Meet our Trustees
Steve Brawley, Chair of Trustees
I left university as an unemployed History graduate and my first job was as a temporary clerical assistant at Middlesbrough Unemployment Benefit Office (universally known as the Dole Office) where I had previously signed on. I learned a lot about people who had very little or no money and needed help.
I subsequently moved into work as an Industrial Relations Officer with a contractor which designed and built oil refineries and petrochemical plants and I worked with shop stewards and Trade Union Officials on projects in Essex, Teesside, the North Sea, the Shetland Islands and Fife. I learned a lot about how to avoid and manage conflict in a hard edged environment.
I moved into the power generation industry and worked for the Central Electricity Generating Board then National Power, building large power plants across England and Wales. I learned a lot about multi-layered large organisations and how to get things done outside the systems when necessary.
The last 18 years of my working life were spent in the electrical contracting industry, first with the Electrical Contractors’ Association then as Chief Executive of the Joint Industry Board for the Electrical Contracting Industry from 2009 to October 2019. I learned how to make decisions in a politically sensitive environment where the stakeholders were the employers’ trade association and the largest union in the UK.
I believe in fairness, innovation, listening, developing effective communications, encouraging people to identify their strengths and maximise their potential and making life and work fulfilling and enjoyable.
I enjoy long distance cycling as a member of Audax UK and keeping fit at my local gym. I work as a Trainee Adviser with the Stroud Citizens Advice Bureau and I take an interest in current affairs, politics and history.
After 30 years I am still in my first year as an apprentice gardener. My lovely wife Jennifer says that she will advance me to my second year if I can only start to distinguish between flowers and weeds.
Bryan Casbourne MBE, Trustee
After serving in the Merchant Navy and the RAF he studied for a degree and gained a BA (Hons) in Earth Sciences. After then working for Kelvin Hughes, marine equipment manufacturer, he joined the BBC as a sound installation technician followed by various management posts in the telecommunication industry. During this time he achieved a British Quality Award and a National Training Award for those industries. During the last twenty years of his career he spent many years in Australia, India and Moscow as Projector Director for a range of telecommunication projects.
On taking redundancy in the mid-90s he joined the Third Sector as a trustee in the Health and Social Care sector, joining Liverpool Crossroads in 1995.
Bryan moved to Herefordshire in 1998 and joined Aspire in 2004. Within his village community he helped in establishing and managing a community leisure centre, the village community shop, chairing the village hall committee, is a member of the parish council and has assisted in acquiring grants totalling some £850,000 for a wide range of village organisations. He was awarded an MBE in the 2014 New Year’s Honours list for his community and charitable contributions.
Bryan has two children, five grand children and one great granddaughter.
Ian Harper, Service Quality Director
My name is Ian Harper and I’m the Service Quality Director for Aspire Living. I have been a Service Quality Director for almost 9 years.
My previous experience includes Co-Chair of Speakeasy NOW for 4 years, member of the Worcestershire Learning Disability Partnership Board for 4 years, Co-Chair of the Hate Crime Sub Group for 2 years and Co-Chair of Employment Sub Group for 2 years. I also worked for my father’s company for 5 years specialising in Audio for events.
I have been a special Olympics athlete for 19 years. I compete in Athletics by doing the 100 metres, 200 metres, Shot Putt & 4×100 metre relay. I am the current chair of the Athlete Input Council for Special Olympics GB & the Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger for Europe/Eurasia.
My interests are Motor Racing, business news including Financial Markets and campaigning events.
I firmly believe that people with Intellectual Disabilities are leaders in society who can achieve their dreams and potential in life, no matter how big or small their dream or goal is.
Eli Heathfield, Trustee
I have Dyspraxia and Autism and spent my entire education in school for people with special educational needs, followed by 5 years in the Learning Disability Department at College. At 21, I decided to further my education and applied for a mainstream course. I have worked very hard, and I am now on a Level 4 HNC Business Course. I also represented my college as a Student Union Officer for the academic year of 2012-2013.
I spent six months as a Young Ambassador for Mencap (South West Region) where I gained valuable experience representing people with learning disabilities.
My other interests outside of Aspire are history, the law and politics; I am my town’s youngest Town Councillor (and I believe the only Councillor serving or who has served in the town with a learning disability,) heading the town’s first Youth Advisory Group to help engage young people in our community.
I like walking in beautiful countryside, especially the Malvern Hills, and I enjoy riding horses, although I haven’t had the opportunity for a while.
I also enjoy football; my Granny Heathfield was an avid Hereford supporter and it rubbed off on me! I also support Manchester United.
Living in a log cabin and being brought up with my Mum’s menagerie of waifs and strays, makes it inevitable that I love animals and our simple way of living in the country.
I joined the Aspire Living team as a board member in August 2017. I am very proud and very excited to be a part of this organisation which is forward thinking and very importantly always puts people with learning disabilities first.
Karen Hall, Chief Executive Officer
I have been CEO of Aspire since 2014. My ‘first’ career was in education, as a teacher of IT, and I became particularly interested in assistive technology that enabled people to use computers independently. I worked closely with software developers and with colleagues in further and higher education who were supporting students with a wide range of disabilities. I was Chair of a national organisation that represented assessment services in further and higher education. In this role I worked with Student Finance, The Departments for Education and Business Innovation and Skills on policy regarding funding for disabled students in higher education. With civil servants and university colleagues I authored a quality assurance framework, piloted an audit process with a national company and co-authored a competency framework for assessors.
Being CEO of Aspire is what I want to do when I grow up! I love working with our dedicated and enthusiastic staff team, who empower and encourage people to live the life they choose in the community. All of us who work for this great company are passionate about equality of opportunity for everyone and dedicated to the provision of the highest quality of support to people with a learning disability. I love to get out and about meeting and spending time with people we support, and our great staff, who do such a fantastic job.
I believe passionately that working together achieves good outcomes for people…people we support who have lived experience of learning disability, their families and carers, our funders and the wider community.
Roger Whalley, Trustee
I have spent my working life in the motor industry. I ran a Ford dealership in Manchester and built it up into a most successful business. In 1984 I looked for a new challenge, sold the garage and joined a consultancy company specialising in motor trade matters. This move completely changed my life and I went from going on the same road to work every day for 15 years to almost never going down the same road twice.
In 1989 I started my own company and broadened operations to Europe and then practically every continent, specialising in the Middle-East and South Africa. I came home to help my wife in her family motor business and retired in 2011. I became a Trustee of Aspire in 2014.
My interests are motor racing, rugby and cricket. We have three children and four grand-children.
Rose Hunt, Trustee
I had been a family carer for 32 years when my son, Jonathan, died suddenly and unexpectedly in September 2017. I am passionate about equality and have worked alongside family carers and people with a learning disability in planning their futures.
I moved with my family into Herefordshire in 1989 and due to the traumatic experience of getting Jonathan’s needs met adequately I joined Herefordshire Mencap and served as chairman between 1993 – 2000. I have been an Aspire Trustee since 1993 when it was customary for Herefordshire Mencap’s chair to become a Trustee of the 2 companies founded by the committee in the mid-1980s. I have been an ECHO Trustee for 12 years and am also Chair of Governors at Blackmarston Special Primary School, my son’s former primary school.
I have worked extensively on learning disability and health issues locally, regionally and nationally. Roles have included Vice Chair of Herefordshire’s Community Health Council, working on the implementation of the first Carers Act in 1995, member of the pilot brokerage project and a stalwart of the Learning Disability Partnership Board from its inception in 2001.
Since 2004 I have worked for Herefordshire Mencap supporting the Executive Committee and was employed by Herefordshire Council in its person-centred planning team, central review team and ultimately in the West Team of the Social Care Department.
My other life revolves around my family, enjoying their exploits and helping with our two young grandsons. I also enjoy reading crime/psychological thrillers, being in the garden and I am a bit of a news-nerd!
Dr Catherine Chima-Okereke, Trustee
I am a medical consultant with a broad clinical experience; a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP) and a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (FRCOG). I have worked full-time with the NHS for twenty-six years and as Director of Herefordshire Integrated Sexual Health for fourteen years. I retired from the NHS at the end of March 2019 but went back to work to support my Service as Consultant and Director for the new organisation, Solutions4Health (S4H). In total, I have lived in Herefordshire for twenty years. I have an executive MBA and I am a Care Quality Commission (CQC) Specialist Adviser.
My interests include music, singing, dancing, general management, planning, education, diversity and personnel. I belonged to the church choir and have played musical instruments including violin and piano. As an athlete, I was privileged to represent Nigeria in the All Africa Games. I also represented my undergraduate University (Lagos) in Ghana. My events included sprinting, hurdles and long jump.
I am a Board member of several charities including the Courtyard Theatre for The Arts Hereford and West Mercia Women’s AID. I belong to the City of Hereford Rotary Club, the Gideons and the Soroptimists for Hereford and District.
Darron Cox, Trustee
I have enjoyed a varied career spanning the public and private sector and am very excited and honoured to have joined the Board of Aspire Living.
I have spent most of my working life shaping and delivering complex programmes of work, usually with a big commercial focus. Working across a wide range of different organisations both in Government and as a Management Consultant, has meant that I have been very lucky to work on projects that have a positive impact on people, whether that is in the public sector; international development, local government, education, housing, health and transport to name a few. I can talk for hours about this stuff!!
This range of work has given me a lot of really useful experience that I can now bring to Aspire Living. I tend to specialise these days on helping organisations deliver more to their customers, build new and exciting strategies, and get real benefit from their commercial arrangements with other organisations. Hopefully this will help Aspire Living continue to grow from strength to strength.
I am a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, a Chartered Management Accountant, a member of the Association of Project Managers and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. I also hold an MBA.
I enjoy spending my time at the cinema and theatre, attempting to play golf, and have recently taken on an allotment – so I expect to be spending a lot of time in the coming years staring at the ground wondering why nothing is growing… I am a huge petrol head and can often be found with my head in a car magazine. We also have a cat called Poppy who consistently demands breakfast at 4am!
Karen Boyce-Dawson, Thera Group Director of Operations and Thera Trust Trustee
Karen has 30 years’ experience in supporting people with a learning disability in a variety of roles. Karen qualified through the years as a therapist and social worker before moving into operational senior and executive director positions some 15 years ago.
Karen is driven daily to achieve better support for people with learning disabilities so that they in turn have more control and better lives.
Having ‘come through the ranks’ of social care herself Karen is particularly driven to ensure organisations nurture and bring on new leaders into the world of social care and has worked to make accredited leadership & development, talent programmes and coaching available to staff, working with exceptional partner organisations such as the Institute of Leadership and Management and Charity Works.
Karen is both creative and practical and is an excellent facilitator known for bringing individuals and organisations together to think innovatively and deliver new ways of providing service or solutions. An example of this was her development of Dosh; a ground breaking and award winning financial advocacy organisation within Thera and the learning disability sector.
Outside of work, Karen is a busy Mum and avid cook. She also does some local voluntary work for the elderly and is a Trustee of ATL Trust fund.