Matthew Wood

CEO & Owner, Millwood Servicing Ltd

Matt is the owner and Chief Executive of Millwood Servicing Ltd - his 26 year-established  award winning Fire safety Engineering company based in Wallington near Croydon. As a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) Millwood, Matt and his 44 staff face many daily challenges as do their clients and suppliers alike and one of them is effective, cost-efficient and reliable recruitment of staff.

An ex Royal Navy fire-fighter, Matt discovered by accident the reality and rewards that came by employing and engaging with people with disabilities and, over the last two years, both Millwood & Matt have travelled on an extensive and thoroughly enjoyable journey of discovery in disability employability and now Matt spends half of his time sharing and showcasing  the benefits of tapping into the untapped pool of talent out there in the disabled community.

Matt is a serial fundraiser, Adventure Racer, mental health ambassador and professional fire safety consultant with over 30 years of experience. He keeps honey bees (lots of them) and is a professional and seasoned public speaker.

Keith Mayne

General Manager, XPO Logistics

Keith is a General Manager for the XPO Supply Chain in UK & Europe. A father to Kiera Leigh and Amelia, who has Down Syndrome, he is responsible for the ASOS Contract on a site with over 4,000 employees. Keith started collaborating with Workfit in 2017 after reading about the lack of paid opportunities for people with Down Syndrome. He wanted to make sure that there are work opportunities for when Amelia reaches working age and so reached out to Workfit and the journey began…

XPO has now successfully recruited 3 individuals into the site at Barnsley and his colleagues in Manchester then kicked it on further recruiting 4 candidates. Their Adidas site in Milton Keynes have their first candidate and they are now in discussions at Doncaster for their first candidate. This has led to a commitment to review all UK sites with a view to finding paid opportunities within the XPO business.

Huw Davies

Chief Executive, BASE

Huw Davies has been the chief executive of the British Association for Supported Employment (BASE) since 2008. He previously chaired the association from its formation in 2006 and chaired one of its predecessor associations, AfSE, from 2002 to 2006. Huw was recently elected as one of the Vice-Presidents of the European Union of Supported Employment.

Huw was previously the Regional Employment Team Coordinator for North West Care Services Improvement Partnership (CSIP). This strategic role supported the regional implementation of Government policy on mental health and employment. 

From 1993 to 2008, he was manager of Bury EST, a local authority supported employment agency that provided employment support for disabled jobseekers, care leavers, recovering drug misusers, minority ethnic communities and job retention projects. The service had extensive involvement in transnational projects and had strong links with local employers through an Employer Forum. 

Claire Cookson

Chief Executive Officer, DFN Foundation

Claire is the Chief Executive Officer of DFN Foundation and an experienced senior leader in education. She has a strong background in collaborating with businesses, educators and Local Authorities to develop employability outcomes for learners with special educational needs and disabilities. She has advised Local Authorities and sits on the Inclusive Apprenticeship Pacesetter group within the Department for Education and the Westminster AchieveAbility group. She is focused on supporting the development of international best practice curricula and Transition to Employment programmes. This is with the primary focus of developing aspirational, sustainable opportunities for this group of ‘untapped talent’ whilst working with other stakeholders to promote lasting systemic policy change.


Geena Vabulas

Policy Manager, Policy Connect

Geena Vabulas is a Policy Manager for Assistive Technology at Policy Connect, the cross-party think tank, where she co-manages the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology.  The APPGAT aims to share knowledge and facilitate engagement on assistive technology between disabled people’s organisations, industry, academia and Members of both Houses of Parliament.  Prior to this, Geena held several roles in the assistive technology sector focusing on neurodiversity and education.  Geena also works as a research assistant on the iRead Project at the IOE at UCL.   



Sarah Carter

Learning Difficulties and Disabilities Manager, Department for Education

Sarah works within the Apprenticeships Directorate on widening participation, with a specific focus on increasing the uptake of apprenticeships by those with learning difficulties and disabilities or long term physical or mental health conditions. Sarah and colleagues work closely with other teams across apprenticeships, the DfE and other government departments to tackle barriers and improve pathways into employment.

Previously a primary school teacher, Sarah worked for several years on developing the Department’s approach to supporting pupils mental health and was involved in the 2014 SEND reforms.  



Maurice George

Assistant Headteacher, Brookfields School, Reading

Maurice has been actively engaged in curriculum and assessment change for Special Schools. He has led development of personalised Year 10+ vocational programmes for Learners with SLD and MLD with a particular focus on Careers and Life Skills as part of a core curriculum offer. 

Maurice has supported organisations such as Careers and Enterprise Company, Talentino! and the Gatsby foundation in advocating policy change and removal of unintended recruitment barriers for those with Learning difficulties accessing employment. Brookfields has been part of the BASE and NDTi Employment is Everyone’s Business initiative and continues to meet with West Berkshire Local Authority to ensure sustainability of the initiatives legacy.

Maurice has set up a number of Business Enterprises and is currently involved in the delivery of a bespoke Life Skills/domestic living centre. This year along with partner organisations has created an new Supported Internship ‘Route to Recruit’ based in Reading, Berkshire.

Alongside Addington and Swiss Cottage Schools he has developed SILSAF (Specialist Independent Living Skills Assessment Framework) as a framework to take to market for other schools and specialist settings to use.

Maurice is the careers leader at Brookfields school and the programme he oversees known as the ‘Pathway to Employment’ has been recognised by the CDi and the CEC in its national awards for being at the forefront of SEND Careers development. Students engaged in the Pathway to Employment programme regularly gain part time employment whilst still enrolled at the school and then go directly into employment on leaving.

James Whybra

Assistant Headteacher, The Castle School, Newbury

James Whybra is an Assistant Head and Head of Post-16 at The Castle School in Newbury and an expert in the field of supported employment in schools. A key part of his role is leading the 14-19 curriculum which focuses on independence of students.

Developing employment opportunities for the students has been a focus for James and he regularly shares his experiences with Schools, Colleges and Local Authorities from across the country. 

James is the careers leader and has set up and continues to develop the World of Work programme which has been recognised by Base and the Careers and Enterprise Company over the past few years. The WOW programme has resulted in a huge increase in students leaving The Castle School with paid employment

Prior to this current role, James was a Head of Year in a mainstream secondary school seeing his year group through from year 7 to 11 and dealing with all ofthe challenges associated with the role.

Castle School were worthy winners of the Team of the Year award at the BASE Awards in 2017.

Francesca Martinez

Comedian and author

Francesca is a wobbly* comedian, writer and speaker who has toured internationally with sell-out runs at The Melbourne Comedy Festival, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. She launched her comedy career in 2000 and is now a regular commentator on TV and radio.

In 2005 she was nominated for the 'Motivator of the Year' Award along with Sir Bob Geldof. She was awarded Public Affairs Achiever of the Year 2013, nominated a Top Ten Game Changer in BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour Power List 2014, and Hero of the Year in the European Diversity Awards. Francesca has recorded a popular Tedx talk, collected 100,000 signatures for the WOW campaign leading to a historic debate in the House of Commons, and received a standing ovation from the Cambridge Union. She has an Honorary Doctorate from the Open University 'for making Britain a more compassionate and fairer society', and a second honorary doctorate from Bradford University ‘for her contributions to equality, inclusive thought and social commentary’.

Francesca made global headlines in 2008 when she became the first Olympic Torch-Bearer to pull out of the London relay in protest at China’s treatment of Tibet. In January 2012, she took on Michael Portillo live on BBC1’s This Week, receiving more positive feedback than any of their previous guests. She has guested on Channel 4 News, BBC2's Newsnight, BBC1’s Today’s Politics, and was voted most popular guest on BBC3's Free Speech. Her recent debut on BBC1’s Question Time was described as the show’s “best ever moment” and went viral with 11 million views in the first week alone.


Panel members


Mat Ainsworth

Assistant Director, Greater Manchester Combined Authority

Mat Ainsworth is the Assistant Director for Employment (Strategy, Policy & Delivery) at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Mat is responsible for the delivery of the employment elements of GM’s groundbreaking devolution agreement and the Greater Manchester Strategy priority around good jobs for people to progress & develop. The key elements of this include the development of a whole population Working Well system to ensure people have the support and opportunities to secure and progress in work; developing a world-class jobs and progression offer, working with Jobcentre Plus; and developing a GM approach to managing welfare reformthat delivers job progression and addresses low pay.


Dan Boorman

Disability & Work Opportunities Division, DWP


Daniel works in the Disability and Work Opportunities Division with a specific focus on Supported Employment. He recently led on the Local Supported Employment Proof of Concept, which was delivered in partnership with 9 Local Authorities. Daniel has worked in a mixture of operational, policy and strategy roles within the DWP, with a specific focus on improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities and health conditions.



Martin Dominy

Head of Service, Mental Health and Employment Support, Southdown Housing

In October 2019, Martin took on the role of Head of Service, Mental Health and Employment Support, for Southdown Housing's  Community Support Services.

He joined Southdown in June 2008 as Head of Supported Employment and was promoted to Head of Mental Health Recovery Services in 2013.

Martin has 26 years of experience working in the social care sector and across areas including mental health, community and outreach services and employment.  He has worked in a range of senior management positions including at an NHS Health Trust and at the Richmond Fellowship.  

Martin is committed to steering Southdown's Mental Health and Employment Support services to enable everyone to have equal opportunities to live well and independently.  Martin and his team have pioneered the model of IPS (Individual Placement and Support), endorsed by NHS England, to successfully support people across Sussex secure and retain work.    


Louise Parrott-Bates

Chief Executive, Pure Innovations Ltd

Louise has worked in the Health and Social Care sector for over 30 years. Her background is as a qualified social worker with a background of supporting older people to remain in their own homes, then a brief time in children’s’ services and latterly supporting disabled and disadvantaged people to lead full and meaningful lives.

She started working for Pure Innovations in 1991 as a Employment Officer supporting people to move away from long stay institutions to mainstream employment. Since then Louise has championed supported employment ensuring employers see the benefits of this hidden workforce. She is passionate about improving lives for people facilitating valued roles for individuals to have in communities, spending the majority of her career dedicated to this mission at Pure Innovations.