Meet the team
We have a great team who work together to run People First Dorset.
Overseeing our governance, we have a Board of Trustees and a Management Committee. We also have an Advisory Board, who offer us specialist support. Our staff team are supported by our wonderful volunteers. Find out more about everyone below.
Our Management Committee sit alongside the trustees to oversee the strategy and operations of People First Dorset. All members of the Management Committee have a learning disability. They ensure the charity is being led by, and working well for our members.
Darryl Topp I am on the Management Committee and I can now speak up more, to let other people know what we are doing at People First Dorset. I like driving and football.
Ellie Crawford The reason I am on the Management Committee is because I want to support people who have a disability to get heard and be valued as a citizen. I like listening to old music, reading and watching old musicals.
Emily Burr People First Dorset is important to me so I am pleased to be on the Management Committee to help others with disabilities have happier lives. I enjoy listening to popular music (especially Ronan Keating) and exploring Dorset.
Jack Buik I have got Down Syndrome and I am on the Management Committee so I can talk to my friends and their family about what is important to them and help things change. My hobbies are football and singing.
James Carter I happen to have Down Syndrome, and that doesn’t hold me back. I want to speak up more, let my voice be heard and to have the opportunity to be with other young people with disabilities. My hobbies are watching premier league football and Woodwork.
Nick Green I am on the Management Committee and I enjoy helping people with learning disabilities and sharing my ideas. My hobbies are playing badminton and cricket during the summer months.
Our staff are employed by People First Dorset to ensure the smooth running of the charity.
Chris Mellor Before I worked at People First Dorset I used to do work experience at the Timewalk Museum in Weymouth where I used to work on reception dealing with enquiries and bookings. In my spare time I like meeting up with the guys and going to Friendship Club. I also like listening to music and watching DVD’s.
Colleen Kennedy Prior to working as a Project Manager for Our Voice Somerset, I supported young adults with learning disabilities in educational settings. In my spare time I love yoga, gardening and walking in the Somerset countryside with my family.
Emily Brown I love the term ‘nothing about us, without us, is for us’, as I think it says clearly why user-led organisations are so important. I feel very privileged to work for People First Dorset and be directed and guided in my work, by those who have lived experience of a learning disability. I live in Dorset with my family and spend my spare time flitting between all sorts of interests and hobbies which keep me both busy and excitable!
Glen Northcott I have worked for Mind In Somerset since 2008 and have been involved with The Hub in Yeovil, a charity that helps people with learning disabilities, for many years. Through these roles I have developed the experience and desire to want to help others with learning disabilities. I am a massive train enthusiast. I play several musical instruments in my rock band that I have been involved with since 2008. I also have a passion for drama and have done several shows since 2016.
Jo White I started volunteering with The Friendship Club and have now been a member of staff at People First Dorset for three years. The best thing about my job is getting to see the members out in the community having fun with their friends. I like spending time with my family and taking my dog Ruby out for walks!
Katy Tigg I have volunteered as Secretary on various charity committees and have previously worked in admin roles within the healthcare sector. I enjoy spending time in the countryside with my family and swimming. I am a qualified nutritional therapist with an interest in cooking healthy food!
Kerry Martin I have worked for People First Dorset for 10 years and I have a learning disability. I enjoy meeting new people and supporting them to speak up at Speaking Up groups. I feel strongly that we are all people and deserve to be treated the same. I enjoy going out, swimming, the gym and taking part in activities.
Laura Dunne I have worked with charities promoting the rights of disability people and people with learning disabilities for nearly 20 years. I enjoy days out in lovely Dorset with my children and attempting some creative cake decorating designs in the kitchen.
Laura Kerr I have been with People First Dorset since 2008, primarily developing the Friendship Club. Now as Manager, my goal is to ensure we continue empowering people with learning disabilities to be heard, valued and included in community life. I love bracing walks in the countryside and spending time with family.
Mark Heath I have experience working with people with learning disabilities; I have been working at Bridport day centre for 5 years as a day services officer. I am also on the West Dorset Mencap committee and volunteer at the ‘Gateway Club’. I like playing squash in my spare time and also I also enjoy reading and cooking. I used to be a keen skier!
Sara Whistance I’m proud to have been part of People First Dorset since day one, back in 1997. Now in my 60’s I admit to believing in unicorns and adore my pony Jez!
Zoe Howe I first got involved with PFD in September 2017 when I volunteered with the Dorchester Speaking Up group and travelled to London to have a tour around the Houses of Parliament. I loved it so much, I continued to volunteer until I became a paid member of staff. I love going to gigs and festivals, listening to Frank Turner and looking after my nephew Ollie.
Our Trustees govern the charity, and are responsible for things such as finances, and ensure we follow charity laws and guidance.
Debbie Ward I have had a long and varied career in Local Government most recently as the first female Chief Executive of Dorset County Council. I have been a Director of Social Services and Housing Departments and was the President of the Association of County Chief Executives. I have spent the majority of my career working with communities and a wide range of organisations to transform and improve public services.
Graham Waters My career was spent largely in local government in senior management roles, responsible for a range of public amenities, including housing and leisure services. In 2010, I became chief executive of a Charity based in central London which provides residential care for older people and homeless hostels for younger people in various locations across the country. I passionately believe in helping those of any age who need support and am proud to be the current Chair of Trustees.
Hazel Morgan I am delighted to be a trustee of People First Dorset. I have been passionate about working with people with learning disabilities and their families to get the best life possible, since 1977. That was the year my younger son Peter was born. He had Down’s syndrome. I learnt so much from him during his lifetime and wrote ‘Through Peter’s Eyes’ (Arthur James, 1990). Later I became a Co-Director of the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities.
Paul St Quintin I trained as a social worker and have worked to support people with learning disabilities as a manager and commissioner in Local Authorities in the South West for 35 years. There have been huge changes in that time and People First organisations are really important in making sure things continue to improve for people with a learning disability. I worked with Laura K to help set up The Friendship Club in 2008 and am a volunteer at the North Dorset Friendship Club.
Richard Maxfield As a trustee I want to keep people with learning disabilities improving their lives and having a better life. I bring to the trustee board my experience of working on the Learning Disability Partnership Board, and have lived experience of living with a learning disability myself.
Ruth Bettenson I am very proud of being a part of the People First Dorset team and of the work that our staff, our members and our volunteers carry out in the community with people with learning disabilities. I have been a Trustee for People First Dorset for some years. I used to work as an accountant so I was happy to become Treasurer in 2015. Although I was born in London, Dorset has been my home for many years. I now live in Dorchester with my family and our two cats.
Our advisors assist us with specific areas of running a charity, for example by volunteering their time to give Legal or Human Resources advice.
Catherine Bolado I am a former journalist with more than ten years’ experience across journalism, communications and PR. I started my own PR and marketing company, Jurassic Creative, in 2017. I first met the team at People First Dorset through a story I wrote on them for the Dorset Echo, and working with the team helped to establish the Our View column; what is believed to be the first weekly newspaper column in the UK written by adults with learning disabilities.
Catriona Duncan I very much hope that my career working in Human Resources where I employed and trained employees will be useful to the charity. I have also run my own restaurant and managed hotels. I believe that every person should be given the chance to reach their full potential. Since taking early retirement I have volunteered with a charity which provides digital education to young people living in Rural Africa.
Jenny Shackleford A previous Manager and Chair of Trustees at People First Dorset, Jenny knows us well. With a background in social work and training, Jenny has undertaken the training provision for Local Authorities, Health Trusts, Private and Voluntary Organisations primarily in Safeguarding Adults and Children, Mental Capacity Act and various identified needs across the sector. Jenny now works as an Independent Best Interest Assessor for Dorset and Bristol City Council.
Emma Hawker With a career in Advertising and Marketing in London, I moved to Dorset in 2018 and wanted to ‘give something back’ through volunteering for a local charity. As luck would have it, People First Dorset were the first charity I contacted and it’s been an absolute pleasure volunteering and working with the team ever since. Having helped develop the brand, and design and build the website, I’m very proud to be able to help promote the great work everyone at People First Dorset does.