Staff awards light up Forward’s winter season

The Forward Trust’s Staff Awards (Winter) 2023 event once again highlighted incredible individual, team and cross-organisation achievements from this year.

With over 65 nominations received, this year’s event on Monday 20th November at The Brink, Liverpool, provided a welcome opportunity for staff across the organisation to get together, enjoy a tasty lunch and get to know/reacquaint with colleagues from all parts of the country.

This year’s awards recognised both individuals and teams for their innovation, service delivery, personifying Forward’s values, volunteers’ efforts, and personal achievements.

The winners on the day were;

Forward People Award for Individuals
Winner: Katy McGrath, safeguarding manager within GQA Team

Since joining the charity last year, among many other things, Katy has implemented a comprehensive and preventative safeguarding strategy, working with others to produce and implement new policies and launching related training that saw 60 of our staff receive accredited L3 safeguarding training in quarter three of 2022.

Katy has gone above and beyond, conducting welfare checks on staff to assist in making decisions on their wellbeing in the support of staff, managers and the safety of others.

Honourable mention: Darren Lacey, inclusion co-ordinator/drug and alcohol practitioner/LGBTQ+ lead

Forward Thinking Award for Innovation

Winner: Heidi Hart, gov admin 

Heidi was instrumental in updating and designing the Governance Info site on the staff intranet, ensuring staff have access to documents, governance guidance, and training, making the pages a much more interactive and useful space for staff to access all sorts of information and develop more understanding about governance.

The site now includes pre-recorded workshops that staff can access at any time and covers a broad range of topics. This page is also used to alert clinical staff to NHS safety alerts, and much more.

Honourable mentions: Karen Lord, service manager at HMP Downview and Rhianne Graham, regional manager, Surrey & London

Forward Champion Award - for volunteers & peer supporters 

Winner: Gillian Blogg, ReNew Hull volunteer

Gillian graduated from support within our Independent Family Service and has continued to share her story, providing hope to others and their family members who have been impacted by a loved one’s addiction.

A volunteer for around five years, Gillian provides a weekly support group, Recovering Families, where she shares her own lived experience, she also runs peer support groups for people in our family service who leave treatment and has been described by her nominator as a ‘beacon of visible recovery for family members, who is invaluable to us and whose work does not go unnoticed’

Honourable mention: William Garnier, Vision Housing volunteer mentor

Dream Team Award for an Inspiring Team
Winner: The Regional Programmes Team for the Surrey region

This team, made up of Leah Roberts, Daniel George, Daisy Halll, Charlote Bleackley, Anahita Razavi, and Sharon Hill have gone ‘above and beyond’ in their flexible working to support the Surrey prisons programmes and case management. In particular, the Bridge programme at Highdown where the team liaised with safer custody and violence reduction teams to implement a plan allowing a client to attend the programme despite non-associates being located in the houseblock where the programme was due to take place, going so far as to arrange glasses for the client so he could complete assignments. They also introduced family graduations, allowing family to attend graduations and they facilitated the Bridge, the first programme to be delivered at HMP Coldingley in five years.

Honourable mention: The Bridges – Hull Team

Richard Stephenson Award for Forward Values
Winner: Ilo Edwin, head of custodial services 

Edwin has been with Forward for 17 years, starting out as a practitioner and working his way up. He’s been described by colleagues as brave, innovative, adaptive, inspiring and kind. Most recently he has developed supporting opportunities for trainee counsellor volunteering roles which will increase the therapeutic capacity of our prison services.

Honourable mention: Gee Punia, head of employability & skills

This event included a number of hosts from across Forward, including CEO Mike Trace, executive director of substance misuse services, Jason Moore, and two trustees, Louise Gibbings and Benita Rayne.

Guests were also treated to refreshments, afternoon tea style platters and a live musical opening by a Liverpool-based ukulele band.

The awards also provided a new opportunity to show a recent film launched by Taking Action on Addiction (led by The Forward Trust) as part of the national campaign, Addiction Awareness Week. Over 40 participants featured in this groundbreaking film, each telling their own story or journey through addiction and recovery.

One of the most poignant moments from the awards was the remarkable introductory speech by Louise Gibbins (a Forward trustee), highlighting the namesake of the award, the late Richard Stephenson, or ‘Steff’ as he was affectionately known – a Forward Trust graduate who had a remarkable story of recovery. Richard was a client of Forward more than 20 years ago and recovered from his own addiction going on to provide support, help and inspiration to others during his life, until passing away later this year.

The late, great Richard ‘Steff’ Stephenson

Read Louise’s tribute to Richard:

‘I first met Richard 22 years ago when he was at Wandsworth prison. He, like many of our clients, had many difficult problems and he had already served a number of sentences, but he was determined to turn his life around. And I had the privilege of watching him do just that.

When he left (prison) he wanted to help other graduates going through what he had been through. I really believe he was the first of our volunteers who started the meet and greet. He was committed to it, and it’s been one of the important things that we (Forward) do.

He lived a remarkable life, from that change in him. He took two degrees, although he was very dyslexic, and he was a trained therapist, and he also worked, not only for us, but another number of other organisations – but he always kept in in touch with Forward.

In fact, we asked him to set up the Advisory Committee for our service users and he was a wonderful voice for us, as trustees, to listen to and understand.

Very sadly he was diagnosed with cancer and he survived another two years – the greatest man I have ever seen.

I was so glad to be able to tell him before he (passed), and his two daughters and wife, that there was going to be award for him. As you can imagine he was very touched. It is wonderful for us here to be celebrating a remarkable life.’

The event ended with a chance for colleagues to chat, take photographs and reminisce about their achievements over the last year, and this special ceremony provided a welcome occasion for celebration for all nominees.

This blog was originally published by The Forward Trust. You can read the original post here.

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