Meet our Board and Leadership Team.
Our Board members have an interest in Skills for Care's mission, bringing key expertise and representing our stakeholders. Our Board meets four times a year to make strategic decisions for Skills for Care.
Members have four main duties:
- Safeguard and promote the values and mission of Skills for Care.
- Determine the strategy and structure of Skills for Care.
- Ensure Skills for Care operates in an effective, responsible and accountable manner.
- Ensure the effective functioning of Skills for Care’s Board.
Our Board members
John Coughlan CBE
John is the Chair of the Skills for Care Board, appointed in March 2023. John recently retired as CEO of Hampshire County Council, with many years’ experience leading and improving children’s and adults’ services across several local authorities and was awarded a CBE for his national work.
Suzie has been a Trustee on the Skills for Care Board since 2018. Suzie heads the leadership and organisational development team at The King’s Fund, an independent health and care charity. Prior to this Suzie was director of leadership and quality improvement at NHS Improvement, and worked as an operational manager in the NHS for over 21 years in acute, community and mental health providers. She is passionate about improving care through the development of people and healthy working cultures.
James joined the Skills for Care Board in 2022. James is Executive Director of Adult Social Services in Norfolk and served as ADASS President in 2020. He is also the ADASS national Director co-lead for Social Care and Justice, and ADASS lead for Assurance.
Gillian joined the Skills for Care Board in 2022 and is Chair of the Finance and People Committee. Gillian is a chartered accountant and chartered director with over 25 years’ experience and is currently Director of Finance and Corporate Services at the Housing Ombudsman Service.
Mandy Thorn MBE DL
Mandy has been a member of the Skills for Care Board since 2018. Mandy is chair of the Marches LEP Board, and until 2021 led Shrewsbury-based Marches Care Ltd, an SME provider of nursing and dementia services. Mandy is a trustee of a number of charities and was awarded an MBE for services to dementia in 2014.
Mark has been a member of the Skills for Care Board since 2019. Mark is CEO of Borough Care, a residential social care provider operating in the North West, and for the past 20 years has been a leader, CEO and Non-Executive Board member in a diverse range of not-for-profit organisations.
Naser joined the Skills for Care board in 2022. Naser is Director of Evidence and Implementation at Cancer Research UK, his work focuses on accelerating the adoption of innovation and reducing inequalities in access. He leads CRUK teams conducting evidence review, data analysis, policy and implementation research, and health systems engagement. Previously he has been a senior manager in the NHS, including as a Cancer Alliance director in London, as well as an earlier career in public sector strategy and research.
Bill joined the Skills for Care board in 2022. Bill has over 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. Bill is 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. In additional to his non-executive roles Bill continues to work in a freelance capacity specialising in quality auditing, leadership development, mentoring and facilitation.
Penny joined the Skills for Care board in 2022. Penny brings over 20 years’ senior level experience, skills and knowledge in leading health and social care organisations, in public, private and social enterprises. As well as her work in social care, Penny has held other leading roles: in the NHS; nationally at the Disclosure and Barring Service that reports directly to the Home Office; and has worked in partnership with the NHS, and with local authorities in London, Liverpool, Bristol, Surrey and Sefton. She has a strong strategic track record in governance and scrutiny, integrated commissioning, change management, overseeing high-quality service delivery, and successful new business generation.
Our Leadership Team meets regularly to set our strategic and operational direction based on our business plan.
Oonagh Smyth, Chief Executive
Oonagh Smyth is CEO of Skills for Care. For seven years she was Executive Director of Strategy and Influence at Mencap leading a directorate of around 500 people across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Oonagh has held roles at the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action and the Northern Ireland Equality Commission, senior roles in 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.
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).
Jenny Paton , Directors 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.
Mike Harvey , Commercial Director
Mike Harvey is Skills for Care’s Commercial Director. For over twenty years Mike has worked in public, private and VCSE organisations to increase social inclusion and reduce deprivation across a range of specialist areas.
Having worked extensively on policy, solution design, bidding, and operational management he has secured over £1B of public service contracts and led transformation programmes to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and financial sustainability of several organisations.
A natural innovator, he has sat on numerous boards and working groups for, and made recommendations to, a diverse variety of stakeholders ranging from Ofgem and the CBI to the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Justice. Mike also regularly volunteers to support young people though a programme called “inspiring the future” and was trustee of a North East charity supporting female offenders for over five 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 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.
Sarah-Jane Dale , Chief Operating Officer AOD | Director of Development Skills for Care
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.
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.
Tricia Pereira , Director of National Workforce Development Operations
Tricia Pereira is a qualified social worker and is the Director of National Workforce Development 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.
Tristram Gardner , Deputy CEO
Tristram Gardner is Deputy CEO of Skills for Care. He has held several senior leadership positions across central and local government and has particular experience of working in the adult social care sector.
Prior to joining Skills for Care, Tristram was the Deputy Director for Adult Social Care Workforce Strategy and Capacity at the Department of Health and Social Care, where he advised ministers on care workforce policy as the country emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic. Before that, he held positions at the Department for Levelling Up covering local government finance, strategy and community development.
In local government, Tristram was responsible for adult social care enterprise, projects and commissioning support at Surrey County Council. At Surrey he worked closely with service managers, frontline staff and commercial, digital, financial and people teams to improve services for people who draw on care and support.