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Trailblazers 24 from Sona

Innovation and dedication to caring for others go hand in hand.

Each year, we’re committed to showcasing a different set of Social Care leaders who bring a fresh approach and change how services are delivered in their organisation.

Some have spearheaded new programs, while others have pushed for digitisation and the modernisation of services, but what they all have in common is the aforementioned quality: they are innovators at heart.

Change isn’t easy, especially when the stakes are as high as caring for those in need. It takes resilience and thorough planning, attention to detail and commitment to the bigger picture. It is why celebrating these individuals who have broken new ground and will continue to push the sector further in the new year is essential. These are the people at the vanguard of change in Social Care.

These are 2024’s Trailblazers. 

Geraint Jenkins

Director of ICT and Operations

Active in the voluntary sector from a young age, Geraint has always been passionate about caring for others. He initially started studying to become a nurse, but realised it wasn’t the perfect choice for him, so he took a leap of faith and joined the Care sector soon after. Currently, he oversees all of Cartrefi Cymru’s operations, with a particular focus on digital transformation.

Cartrefi Cymru Co-op is a not-for-profit organisation, focused on supporting people with learning disabilities in Wales. They are constantly striving for innovation that encourages employees, the people they support, and members of the community to participate in the decisions that will shape Wales’ largest support provider to fit their requirements. 

Throughout his career, Geraint has spearheaded various programs to promote person-centred care, raise awareness for the sector, and involve communities across Wales in supporting those in need. Cartrefi’s creative use of recruitment tours and value-based job materials has meant that a whole new generation of carers gets their start with them.

Together with his team, Geraint also has a vision for an end-to-end integrated management solution that would help Cartrefi optimise the administrative side of the organisation, boost employee satisfaction, and leave more time to focus on delivering the exceptional level of care they’re known for.

From supporting residents to reduce their care hours, to helping them achieve their dreams of flight, Geraint’s drive to bring innovation and care together with his team at Cartrefi has made him stand out as a Trailblazer.

Catherine Martin

Head of Talent and Development

Catherine Martin certainly lives by the words of Caring Homes’ Co-Founder, Helena Jeffrey:

At the heart of what we do is a desire to provide everyone we support with the opportunity to continue to live life to the full.

With a recent and well-deserved promotion as Head of Talent and Development, she is responsible for creating and promoting the programs that will enable Caring Homes staff to deliver on that promise.

Her unwavering commitment to offering a high level of service has led Catherine to focus on employee wellbeing because happy employees deliver the best care. This is why it’s no surprise that Caring Homes has been commended at the In-House Recruitment Awards, British Recruitment Awards, and with other recognitions for their forward-thinking onboarding strategy.

Two stand out elements are Caroline’s trust in international recruitment and the robust support for new staff during their settling-in period. Not only does the Caring Homes team travel to various locations around the world for in-person recruitment sessions, but Caroline meets international recruits herself when they arrive. Caring Homes also ensure that they receive a new mobile phone, and a sim card with preloaded credit so they can contact loved ones back home.

It is this type of thoughtfulness that has led Caring Homes to the decision to digitise their Scheduling and HR processes. As they're getting ready to roll-out their new solution, their staff can look forward to accessing their schedule in advance, claiming extra shifts with a few swipes on the employee app, and easily reporting any personal challenges.

“Alongside our residents, the wellbeing of our teams is the utmost priority here at Caring Homes,” says Caroline and we couldn’t agree more.  

Susan Weller

Digital Transformation Director

Susan Weller is a Trailblazer when it comes to digitisation, and she is on a mission to spread awareness of the need for digital transformation in Health and Social Care. With over two decades of experience in the sector, she has dedicated herself to aiding organisations in the successful implementation of digital solutions.

Since joining Greensleeves Care as their Digital Transformation Director, Susan has made an undeniable impact. She led the roll-out of Nourish for care planning and selected Sona as their rostering and HR provider. Looking to the year ahead, Susan is already set on making lasting, positive changes.

Greensleeves is a not-for-profit residential care provider that helps older people live happier, independent and more fulfilling lives. They lead with values that focus on delivering exceptional services and empowering residents to influence and drive the decisions that impact the organisation. Therefore, it’s not surprising that 93% of their residents are happy with their care and that they feel “safe,” “content” and “at home”.

The team is also committed to maintaining high employee satisfaction. They use appreciation programmes and learning opportunities to motivate staff and increase retention.

For Susan, the purpose of digital transformation has always been to make it easier for staff to deliver the best services they can and drive positive change. This means using digital solutions to provide benefits that make a practical difference to their lives, such as enabling them to see their schedules in up to four weeks in advance or book overtime without having to involve other colleagues. Susan's digital-first approach and drive for industry change makes her a true Trailblazer. 

Steve Allcock

Group Business Transformation Director

As the Group Business Transformation Director of Riverside, Steve Allcock is a strategic leader with nearly 20 years of cross-sector experience. His commitment has always been to technology, process, and people - what he considers the trifecta of transformational success. 

Riverside is one of the leading registered providers of social housing in the UK, with over 75,000 homes. As a registered charity, their focus is on offering decent, affordable housing to those in need without sacrificing excellent customer service or accommodation quality. 

Throughout his tenure, Steve has embodied the Riverside values — Care, Inclusivity, and Trust  —  and 2024 will be no different. He firmly believes that happy employees deliver great work and positive interactions, so building a healthy, transparent work culture is one of his priorities.

His strategy is based on data and meaningful insights, but also on the experience he's accumulated over the years he's been responsible for introducing organisations to new solutions, and helping staff and customers get comfortable with new products. When comparing a good plan to a good culture, in terms of how effective they are when implementing change, he summed up his thoughts nicely: 

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. 

As proof of his influence on the sector, Steve has also been selected as a judge for the 2024 Housing Digital Innovation Awards, where he looks forward to seeing the very best in digital housing initiatives.

Overall, Steve's efforts to bring new solutions and champion healthy work environments have made him an agent of positive change, and a true Trailblazer in our books.

Michael Crutchley

Director of Wellbeing

Many organisations have made great strides in mental health and wellbeing in recent years. There is a growing focus on creating a supportive environment for employees and increasing satisfaction to enable them to do their best work. In Social Care, it is people like Michael Crutchley who have been laying the groundwork for this to happen.

Currently, Michael is the Director of Wellbeing at Brendoncare. His experience spans roles in operations, with a focus on mental health and therapeutic services, as well as nursing. His continued advocacy for men’s health, with a focus on mental health, makes him a stand-out contributor in the sector.

Brendoncare is an assisted living service provider working towards offering a full range of care to fit the changing needs of every person. Whilst always providing services with discretion, respect and dignity, they also do a lot of work to support residents and the larger communities to better manage their mental health.

One of their main aims is to remove the stigma around men discussing such topics. Their community support services and volunteers offer a friendly voice on the telephone, and support those facing hardship. Their recently launched “Chandlers Ford Likely Lads" club also offers in-person talks, activities, and friendly chat to combat isolation.

As a wellbeing Trailblazer, Michael Crutchley emphasises that:

Humans are sociable beings and with such a wide range of activities and support available through Brendoncare, no one ever needs to feel isolated or alone.

Bernie Suresparan


Bernie Suresparan spent 11 years working for British Petroleum and travelling the world before founding We Care Group in 2007. This experience taught him the value of excellent leadership and a carefully organised management process. These were lessons that he employed in growing We Care Group to 31 care homes across the north of England, with over 2000 employees.

To achieve this, he's designed a standout process for recruitment and retention that includes:

  • The use of social media and referral schemes to attract new joiners
  • Buddy schemes to reduce turnover in the first months
  • Monthly meetings to address potential issues
  • A commitment to internal promotions of young staff to encourage long-term careers (their average home manager age is around 40 yo)
  • A profit-sharing system to allow staff to share in the continued success of the group

More than 15 years into his Care career, Bernie is still committed to a visible leadership model, regularly being seen “on the floor” and interacting with staff and residents to understand their needs.

All this thanks to his belief that happy employees make for great carers. Highlighting the kind of empathy he looks for in staff, his guiding ethos is:

If care is not good enough for our mothers, it's not good enough for anyone else.

This has driven the organisation to an impressive 4% vacancy rate, and consistent positive reviews from families.

Bernie’s focus on continuously improving We Care Group’s offering for employees and residents alike, through the use of new solutions and processes, is what makes him an inspirational leader and a true Trailblazer. 

Alex Ball

Operations Manager

Alex Ball is a testament to the growth opportunities available to everyone who joins the Care sector. Starting out as a kitchen assistant a decade ago, she is now Stow Healthcare’s Group Operations Manager and an award-winning professional.

Stow Healthcare is a premium long-term residential, nursing and memory care provider, with 12 locations across England. They have an innovative approach within the sector, as their model is to take over care homes that are facing hardships, rebuild their management processes, bring in digital solutions, and empower staff in order to lead them to success. As recipients of numerous local and national awards, Stow Healthcare has definitely made a positive impact on the lives of residents and employees who might have been struggling previously.

Alex plays a key role in this effort, as she communicates and trains new staff to understand where their issues are coming from, and how to resolve them. Additionally, she is also looking at attracting the next generation through her role as iCare ambassador, where she approaches schools and colleges to promote careers in Social Care.

As sponsors of the Leaders in Care awards, we were honoured to be able to recognise Alex as an industry Trailblazer. 

Amanda Scott


Amanda Scott has spent a long time refining her leadership values and methods to run successful care homes.

Starting out as a qualified nurse, she worked her way up to Home Manager, and is currently the CEO of Forest Healthcare, a residential, nursing, dementia & specialist care provider with 14 homes, across the South-East of England.

She recounts in an interview with Ray Clark on the Care Leader’s Network podcast how she used to see CEOs visiting homes as perfect figures, always put together and leading an easy-looking life. However, now that she is one herself, she understands the pressures, the doubts, and the sacrifices they make much better. This is only one of the lessons she’s keen to impart in what she considers her ultimate responsibility as CEO: mentorship.

Amanda believes that the science of leadership is in the learning and the art is in the application. Leaders need to constantly educate themselves, and aim to apply these learnings with a human-touch. Transparency and admitting one’s mistakes when they happen is essential to building trust and respect with employees.

She is dedicated to making staff feel like they are valued for who they are as people and creating a deeper connection that goes beyond just work. In Amanda’s words:

People work for people is a buzzword, but when people really like their leaders, they’re more likely to go further and do more.

With a deeply personal approach and a long-term strategic vision for employee engagement, Amanda Scott has blazed a trail that anyone can learn from, and we are so excited to recognise that. 

Vivien Ziwocha

Group Operations Director

With a personal mission statement that is humanity and kindness with an expectation to treat everyone as one would personally like to be treated, it’s no wonder Vivien Ziwocha has made a positive impact on many lives throughout her career.

She joined the Care sector more than two decades ago and has held many strategic operational positions for various providers. Currently, she is a Group Operations Director at Future Care Group, where she considers their values of care, comfort, compassion, and credibility to speak to her personal mission.

Focused on supporting staff at all levels in Future Care’s 33 locations, Vivien is also a champion for international recruitment. Together with her team, she’s developed a thorough recruitment and onboarding process for international staff, ensuring that they feel supported and able to thrive in their new environment.

Her moment of joy is seeing residents, who have entrusted their wellbeing to the Future Care Group, live a happy life in their homes, and colleagues immersed and enjoying their jobs. With a strong passion to ensure that every day brings out the best in both residents and employees, Vivien has made it her goal to have a consistent positive impact, much deserving of recognition. 

Sandeep Badwal

Innovation Design Lead

As the Innovation Design Lead at Kisimul Group, Sandeep brings a wealth of experience in crafting meaningful customer journeys for every resident.

Her own journey began in workforce transformation at University Hospitals of Derby, where for three years she focused on understanding the ins and outs of workforce management in Health and Care. She then took that experience to Virgin Health where she worked her way to becoming Innovation Lead.

A Trailblazer in her field, Sandeep now leads Innovation Design at Kisimul, weaving groundbreaking meaningful life models into the transitional journeys of all those within Kisimul’s residential care homes.

Kisimul Group is known for delivering exceptional services for individuals with autism, learning disabilities, and complex needs. With Sandeep leading innovation, Kisimul has undergone transformational changes, aligning with their newly rolled out core values of Be Yourself, Grow Together, and Think Forward.

Health and wellbeing initiatives like Wagestream, The Village, and the Health Assured app underscore Kisimul's commitment to improving the physical, mental, and financial wellness of their colleagues and the individuals they support. Adding to their accolades, they have also received seven nominations and secured a win at the Great British Care Awards

Together with her team, Sandeep has focused on ensuring Kisimul remains at the forefront of innovative and compassionate care provision. She plays a pivotal role in their journey towards excellence, redefining what it means to live a truly meaningful life within their care community.

Karolina Gerlich


Karolina started her Care career in 2007, when she moved to the UK from Poland. In the past 14 years, she’s fulfilled a variety of roles, including that of Director in several capacities, within the non-profit sector. As CEO of The Care Workers’ Charity, she has spearheaded many public campaigns to advocate for raising the profile of Care jobs, supporting international employees, and building a safety net for carers in need.

In recognition of the dedicated and selfless workforce that makes up the sector, The Care Workers’ Charity was founded in 2009 with the promise to provide support to those who find themselves facing the burden of economic hardship.

What makes Karolina’s work stand out is the dual commitment to making an impact at an individual level, as well as being a voice for Care professionals everywhere in the national media. The former means that The Care Workers’ Charity provides direct financial support to Carers in need, in addition to mental health resources and career advice. The latter represents Karolina and her team’s effort to make the voices of Care staff everywhere heard and influence the system as whole to provide a safer and healthier work environment for everyone.

In leading the charity, Karolina has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of carers, making her a true Trailblazer in the industry.

Liam Palmer


Liam is the CEO and Founder of Care Tech Guide. He has spent the last five years summarising his multi-decade experience and developing an online guide to help the sector digitise successfully. To make this experience available to as many people as possible, he’s also channelled his efforts into writing books and creating a 25-episode podcast

Over the course of his career, he's become incredibly passionate about digitisation. He’s held a wide variety of roles, where he’s seen first-hand the impact that good solutions have. At the same time, he's also witnessed the pitfalls of unorganised change processes and how that can affect staff and resident wellbeing. This is why he's channeled so much of his energy into helping providers make the right decisions.

Liam's commitment to helping the Care sector and creating useful resources available to everyone is what makes him a true Trailblazer. His focus on spreading awareness of the individual benefits digitisation brings to every carer is nothing short of commendable. His motivation? Personal experience. Whilst working as a Registered Manager to digitise a large nursing home, he saw how good tech can empower staff, even when they don’t believe themselves to be particularly tech-savvy:

A member of staff was feeling understandably anxious about using tech and how it was a bit scary. [...] What was really rewarding for me […] was that a few months in, once it [the solution] was embedded in, he was much more confident as a carer […] because he had great information to hand. What he realised was it reduced the risks and it made him more competent.