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The Team

Assistant Manager - Kirsten Smart

I am the Assistant Manager for the Forwards Employment Team, supporting the team to assist individuals towards their employment goals. Before this, I was the employment support co-ordinator, meeting with new referrals to the employment team and completing initial assessments. I promote the Forwards Employment Service at events where I network with organisations so we can work in partnership to help those with disabilities gain employment.

I have worked for GCC for 11 years, firstly working in a day centre for adults with learning disabilities and then I moved to the Enablement Team. Prior to working at Gloucestershire County Council I worked for a variety of care organisations.

When I was a child I wanted to be an RSPCA inspector.


Strategic Employment SupportJames DenningAn image of James

My role as Strategic Employment Support is to work with our Forwards team and our partners to achieve our strategic goals. I am the lead on Employer Engagement and as a team we are building relationships with organisations across Gloucestershire, in order to generate opportunities for our customers. I also work on the GEM project where I am responsible for compliance and make up part of the strategic team.

I joined GCC in May 2020 after moving from London where I spent 8 years working as an Immigration Consultant for a range of charitable and private organisations.

When I was a child I wanted to be a TV presenter on Blue Peter.


Kickstart Co-ordinator - Andy Rudge

As Kickstart Co-ordinator for Gloucestershire County Council myAn image of Andy role is focused on helping young people locate, apply and gain a placement with one of the many employers who have joined the scheme. The Kickstart Scheme is an initiative from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to address the experience gap and help young people get started in work. In a six-month placement, successful applicants will be employed for 25 hours per week, receive training in vocational and employability skills, and obtain genuine paid work experience as a foundation for their future.

I moved into my role from being a Job Broker in the Forwards team, and will also be involved in the training programme being delivered through the GCC Kickstart Gateway.

Originally from London, I worked in sales and sales management, winning a national public speaking award before training in NLP. I later became a professional speaker and trainer in sales, business networking, presenting, and advanced communication skills, and delivered courses in the UK, Ireland, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

I had a childhood ambition of being a Veterinary Surgeon after reading James Herriot’s books.


Mental Health Job Broker - Izzy Belcher An image of Izzy

I am the Mental Health Job Broker for Forwards. In this role I support our customers to find suitable employment through regular 1:1 meetings, training and employer engagement.

I enjoy working in a role where I can help others reach their goals no matter how small.

A few years ago I achieved a personal goal of becoming a Holistic Therapist and still enjoy practicing therapies such as Aromatherapy.



Job Broker (Stroud and Tewkesbury) - Darin Springate An image of Darin

My aim as community job broker is to support people with disabilities and additional needs to secure paid employment and access any training they might need to help them to achieve this. I am committed to helping people to be able to achieve economic independence and realise their potential regardless of their disability.

In my retention role I provide support to customers and their employers to overcome barriers that may prevent the customer from continuing to work.

I have worked within adult and children services working with people with additional needs and I started out my working life in the landscape gardening and tree surgery.

When I was a child I wanted to be a comic strip artist.


Job Broker (Cheltenham and Cotswolds) - Chidi IsaacImage of Chidi

My role as the Job Broker for Cheltenham and Cotswolds is to support customers to secure and sustain paid employment. I do this with job searches, hosting Work Clubs, Outreach services, and engaging with employers to develop work opportunities. I am passionate about helping people achieve their goals.

I have experience of working and supporting people with learning disabilities. Before then, I worked in an organisation helping people to recover from various addictions and I have also worked in coaching and counselling roles.

In my early years I had the dream of being a Petroleum Engineer.


Step Forwards Job BrokerAbie Buffin 

As the Step Forwards job broker for care leavers, my job is to support customers to gain and sustain paid employment. I will do this by completing vocational profiles and action plans, focussing on people’s strengths and matching their skills to opportunities. I am passionate about helping people further themselves.

I am a care experienced person who understands the challenges of leaving care and gaining employment. I used to be an Ambassador for young people.

I have always wanted to be a reptile breeder or own my own business. 


Supported Internship Coordinator - Dan Furmage An image of Dan

My role as the Supported Internship Coordinator is based around working closely with Colleges, Post 16 Provisions and of course young people who are involved with the Gloucestershire Supported Internship Programme AIM.  AIM or the Assisted Internship Model, is way of helping young people with a disability or boundary to employment take their first steps towards a paid job. A Supported Internship, offers young people the opportunity to gain practical working experience and improve their prospects of being offered paid employment - my job is all about making sure young people get the best experience they can to take that step towards employment through a Supported/Assisted Internship.

I’ve been working in Gloucestershire County Council a long time; I previously worked as a Education Link Advisor within Forwards, working with Schools and Colleges to help students with a disability to learn about employment, and before that I worked in the Enablement Team. My role in the Enablement Team was all about making people more independent in the community and in their homes and finding ways for people to be more independent.

When I was a child, I wanted to be a cartoonist. I spent a lot of my time, drawing, colouring and creating stories. I loved reading comics, watching cartoons and using my imagination. I’m still quite creative, but now it’s more music than art. I’ve been in bands until recently and love writing songs and recording - kind of similar really.


Post 16 Advisor - Nasim BhulaAn image of Nas

Hi my name is Nas and I am the Post 16 Advisor my role will centre primarily on transition and Post 16 destinations in terms of employment for those with a disability or boundary to work.

My previous roles include working with Drug & Alcohol clients, working as a Mentor at a College, Family Learning and Chef in a School.

When I was a child I wanted to be an Air Stewardess.


Community Placement Broker - Annaleigh HurleyAn image of Anna-Leigh

My role is to provide support to young people who are in education and need support to gain employability skills through volunteering or work experience. I will work with the young person to create an action plan and discuss any other forms of support they may need to help them on their bespoke journey.

In my previous role I worked supporting the Education Inclusion Services making sure children were getting the best possible education.

When I was a child I wanted to be an Interior Designer.


Navigator Developer: Carers - Ian MackayAn image of Ian

I joined the Royal Corps of Signals Apprentices College at Harrogate in 1972 for a two year apprenticeship. After successfully graduating, I then had tours of duty in the UK, Cyprus, Germany and Northern Ireland. After 12 years, I left the Army and joined the Civil Service where I spent the next 28 years working. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take early retirement in 2011 after continuously working for 38 years.

After a spell of of grand parenting, I took up the opportunity to work for the GEM project (Going the Extra Mile) as a Navigator Developed in September 2017 working in Forwards. I then moved over to be employed by the charity Carers Gloucestershire in Jan 2018 and in April of this year I have returned to Forwards with a specific remit to support those with a caring responsibility to help them with finding Employment, Education or Training. It is a privilege to be able to help people who for whatever reason, need that little bit of support to enable them to help achieve whatever their objectives may be.

When I was younger, I wanted to stay with my mum and marry her (I was only 4 then).


Navigator Developer - Michaela ElliottAn image of Micheala

As a GEM Forward Navigator Developer I will be working 1:2:1 with individuals who wish to sign up to the project. I work side by side with the person to fully support and guide them in order to reach their goal or goals. Whether it is volunteering, work, setting up own business or education and training. By working together it will build the persons resilience, gain confidence and motivation that will bring some stability and achievements to their lives.

I am a qualified Youth Worker and worked in a number of settings such as Youth Clubs and with Young Offenders. Over the past few years I worked at McDonalds and Ecotricity. I have always volunteered my time and this has been established through Gateway Club, Samaritans and currently a local councilor for my local Parish. I hope all this brings a wide range of experiences and skills that will make be better practitioner for the participants that I will work with. I hope to build upon my experiences as a Navigator/Developer and cannot wait to see what the next chapter in life brings.


Employer Engagement Officer - Jon BowlesAn image of Jon

My goal in the role of Job Broker is to build relationships in engaging with employers across the county to source employment opportunities for people with disabilities, while at the same time supporting the initiation of schemes for people to fulfil their job aspirations that will encourage job retention.

I have a professional and friendly approach, using my wealth of experiences of working in human resources and coaching roles, to build collaborative relationships with organisations and people having a ‘can do’ attitude.  I have personal experience of living with a disability which enhances understanding and empathy to both employers and individuals, to create opportunities and meet business objectives.

When I was a child, I wanted to be a car mechanic


Team Administrator - Ines Higgins

As the team administrator, I currently support the team with administrative duties in all our initiatives, while at the same time completing a level 3 business administration apprenticeship to upskill.

Key responsibilities include talking to our customers who are employed long-term to make sure they have all the support they need in work, taking minutes for various meetings, creating and updating spreadsheets and just helping wherever I can.

I have worked for GCC for more than two years now and have been enjoying the challenge, even through this difficult last year.

When I was a child, I wanted to be a massage therapist, author and mother – pretty ambitious!


Employer Engagement Officer - Alice MartinAn image of Alice

My goal is to connect with employers across the county, building relationships, in order to create opportunities for disabled people. I am enthusiastic about helping disabled people to realise their aspirations and have the opportunity to fulfil their potential in employment. 

I am a member of Carers Gloucestershire. I have practical experience in working with disabled people. During my previous working life I have held positions in IT as a Software Developer and as a Technical Support Engineer.

When I was a small child, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer.

Alice is currently on Maternity Leave.​

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