Chair of the Board
Douglas is a busy environmental business man, a career and family man, who joined the VOCAL Board in 2015. He has extensive experience as a result of his role as a Welfare and Financial Guardian for his son and in instigating and working closely with charitable organisations. In recent years Douglas has been a working member of the Midlothian Self-Directed Support Programme Board which has given him good insight into the workings of health and social care agencies in providing care support.
VOCAL provides a valuable service to carers to provide them with the essential information that is required when caring for someone with physical or special needs. By joining VOCAL I have the opportunity to contribute to the work of the Board, as I feel that providing the most suitable and comprehensive service is paramount to the future well-being and needs of all carers and the people they support. Over the past twenty years I have gained a considerable amount of knowledge and experience that I can share with the Board to help improve the support available to both the staff and carers.
Marion is a Senior Policy Manager in the Scottish Government. She brings to the Board experience in strategic policy development and programme management.
Alongside her family, Marion has been caring for her father who has lived with vascular dementia for over 8 years.
Every year, more and more of us take on a caring role.
I, like many, have found caring for my father to be both rewarding and challenging.
VOCAL gives carers the access to information and support to provide the best care they can.
I am passionate about guaranteeing carers receive the support and services that they are entitled to and that they are given the opportunity to meet other carers.
I am keen to use my lived experience, strong work experience and work ethic to the fullest extent in this position.
For 10 years Alison has been involved with the care and support of her stepson who has autism. Her husband was his sole carer for 20 years. She also briefly cared for her father at a distance following a stroke. Her mother, (in her 80s) was his main carer and Alison endeavoured to support them their new roles until he died.
I have recently retired from NHS Lothian, where one strand of my portfolio was as the strategic lead for unpaid carers. I bring to the Board an understanding of the national context of carers work (from a health perspective) as well as an intimate knowledge of the NHS and its associated complexities! I have been an active participant in a number of Scottish Government groups that helped shape the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 and was on the Implementation and Monitoring group as the NHS representative.
While in Lothian I spear headed the work of a small team that enabled NHS Lothian to become an Exemplary Carer Positive Employer in August 2018, the first (and currently only) Health Board in Scotland to achieve this level. The work involved working with a number of key stakeholders – notably HR and Partnership to take forward the work and to ensure that it made a real difference to staff. I firmly believe that employees that are well supported deliver a better service.
I want to support VOCAL as an ‘Exemplary’ Carer Positive Employer, in ensuring that staff, particularly those who juggle employment and unpaid caring responsibilities are supported creatively and effectively.
Ruth is retired and joined VOCAL’s Board in February 2020. She previously worked in Edinburgh as a teacher and head teacher for children with special needs, trained with Citizens Advice and has been active with international charities such as Edinburgh Direct Aid to support refugee children in Bosnia and Lebanon. Ruth also brings many years of personal caring experience to the work of VOCAL.
“My youngest son is now 27 years old. He’s autistic and has learning disabilities but is full of life and very affectionate. As a youngster he was a runner and a climber and kept all of us very busy. For the last five years he has lived in a Camphill community at Corbenic, near Dunkeld. My parents were hugely supportive when he was wee, and now it is their time to seek support as they’re in their nineties and increasingly frail. Being a carer has always held challenges so being supported is vital.
I’ve been lucky in my professional life that early on, as a teacher, I wanted to work with children with special needs and have trained and worked in this field for over thirty five years, till I retired as a Head Teacher of one of Edinburgh’s special schools. I’ve worked in the college sector with young people and older adults, as well as in schools with children of all ages, and have known that the best work was through collaboration and partnership, especially with parents and carers.
As a working Mum, I had the same need for an after school and holiday care club for my autistic son, as I had for my other children. Working with other parents we set up our own in the school, and kept it going with an ongoing round of applications for funds. As school leaving approached I again got involved and sat on the board of the organisation that was established to offer day and respite services for young people with more complex needs that also offered further education.
Since retiring, I’m now looking out more for my parents, who are lucky enough to still live at home and who have fantastic carers coming in each day.
As my parents grow more frail, this role expands, and again I consider what makes us resilient when times are challenging. Having people to turn to, to ask for help of any sort, and knowing they are there for you, is what makes the difference. I am delighted to have been invited onto the board of Vocal, to get involved and support their work in any way I can.”
Sarah joined the VOCAL Board in December 2021, having recently retired from an NHS management role. She has been nursing for 40 years, so understands the needs of carers from a professional perspective. In addition, she has personal experience of caring. Sarah supported her mother whilst she looked after her father who had dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Sarah has over 20 years’ experience of the charity sector and is the Scottish representative for the Florence Nightingale Foundation.
“The needs of carers should never be underestimated. The support that VOCAL offers to those in Edinburgh and Midlothian is second to none. I have experienced VOCAL’s education and training for professionals through my role in NHS Lothian and was very impressed with the quality.
“Being a support for my mother, whilst she cared for my father at home, helped me understand the complexity of applying for financial support, physical care needs, and securing emotional help and respite.
“The changing landscape that we live in makes even greater demands on carers. I am proud to be part of VOCAL and strive to ensure all carers receive the support they need."