Who We Are
OTR isn't just a charity providing mental health services, it's a mental health movement mobilised to support, promote and defend the mental health, rights and social position of young people!
How we do this is just as important as what we do, because our approach is grounded in a set of beliefs and assumptions about mental health we think it’s important to be transparent about.
- We believe that mental health is social and political as well as personal, so our approach embraces social action and tries to influence systems and policy.
- We believe that in the face of contemporary diversity, all theoretical models are wrong, but all of them are useful. As a result, we build our team from diverse backgrounds, experiences and disciplines.
- We believe that relationships are what make the difference - so our approach is fundamentally relational.
- We believe in the power of networks, and so we emphasise peer relationships, professional partnerships and organisational collaboration in our approach.
- We believe enabling young people starts with recognising their capabilities before their vulnerabilities, so our approach is fundamentally strengths based.
- We believe participatory services are more sustainable than transactional ones, so young people play a large and active role designing, delivering and communicating our work - not just consuming it.
- We believe what we do should be a vocation - and we love what we do! So our approach and team are full of enthusiasm, imagination, curiosity, and talent.
There are loads of people working to make OTR what it is – in fact we now have over 150 staff and volunteers on our books! Here are some key contact details for people you may want to get hold of:
Simon Newitt | Chief Executive
Simon joined OTR in 2009 and has over fifteen years experience working in mental health services for young people and adults across NHS, Local Authority and third sector settings. Simon has a PhD in Social Work and alongside his work at OTR, also contributes to teaching at several universities.
Karen Black | Operations Director
Karen joined OTR in 2015 and has over fifteen years experience working in the third sector delivering and managing services for young people and families with complex needs, including those in the criminal justice system and with problem substance use.
Niklas Serning | Consultant Psychotherapist
Niklas joined OTR as then Clinical Director in 2014, but has been with OTR as both a supervisor and counsellor since 2012. He is a Doctor of Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy, and a Registered Supervisor (UKCP, BPS RAPPS). Before OTR, Niklas worked for the United Nations in Sri Lanka, East Timor and Afghanistan, overseeing complex international humanitarian responses.
Kellie Horder | Finance & HR Manager
Kellie joined OTR in 2016 from the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, and has over 10 years experience in a variety of administrative roles within the private, public and third sector.
Contact Kellie for all finance and HR enquiries.
Liam McKinnon | Marketing, Digital & Comms Manager
Liam joined OTR in 2010. With a degree in journalism he has worked in media, marketing and communications for a number of national charities, including CLIC Sargent and Winston’s Wish, alongside projects for Ruby Wax and Social Media Week Bristol.
Contact Liam for press, media and online enquiries.
Susan Parry | Facilities & Resources Manager
Charlotte Randomly | Team Leader (Health Promotion)
Charlotte joined OTR in 2008 as a Support Worker. She is trained in Brief Solution Focussed Therapy and is the brains behind our Resilience Lab, having conceived the idea and designed the project back in 2013. Today, Charlotte oversees all our health promotion work with young people.
Cat Taylor | Team Leader (Health Promotion)
Cat joined OTR back in 2014. A registered Occupational Therapist with training and skills in Positive Psychology and Brief Solution Focussed Therapy, Cat is also a qualified Personal Trainer. She began her working life in the NHS, including in the adult mental health crisis team for Bristol, and is an experienced trainer in suicide prevention, risk and safety work.
Jo Harper | Monitoring & Evaluation Manager
Laura Brain | Team Leader (Engagement & Participation)
Laura joined OTR in 2008 as an eighteen year-old volunteer and has been with us ever since. She launched our Mentality project back in 2010 and has been at the forefront of getting young people involved in OTR ever since, even finding time to study for a degree in Youth and Community Work. Laura now leads our new Engagement Team as well as our participation work.
Henry Poultney | Team Leader (LGBTQ+)
Henry joined OTR in 2015 having spent time working in community development for Terrence Higgins Trust. An activist and passionate advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, Henry has a degree in sociology and is also a member of the Independent Advisory Group for Avon & Somerset Police. He oversees all our work on gender and sexual diversity here at OTR.
Rosie Backhouse | Team Leader (Social Work)
Rosie joined OTR in 2015 from the HIV charity, Body & Soul, where she was Head of Adult Programmes. She is a registered Social Worker and a qualified practitioner in outdoor education. Rosie oversees our social work offer, which includes our Natural Health Service – a programme of activity that works across OTR and beyond to connect young people to the natural world and issues of conservation and sustainability.
Jo Moulton | Team Leader (Therapies)
Jo joined OTR as a counsellor in 2013, having worked in adoption and fostering services and as a lecturer in counselling at City of Bristol College. Jo is a qualified and accredited Counsellor and a registered Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Supervisor. Jo is one of three Team Leaders who oversees all our one-to-one and group therapies.
John McGuirk | Team Leader (Therapies)
John joined OTR in 2010 and has been with us since he was a student on placement. A qualified and accredited Counsellor, John is also a registered Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Supervisor. John is one of three Team Leaders who oversees all our one-to-one and group therapies.
Leanne Thomas | Team Leader (Therapies)
Leanne joined OTR in 2010 and has experience working with young people and adults with complex needs, including homelessness and addiction. A qualified and accredited Counsellor, Leanne is also a registered Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Supervisor. Leanne is one of three Team Leaders who oversees all our one-to-one and group therapies.
OTR opened its doors in 1965 and can justifiably claim to be one of the first young people’s information, advice and counselling services (YIAC) in the country.
OTR began life a combined initiative between the Bristol Association of Youth Clubs and Bristol Marriage and Family Guidance Council.
In the course of their work in youth clubs and schools, both organisations were aware of the considerable numbers of young people for whom counselling would be appropriate. In the absence of a service that was free, confidential, and targeted specifically at young people, Off the Record (Bristol) was born.
In 1975 we moved away from the Marriage Guidance Council in Clifton, and into dedicated premises on Pipe Lane, opposite Colston Hall.
In January 1981 we moved to the foot of St Michael’s Hill, in the Kingsdown area of the city – some of our services still run from here today.
The service developed and steadily evolved until the summer of 1996, when despite the best efforts of staff, volunteers and trustees, OTR closed for several months due to a lack of funding. Thanks to the campaigning efforts of a small number of trustees and volunteers, we re-opened six months later.
Having celebrated our 50th birthday in 2015, OTR has never been in better shape. Over 3,000 young people now access us for support each year, and we reach another 5,000 or so through working into schools and community settings to deliver workshops and social action campaigns. We have a great new home in the heart of Old Market, along West Street.
Lots of things have changed in the years we’ve been around; the issues young people bring, the funders, the city! Fundamentally though, we’re still offering the same thing – free, confidential, support for anyone aged 11-25 that doesn’t rely on an adult referral, and doesn’t have thresholds that turn you away if you don’t meet our criteria.
In 2015 we won a national GSK Impact Award, check out our winners video below:
Our Board of Trustees make a vital contribution to our mission – in fact, they keep us focussed on it! You can find out more about the members of our current Board below, they come from a variety of professional backgrounds but they’ve all joined OTR because they believe in better mental health, and a better world, for young people.
Mandy Bancroft (Chair)
Mandy joined OTR in 2015. She is a mental health nurse by background, specialising in children and adolescents. Mandy has been a Senior Lecturer in Mental Health at the University of the West of England for the last fifteen years, and is responsible for widening participation in the university among disadvantaged groups.
Amanda John (Treasurer)
Amanda is a qualified accountant with experience in reporting, audit, analysis and business partnering. She has worked in both the public and private sectors in financial services and joined OTR as Treasurer in 2016.
Karen Drake (Vice Chair)
Karen works for the University of Bristol at Engine Shed where she is Operations Director. She has previously run her own small business and been a professional life coach and a company director. Karen has an MSc in Charity Management and is also treasurer at Bristol Architecture Centre and secretary at the Redcliffe Neighbourhood Development Forum. Karen joined OTR in 2017.
Tony joined OTR in 2003. A qualified accountant, Tony has over 25 years experience in local government and specialises in corporate finance issues for Bristol City Council. Tony was our most recent Chair, is the Treasurer of a number of other Bristol based charities, and brings a comprehensive knowledge of public and third sector finance.
Peter completed his post graduate studies at Bristol University where he qualified as a teacher. He has taught at comprehensive schools in Bristol and Weston-super-Mare and was head of two large sixth form centres. Peter went on to be Senior Children’s Officer for Bristol City Council, where his responsibilities included school exclusions, home education, special education needs, and safeguarding. Peter is now retired from paid work.
Dr Rachel Brown
Rachel has been a GP in Bristol for the past twenty years. She practices at Montpelier Health Centre, a partner of OTR and large inner city practice with a young, multi ethnic population. Rachel’s professional interests are in women’s health and mental health, and it was this (and the needs of her diverse patients) that prompted her to become a trustee of OTR in 2007.
Until retirement in 2015, Jean was an employment lawyer and partner at Hempsons, a leading health and social care legal firm. Jean has over twenty five years experience in the field and was previously a partner at Bevan Brittan, though she actually started her working life as a teacher. Jean joined us in 2015.
Dr Jochen Binder-Dietrich
Jochen joined OTR as a Trustee in 2015. He trained and worked as a Psychiatrist in Munich, Germany, before moving to Bristol in 2004. He has held Consultant Psychiatrist posts in both inpatient and community settings, and now works with the Early Intervention in Psychosis Service.
Patsy has significant public sector experience gained as a member/vice chair of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust Board, a member of Avon and Somerset Probation Board, Panel Chair for the Judicial Appointments Commission, and Lay Member for Governance at Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group. Patsy joined OTR in 2016.