Charlie Beswick is our CEO and founder. Her twin boys were born in 2005 at which point she was told that her son Harry had a rare craniofacial syndrome meaning that the left-hand side of his face had never developed. He was also diagnosed as autistic 3 years later. Charlie had no professional support and she felt incredibly isolated from her friends and family. Her mental health suffered, her marriage ended, and she had to leave the full-time teaching career that she loved. She founded the SEND Gin and Cheese free Facebook community in 2022 to ensure that no mother feels alone at the point of their child’s diagnosis. SEND Gin and Cheese CIC was registered in 2023 to grow the reach and support of the group. She is the best-selling author of Our Altered Life, charity founder of More Than a Face, proud mum, step mum and wife and huge gin and cheese lover if you hadn’t already guessed!
Hayley Sutton is a mum to two – Oliver who is 13 and Phoebe who is 7. Phoebe was diagnosed profoundly deaf at 3 weeks old, and had cochlear implants just before her 4th birthday. Phoebe has a specific speech disorder, is hypermobile and has communication and learning delays.
Hayley works in education, having begun her career as a primary teacher in early years 19 years ago. She spent 8 years as a deputy head and Senco in a large primary school, and is now a strategic lead for inclusion in a MAT made up of primary and special schools. She is also a governor of 2 schools and a trustee in a private day nursery.
Becoming a mum of a neurodiverse child definitely changed Hayley’s career – she would say she is a better practitioner, communicator and mentor to others because of what life with Phoebe has taught her.
Hayley has found SEND gin and cheese to be a lifeline, a light at the end of some really dark tunnels and a place to truly celebrate the small wins with like-minded friends. She is delighted to be offered the opportunity to become a director of SEND Gin and Cheese, and is excited to see what the future will hold!
Jess Smith began her career as a drama teacher and worked as Head of Drama at a large secondary school for 15 years. When realising her son Arthur might have additional needs at around age 2.5, Jess stepped down from her role but continued to teach drama part-time, in order to focus on supporting Arthur’s needs. Arthur is currently on the autism pathway, with diagnosed Sensory Processing difficulties and is a Gestalt Language Processor. Jess has found that good quality information and support for parents have been hard to find, but having joined SEND Gin and Cheese in summer of 2022, Jess has found a community which she describes as ‘life changing’.
Jess is passionate about supporting other parents, neurodiversity-affirming language and strengths-based approaches to working with SEND children and families. Jess is also a great lover of the theatre and a good cheese board!
Steph Talbot is a qualified accountant, has an BA, an MBA and an Honorary Doctorate from Staffordshire University and over 25 years of senior financial management experience, working in senior roles for Heinz, CIS and Antler. Steph is a local Labour councillor, elected in May 2022 for the ward of Knutton, Newcastle. Steph co-founded the Alice charity with her daughter Emily in 2011, where they grew the charity until they both left in 2022. In their final year at Alice charity, they supported over 5000 disadvantaged and vulnerable families, raised over £650,000 of income and bought a former Methodist church, leaving a sustainable, strong and highly effective charity. Steph is delighted to be asked to bring her financial experience, leadership skills, charity experience and community insight to support the team at SEND Gin and Cheese CIC, and their dreams and goals.
The ‘important’ stuff – Steph is wife to Tony, the love of her life whom she met on a blind date when she was 14, and they are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary in 2023. Steph has two children who are her world, Emily and Joe. Steph has four just perfect grandchildren, Loui, Ella, Lily and Charlie. Loui is autistic and has learning difficulties, and moved from a mainstream primary school into special education, where he flourished from the very first minute he arrived. Loui’s Mum, Emily, is determined that Loui and other young adults with additional needs are given the opportunity to secure fulfilling work so they co-founded Special Connections CIC in 2023.
Steph’s values are compassion, respect, kindness, courage and unconditional love, and tries her hardest to bring these values to everything she does.