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Meet our new trustees: chair and four more trustees join VoiceAbility board

31 January 2024

We’re delighted to announce that a new chair and four new trustees are joining the board at VoiceAbility to further enrich diverse skills, passions, and lived experience.

After a fantastic tenure as chair, Susan Douglas-Scott is handing over to Ali Reid. However, Susan has agreed to become an ambassador for VoiceAbility, ensuring we continue to benefit from her expertise and vision. 

Ali has extensive experience in both health and social care and leadership roles. She is passionate about working with people to help them be authors of their own lives’. 

Alongside Ali, we’re pleased to welcome four other new trustees to the board. They are all experts in their various fields, share a passion for our work and values, and bring a range of lived experiences, including first-hand insight into disability and mental health. 

Ria Davies works in commercial digital community management and has lived experience of mental health, broken systems, and stigma. Fiona Beyer is an experienced health and social care researcher and spent several years as a volunteer advocate. Liam Cunningham is a specialist mental capacity and community care solicitor, already working closely with VoiceAbility advocates. Liz Debnam is a finance professional and qualified actuary, who brings extensive technical and strategic skills. 

Chief Executive Jonathan Senker said: I’m greatly looking forward to working with Ali, Ria, Fiona, Liam, and Liz.

We’re fortunate to have a new chair with such deeply held values and rich experience, together with the diverse skills of new and existing trustees. I know they will each be a huge asset in supporting, challenging, and stretching us all to further increase our impact. 

I’d like to express our appreciation and say a massive thank you to Susan for her clarity, drive and leadership during her tenure.”

Chair of Trustees: Ali Reid

Ali has worked across the health and social care sector, culminating in delivering services as a social enterprise and championing employee ownership. With over 30 years’ board experience, she enjoys working strategically with a person-centred ethos built from a leadership approach that aims to seek continuous improvement. 

I’m delighted to be appointed to the role of chair with VoiceAbility. It’s a huge honour to be working with such a diverse group of people to enhance the opportunities for everyone to be heard and responded to. 

The values shaped in VoiceAbility echo my own: to enable people to be their own advocate, to collaborate, work with integrity and always seek opportunities to co-create with others. To be challenging of the status quo and ensure knowledge is shared to create both choice and opportunities for all. Working with people to help them be authors of their own lives’ is a privilege and a clear commitment I fully subscribe to.

I hope my experience in commissioning and provision will help to enhance the opportunities for VoiceAbility. This includes continuing to grow, sustain and develop our reputation nationally as a high-quality advocacy service. And being recognised as the provider of choice by ensuring that no one faces decisions alone and enabling those we support to be the very best they can be. 

I’m looking forward to working with the board, exploring how we can best support the charity’s aspirations and, with our skills, help to support those aspirations become a reality.”

Trustee: Ria Davies 

Ria has dedicated two decades to the cruise ship industry, exploring the globe and its seven seas. She transitioned to the Miami head office in the USA ─ and took charge of revenue, before joining the global innovative ship-building team. 

Ria, who hails from the Welsh valleys, is now back in the UK, living in London and contributing to digital community management within the commercial industry. 

My passion lies in technology, innovation, strategic thinking, equality, and fairness. 

I’m eager to empower vulnerable individuals, drawing from my personal experience with domestic violence and stalking, which has left me with a disability. I have first-hand insight into mental health, broken systems, and stigma.

I’m enthusiastic about guiding individuals, helping them to find their path and amplify their voices. My involvement with VoiceAbility is fulfilling as we collaborate to enhance the goals set in our strategy. Serving as a trustee, I’m thrilled to contribute to the impactful work that VoiceAbility carries out.”

Trustee: Fiona Beyer

Fiona spent several years as a volunteer advocate for Connected Voice, an advocacy organisation based in the North East of England, before joining VoiceAbility as a trustee.

She is an experienced health and social care researcher based at Newcastle University, and much of her work aims to understand and mitigate health inequalities. She has a strong sense of justice and is excited to use her time and skills to support VoiceAbility’s mission to enable people to be heard and respected.

I believe that everyone, regardless of background, belief or ability, deserves respect and the opportunity to express their preferences and live their life according to their wishes. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to work with VoiceAbility to empower people to do this.

Trustee: Liam Cunningham

Liam is a specialist mental capacity and community care solicitor based in London. Liam works closely with advocates to represent people in complex court proceedings, normally related to someone’s mental capacity. Liam’s role means he has worked closely with VoiceAbility advocates. 

I’m dedicated to assisting people to have their voice heard. With the job that I do, I regularly see heartbreaking cases where people have not had the support they need and are entitled to. I’m looking forward to helping VoiceAbility continue to support everyone to have their own voice and supporting the charity’s safeguarding committee.

Trustee: Liz Debnam

Liz is an active member of the Diversity Project, a cross-company initiative championing a diverse, equitable and inclusive UK investment and savings industry. She brings extensive technical and strategic skills to VoiceAbility.

Advocacy is something that I hold in extremely high esteem, particularly ensuring that members of society have enough support to make decisions about their lives with knowledge and pragmatism.

Ali, Ria, Fiona, Liam, and Liz will join the rest of the Board of Trustees from today. Together, they will oversee the strategic direction of VoiceAbility. 

All our board members are unpaid and volunteer their time to help us achieve our objectives.