Our leadership team - Avenues Group Find out about our leadership team
30 - 1993-2023

Our leadership team

Our executive team works with our trustees to lead the organisation, achieve our strategic ambitions, and ensure we remain true to our vision, mission and values.


Jo Land
Group Chief Executive

My role is to make sure that the organisation turns our vision for the people we support, and those who work for us, into reality. That means making sure all our plans and activity are well thought through and delivered effectively and consistently, in line with our values. I am a trustee at Pathway (homeless healthcare charity), and also at VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group). In addition I am a non-legal member of the Employment Tribunals.

What were you doing before Avenues?

Having worked in a number of large commercial organisations including insurance, logistics and technology businesses for most of my early career, I eventually decided that I wanted to work for an organisation that contributed something positive to my community. The trouble was I didn’t know much about anything outside of the commercial world. I ended up with two interviews on one day, the morning interview was with my local council’s employee relations team and the afternoon was Avenues. Let’s just say I enjoyed the afternoon more than the morning – that was 20 years ago, and the rest is history. Working for Avenues has been like working for multiple different organisations. I have been encouraged to develop my professional HR and leadership skills by working for other aligned businesses that needed my help on a consultancy basis. I have led complex restructures and business reorganisations for Avenues and for other smaller not for profits. Through the growth of Avenues as a leading social care provider I have developed a network of outstanding colleagues from across the health and social care sector and cannot think of ever leaving the voluntary, not for profit sector. Above all, as an employee of Avenues who has both physically and learning disabled family members, I value what we do and always want it to be better. .

My best day at Avenues so far?

Visiting people in their homes is always a highlight and meeting support workers who help them to live as independently as they can is an added benefit of getting out and about. Among those visits one that stands out to me was a visit to Hope House. From the moment I arrived, I was swept up in the everyday life of the people who live and work there. It was busy, but felt calm; an aromatherapist was there offering sessions to the people who live there, so everything smelt amazing too and maybe that added to the sense of serenity. However, what was obvious was that despite the sense of calm, the dedicated support workers on shift were occupied doing activities, a new member of the team was being inducted and a process to manage the transition in medication arrangements was underway. It was during Ramadan and the team had put together a plan to accommodate and support a colleague who was fasting. An unplanned visit from two health professionals was managed well and a parent who arrived was welcomed warmly and encouraged to join the team for a hot drink, and it was all done without any fuss. A great day!

Nicola Ford
Group Director of Finance

I'm responsible for ensuring control and reporting of the Group's finances and supporting the organisational strategy through financial planning and analysis. I'm also involved with the IT strategy, ensuring the organisation has the right technology and systems in place, with effective support.

What were you doing before Avenues?

I’m a qualified Fellow Chartered Accountant and have been working in finance for more than 20 years, mostly in the not-for-profit/healthcare sector. Immediately before Avenues I was the UK Finance Director at Marie Stopes International. My previous roles have given me extensive knowledge and experience of finance transformation and implementing strategies to support growth plans.

My best day at Avenues so far?

No two days are the same at Avenues which is one of the many fantastic things about the organisation. A personal highlight for me was during a service visit being able to help one of the people we support with a simple task that brought a huge smile to her face.

Dan Gower-Smith
Group Director of Operations, Quality and Practice

The role is responsible for the planning, delivery and development of the Group's operational services.

What were you doing before Avenues?

I am really lucky to have been given the opportunity to work at Avenues since April 2005. Prior to joining Avenues I worked for a local charity in Medway and Swale who were very similar to Avenues and we provided support to adults with learning disabilities who moved from the local long stay hospital into small community registered care homes. I am the Director of Operations and the Nominated Individual with The Care Quality Commission. I have spent my career working with children and adults with learning disabilities and complex needs. I am determined and hardworking, and have effectively led successful change through a variety of senior roles in the social care sector. My focus is on excellent services for the people we support and their advocates, motivated employees and a harmonious and professional workplace. I am so proud of working alongside such a great team of people at Avenues and seeing our values being put into action. I am clear we must put the people we support at the heart of everything we do and make every contact count, but also, I am clear that individuals are supported how, when they want, and by people who know them well. I am also passionate about raising the profile of social care and that together we can make a huge difference to the lives of the people we support and the communities we work in. When I am not at work I enjoying running and spending time with my friends, family and three cats.

My best day at Avenues so far?

I can honestly say there has been so many! I get to see, and hear, first-hand the fantastic support we provide. Over the many years at Avenues I’ve had the privilege to see how people’s lives have changed. Hearing from the people we support how, and when, they want to be supported and then seeing our teams making it happen is a privilege. We all know that great support is often the little things, but together add up to big achievements.

Karina Hourd
Group Director of Business Development

I lead on the growth strategy for the organisation, so my focus is on making sure Avenues support is available to more people in more places, and finding new and creative ways of making this happen. I also am responsible for marketing and communications, making sure more people have heard of Avenues and want to work with us.

What were you doing before Avenues?

I started my career in the private sector, working for BT for five years, but I was drawn to the charity sector and have spent the last 20 years working for social care charities and not for profit organisations. My focus has always been on business development, growth and marketing. I love the experience of helping values-driven organisations to grow, become more sustainable and be able to make a real difference to people’s lives. Hearing the stories of the impact that good person-centred support can have on a person’s life is what motivates me to work hard every day. My previous role before Avenues was with Dimensions where I was Head of Business Development. This was a fantastic experience leading a large department of a national organisation, which helped me make the step to an Executive role at Avenues in Autumn 2020.

My best day at Avenues so far?

It sounds clichéd, but I’ve honestly had so many great days at Avenues! Every time I visit one of our services I am reminded why I want to work for Avenues, as the quality of the support and genuine affection of our staff for the people they support is outstanding.

However if I had to choose one day it would probably be when I finally was able to bring my new directorate together face to face. When I first joined Avenues we were in Covid lockdown so it took nearly 6-months to meet any of my team. I was also focused on recruitment as I had to build my directorate practically from scratch. So to finally have everyone in their roles and in a room together was amazing. They are such a great group of people, full of energy, drive and passion.

Caroline Neal
Group Director of People and Organisational Development

I lead the HR, Payroll, Learning and Development, Employee Relations, Recruitment and Relief Staffing teams. My role is to ensure that those teams work together to recruit, develop and retain and deploy people with the very best skills and values so that Avenues delivers exceptional services to the people that it already supports but also so that we are well placed to deliver services to other people that need our support.

What were you doing before Avenues?

I have led HR teams for more than 20 years; 17 of those years have been at Avenues. Having previously led the HR function for a national department store group, I was drawn to Avenues because I wanted to work somewhere where values were important and where leading an HR function contributes positively not only to the working lives of people that we employ but to the lives of the people that the organisation supports.

My best day at Avenues so far?

Having worked at Avenues for a very long time, it’s difficult to pick just one best day! Social care is often a challenging place to be. For Avenues, we always want better for the people we support and the people that work for us so a good day for me is when we celebrate those successes – however big or small – despite our challenges, and that happens routinely. One particular highlight for me though is when I visit our services and get an opportunity to talk to employees and see first-hand the exceptional work that they do. I’m very proud of our workforce, and determined to keep improving things for them.

Steven Parker
Group Director of Housing and Development

It's my job to make sure that the housing we provide is right for the people we support. That involves ensuring that people get good maintenance services, and support managing their tenancies. Most of the housing we provide is through other landlords, such as local authorities, the NHS,private landlords and housing associations, so there is also a lot of liaison work to ensure that we provide the best accommodation and services we can. I also work closely with our development team to identify and provide housing for new services.

What were you doing before Avenues?

I’ve been involved in supporting vulnerable people my whole career. This has included housing, care and support. I’ve worked with a wide range of needs from learning disabilities and mental health through to working with young people and offenders. Before coming to Avenues I worked for Home Group, which is one of England’s largest housing associations, as their Director of Health and Social Care. In this role I was responsible for growth within the care and support division, and successfully led initiatives to develop closer links with health partners particularly in primary care, and work with health trusts. This is a particular interest of mine – only through real co-production are we going to achieve the outcomes that the people we support want and need

My best day at Avenues so far?

Avenues is such an exciting place to be, it’s hard to give just one example, but probably one of the best days of the year is when we meet for the Avenues Awards. It’s always humbling to see the dedication of our staff and teams, and having the opportunity to celebrate with them is a real privilege.