulfilling and crime-free lives.” Dame Judi read for us at a carol concert fundraiser in 2007 and has been a supporter of our work ever since.  Photograph courtesy of Carolyn Djanogly.


Patron
The Hon. Emma Soames Patron
The Hon. Emma Soames “The Forward Trust performs a vital service in transforming the lives of individuals as well as lowering rates of recidivism within the British justice system. In grappling with addiction within prisons, it is taking the 12 Steps programme to those whose need for it is truly great. It is always a joy to see how it transforms the lives of those who have been on the Forward programmes and I am proud to be a patron.”  


Patron
Tony Adams MBE Patron
Tony Adams MBE We are very lucky to have former Arsenal and England footballer Tony Adams MBE as one of our patrons. “It is an honour to be a patron of the Forward Trust and to see at first hand the impact that Forward has had on the lives of so many men and women suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. Many recovering addicts have benefited from the care and support Forward offers and now make a positive contribution to society.” 


Patron
Sir Anthony Hopkins CBE Patron
Sir Anthony Hopkins CBE Sir Anthony Hopkins has been a patron of the Forward Trust since its early days and helped open our first intensive drug and alcohol rehabilitation unit at HMP Downview in 1992.


Patron
Roger Graef OBE Patron
Roger Graef OBE Roger Graef OBE is a patron of The Forward Trust. He has made films about addiction and prison services in the UK and overseas 


Patron
The Rt. Hon. the Lord Woolf of Barnes Patron
The Rt. Hon. the Lord Woolf of Barnes


Patron
Russell Brand Patron
Russell Brand Comedian and Actor Russell Brand has been a Patron since he made an appearance at a client re union. Since then he has worked closely with Forward, donating his Trew Era Cafe and launching our employment services in 2017. 


Patron