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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 a nun or an RSPCA inspector.

Community Placement Broker - Mark Joyce

In the newly created role of Community Placement Broker, I will be helping young people with disabilities for whom paid employment may not yet be a possibility.  Working with community groups, social enterprises, and other organisations within Gloucestershire, my goal is to provide meaningful activities and sustainable voluntary roles to help these young people gain valuable life and employability skills, grow in confidence, and allow them to make a difference in their community in a way that matters to them. 

I come to this role with a background in engineering and business management with a view to using those skills to engage with local placement providers and ensure suitable and relevant placements are available.  Having a close relative with Autism and learning difficulties has given me a useful insight into how these barriers to work and social exclusion can have a massive impact on an individuals mental health and wellbeing.  

With the support of an extremely knowledgeable team here at Forwards, and a real desire to make a difference, I hope to have a positive impact on the lives of those people I will be working with.

Employer Engagement Officer - Alice Martin

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.


Post 16 Advisor - Nasim Bhula

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.





Job Broker (Cheltenham and N Cotswolds) - Andy Rudge


Job Broker (Gloucester & Tewkesbury) - Ben Waters

I am the job broker for Gloucester and Tewkesbury, my role will be working with customers to find suitable paid employment as well as run forwards work clubs. I have previous experience of working with adults with learning disabilities, I have worked in social care for seven years working at Mencap, National Star College and Gloucestershire County Council in the enablement team.

As a kid I wanted to be a wrestler, no idea why! I am also training to be a florist and have started setting up a small business called Sable’s Hidden Florist (named after my evil cat!)




Job Broker (Stroud and Forest of Dean) - Neil Hampton

I am a job broker for Gloucestershire County Council. In this role I support our customers find sustainable employment through regular 1:1 meetings and training. I also run the Forwards Job Club every week.

My previous experience comes from working with Learn Direct as an enrollment officer. Whilst with Learn Direct, I placed individuals into Level 1 to Level 3 apprenticeships.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a professional athlete, specifically, 100 meter Olympic Champion.


Navigator Developer - Michaela Elliott

Has 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.

Navigator / Developer Carers - Ian MacKay

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.



Supported Internship Coordinator - Dan Furmage

My role involves me working with Schools and Colleges to help students with a disability to learn about employment. I’m running work shops with students to find out about work, complete CV’s and look the 30/30 challenge to see what it’s like in the job people want. Most importantly I will help people look for part time work on evenings, weekends or during the holidays.

I’ve been working in Gloucestershire County Council a long time and was working in the Enablement Team, until I started this role. 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’m in a band and love writing songs and recording - kind of similar really!

Team Administrator - Ines Higgins

I am currently a Team Administrator for the Forwards Employment team, promoting the various work clubs around the county as well as keeping track of the referrals. I also take minutes for various meetings and help with other admin tasks. Before this, I was a participant of the GEM project, during which I volunteered with CCP for a while. I have worked for GCC for eight months now in my current role. This is my first ever job role and I am thoroughly enjoying it and am grateful to have been given this opportunity. When I was a child, I wanted to be an author and a mother.




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