Our People

Jo Baker
I have lived in York since 1996. I trained as a counsellor in Oxford and when we moved to York my first counselling experience soon after was with the Women’s Centre, from which YWC grew. After university I worked as an English teacher in Sudan and Mali, and with the British Council in London. Subsequent work with Citizens Advice Bureaux led me in the direction of counselling to which I have remained committed ever since.  I have been involved with YWC since it’s beginnings in 2000, as a counsellor, until my recent retirement, and also as a trustee. I have always recognised the organisation’s vital importance as a lifeline to vulnerable women and am proud to support this work as a trustee.


Susie Braithwaite
I have lived in York since 1979, graduating in Politics from the University and developing my career as a fundraising professional in Higher Education and the charitable sectors; I worked with Scope, Marie Curie and latterly the University of York where I was Deputy Director in the Office of Philanthropic Partnerships. Passionate about connecting people and projects to build support and transform lives, I joined the Trustees in 2019. I feel privileged to work with a dedicated team of volunteers who help vulnerable women overcome often complex problems.


Sophie Blyth-Bristow
After completing an undergraduate degree in History & Politics and an MSc in Social Research, I realised that my passion lay in collaborative social impact projects. I have previous voluntary experience with Rape Crisis, and I currently work to improve access to higher education for underrepresented groups at the University of York. As a feminist, I believe strongly in services led for, with, and by women. I am thrilled to be joining the fantastic group of women already making incredible things happen at YWCS.


Polly Griffith
I am an American who has lived in York since 1989, has a Masters in Public Health with a particular interest in family health and the well being of women. I worked overseas in India, Bangladesh and Laos for over 15 years in Family Planning and Community Health projects. I came to YWCS just as it was starting in the former Women’s Centre on Holgate Road, joining formally as a trustee in 2016. My husband is British and I have 2 children now adults themselves. I have a strong commitment to the provision of services to women in need and am proud to be part of YWCS which has continued for so many years through the dedication of volunteers.


Chloe Haines
After an undergraduate degree from York St John in Performance, I completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education. I spent over a decade as a mainstream and special needs teacher, but began to feel that my passions lay more in welfare of children and their families. I graduated with a Master’s in Dramatherapy from The University of Roehampton. Since then, I have gained broad clinical experience, most recently in Early Intervention in Psychosis and as Lead Therapist for a Children’s Bereavement Service. I have always been involved in community charity projects and organisations and felt very fortunate to stumble across YWCS in 2018, when I joined as their only Dramatherapist.
I am very proud of our organisation and how we have dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. We have continued to support clients online and have quickly altered our processes and practices to ensure the best experience for both clients and volunteers. I joined the Board of Trustees as I am passionate about continuing the vital work of the charity into the future.


Liza Miller
I have spent my professional life as a social worker and family therapist committed to working with children and families. After working at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital for many years I moved to York and worked at York Hospital and as a lecturer at the University of York. I then joined up with colleagues from Great Ormond Street to set up and run an organisation providing training in working with children and families. I have also chaired adoption panels for many years. I am married to a bookseller and have two sons and a stepson and daughter and three lovely grandchildren. I believe YWCS provides a vital counselling service for women in need in York and I feel privileged to be able to play a role as a Trustee in supporting the work of the charity.

Emma Drake, Counselling Manager

I am a qualified counsellor, born and bred in York and involved professionally with YWCS for 3 years.

My working background is financial services, 25 years of hard toil in banking and insurance! Lack of fulfilment lead me to retrain as a counsellor, a long held ambition. I first became involved with YWCS around 10 years ago when I engaged with counselling; as such, during my training it became important to me to give back to the organisation which had helped me so much.

YWCS is a natural fit as I have a keen interest in women’s issues and continually want to increase my understanding of what York women are facing and how I can help them as a counsellor. Being able to give vulnerable women the opportunity to access and benefit from affordable counselling is extremely important to me; I was one of those women.

Alongside YWCS, I work part-time for the Supporting Victims Team in North Yorkshire Police and I am also a counsellor in private practice.

Sammy Beecham, Operations Manager

Having graduated from Durham University with a BA in Politics and History, I went on to work for Derbyshire Constabulary before moving to London where I joined Shelter, the housing charity, as their Governance Manager. During this time I studied part-time for an MA in Public Policy and developed an interest in key societal issues such as housing, education and the welfare state. More recently I worked for E-ACT, a multi-academy trust, as their Operations Director before relocating to York in 2018 and joining the YWCS team later that year as their part-time Operations Manager. I feel very privileged to work with all of the women at YWCS and passionately believe in providing accessible support to all, regardless of your financial situation.oun

CGA Accountancy

CGA is a Chartered Certified Accountancy, taxation specialist and Business advisory firm based in York. It has supported York Women’s Counselling Service for over ten years in providing pro bono advice and expertise. We are hugely indebted to the company’s ongoing input into the success of our charity. 

York Cares

Thanks to their Skills Share programme YWCS has benefited from business experience from York based companies employee volunteers which has been transformational. 

We are funded  through the generosity of individual donors to whom we extend our grateful thanks. In addition grants from the following organisations have been vital to the delivery of our service.