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– ERSA announces new Chair

Wednesday 22 June – for immediate release



Leading voluntary sector provider elected to chair trade body for welfare to work sector

The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the authoritative voice of the welfare to work sector, has today announced that Matthew Lester, Operations Director of Papworth Trust, has been elected as its new chair. This means that a subcontractor will be presiding over a majority prime contractor board. 

Stuart Vere, chairman of Work Programme prime contractor Avanta, has been elected as ERSA’s vice chair.

Matthew Lester will be presiding over a freshly elected board, consisting of a mixture of prime and sub-contractors who deliver a range of employment programmes.  ERSA’s board has been elected from its membership who represent 85% of the organisations that have been awarded prime contracts under the Work Programme and many of the subcontractors. ERSA also represent 90% of the prime providers of Work Choice, the specialist disability programme.

There are a total of twelve board members, with six coming from the private sector and six from the voluntary/public sector. Turnout for this year’s board election was exceptionally high with 75% of full ERSA members casting a vote.  Joining the board for the first time will be chief executive of Maximus, Bob Leach, managing director of G4S Welfare to Work, Sean Williams, chief operating officer of Ingeus, Chris Blackwell, and deputy director and development manager of Salvation Army, Helen Robinson.

Matthew Lester of Papworth Trust said he was delighted to be elected as ERSA’s new chair:

“My vision is for ERSA to represent all provider types across the UK as credibility comes from diversity of membership. In 2011/12 we will continue to lobby to shape the future legislative landscape of the welfare to work industry, drive up standards to improve quality of delivery and establish our role as a trusted thought leader in the welfare to work space.”

Matthew Lester was ERSA’s vice chair from 2009 to 2011. He has been at Papworth Trust since 2003 having previously worked in the private sector.  Papworth Trust is a leading disability charity and subcontractor for the Work Programme.

Commenting on his election as vice chair, Stuart Vere of Avanta said:

“It is an honour to be elected as vice chair of ERSA. The diversity of ERSA’s membership means that ERSA is in an excellent position to effectively represent the membership going forward on issues that are of strategic importance. As vice chair I would like to continue to shape and contribute to that progress.”

Stuart Vere has been chair of Avanta, which incorporates TNG and inbiz, for six years.  Avanta is a Work Programme prime contractor operating in the North East, North West (Manchester / Cheshire) and the South East (Surrey, Sussex and Kent).

ERSA will soon be launching two new forums, one dedicated to supply chain issues, and the other dedicated to skills within the Work Programme.  These join the existing plethora of forums, including the HR Forum, PRaP and MI Forum, Finance and Commercial Forum and Policy and Communications Forum, which cover major aspects of welfare to work.

The full ERSA board is as follows:

  • Matthew Lester, Operations Director, Papworth Trust (ERSA chair)
  • Stuart Vere, Chairman, Avanta (ERSA vice chair)
  • Chris Blackwell, Chief Operating Officer, Ingeus*
  • Sally Burton, Chief Executive, Shaw Trust
  • Bob Leach, Managing Director, MAXIMUS Employment and Training*
  • Rob Murdoch, Executive Director, A4E
  • Dan Murphy, Director of Communications, Remploy
  • Helen Robinson, Deputy Director and Development Manager, Salvation Army*
  • Ian Smith, National Delivery Director, Working Links
  • Kate Still, Director of Development, Wise Group
  • Steve Swan, Director of Welfare to Work, Tomorrow’s People
  • Sean Williams, Managing Director, G4S Welfare to Work*

*indicates they are new members of ERSA’s board for 2011/ 12

For press enquiries please contact Philip Curry: / 020 7960 6317.

Notes to editors

  • The key contacts of full ERSA members were asked to vote for members of the board from Monday 23rd May to Friday 3rd June. The chair and vice chair position were elected by ERSA’s new board between Monday 6th June and Friday 17th June.

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