Assert Staff

Assert employs six part-time staff and two full-time. The roles of our staff are:

Autism Support Adviser

Maria Riaza Fernández

Hello! I am María and I am delighted to be joining Assert. I arrived in the UK from Spain, with the intention to spend 1 year learning English after I finished my degree, I loved Brighton so much that … Here I am 9 years later! 

I have a degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education. During my years in UK, I have worked in different primary schools both teaching and as a playworker and more recently, in a mental health hospital supporting people. 

Some of the things I love are learning new things, strategy board games, arts and crafts, long walks, roller-skating and playing basketball with my team. 

I am looking forward to my new role and meeting and helping great people.

My role predominantly involves working with clients to support with casework. Casework is usually practical-based pieces of work including help with forms, telephone calls, and general day-to-day things that people may need a bit of backup with. I also provide support around employment and housing. A lot of my role includes signposting, advice, guidance, advocacy, crisis prevention and resolution, and liaison with statutory services to help make sure our clients are supported in the best possible ways. When people first come to Assert, I am often the first person they will have contact with- I do initial meetings with new clients to introduce our services, find out a bit about them, and discuss what support they may be seeking. My support extends to relatives, friends, and colleagues of autistic adults, and I co-facilitate a parents, partners, and carers support group. I am often at our monthly drop-ins and events, so feel free to say ‘hi’ to me when you see me at these things. I am contactable on assert.bh@assertbh.org.uk and 01273 234 850.

Adult Education Coordinator

Julia Martinez

My name is Julia Martinez and I’ve worked at Assert since May 2017. I started in the role of Autism Support Advisor and I’m currently the Adult Education Coordinator. My professional background is in teaching and learning. My role involves coordinating recruitment, planning and delivering Assert’s courses. These are: 

Life Skills 1 – Social and Communication Skills 

Life Skills 2 – Independent Living and Self-Management Skills 

Exploring Autism – A chance to explore what the diagnosis means 

We also offer three short courses delivered on a one-to-one basis: Self-Management, Resilience and Interoception.

As part of the Life Skills project, every third Saturday of the month I facilitate the Health Walks. The walks normally take place around Brighton’s fantastic countryside. As part of the same project we will also be working with the Food Partnership in the Community Kitchen delivering cookery sessions. 

You’ll also see me at our monthly social drop-ins and other events Assert organises. If you want to find out more about Assert’s courses, please feel free to drop me an email at lifeskills@assertbh.org.uk

Strategic Development Manager

Sarah Archer

My name is Sarah Archer and I’m the Strategic Development Manager at Assert. I’ve worked at Assert since 2011 and have been able to develop, diversify and extend the services that we can offer in this time. For 9 years my role involved overseeing the day to day running of the organisation and looking at how we can continue to meet the needs of autistic adults in the future. In 2021 i am leaving managing the day to day work to our Operations Manager and so will be able to focus much more on strategic planning and sustainability. A large aspect of my role is in fundraising and ensuring that Assert has funding in place to continue to offer its services free of charge. I seek to raise funds from trusts, grants, commissioning, legacies, donations and other general fundraising activities. I work very closely with the staff team and trustees to ensure that we are member led and adapt to changing areas of need and address these where possible. I really enjoy getting to know our service users at drop ins and activities and love to see people benefitting from engaging with Assert. I enjoy the diversity of my role as the senior manager at Assert and am always keen to hear from people with ideas for project development, fundraising and from people offering to provide support in an area of expertise that may be helpful to Assert. I can be contacted by email at sarahb@assertbh.org.uk

Project Coordinator for Alternative Thursdays

Nicola Jones

Hello! I’m Nicola. I am now going to be organising the activity evenings that happen once every 2 weeks on a Thursday. These evenings were previously at Aspire but they have now found a home with us at Assert.

Many of you may recognise me from various activities and courses because I have been a member of Assert since 2008 and was diagnosed with Autism in 2009. I have some ‘special’ interests, as many Autistic people do. I enjoy foreign grammar, making paper flowers, aromatherapy, playing my accordion and spending time at home listening to clocks tick with my cat on my lap.

I am very excited to be working for Assert now because I cannot think where I would rather be than with other people like me and in an office full of such supportive people. I’m looking forward to meeting everybody in my new role and enjoying the activities we have coming up.

My email is nicola.neurodiversity@asssertbh.org.uk

Benefits Case Worker

Alex Little

Hello! My name is Alex, and I’m delighted to have joined the Assert team as the new Benefits Advisor. I’m happy to have started working here and looking forward to meeting you all.

For the past six years I’ve worked in Supported Housing, helping young adults with multiple support needs to work towards and achieve independent living. This ranged from daily living skills, managing bills and getting benefits in place. I have also volunteered abroad in Asia and the South Pacific teaching English in vulnerable rural communities. 

When I’m not working I spend time with my French Bulldog, Loki! I also enjoy live music, reading and travelling. 

The Assert Benefits Service can help you with almost all aspects of the application and appeals process for income and non-income related benefits in the UK. This can include help to complete benefit application or review forms, help to arrange or attend a face-to-face assessment for PIP, ESA or Universal Credit, as well as someone to support and represent you at an appeal tribunal. To access the Assert Benefits Service, you must first be a registered member with Assert. There may be times in which the benefits service does not have capacity to accept new cases, so it is always advisable to contact Assert in advance if you are planning to apply for a benefit for the first time and would like our support with this

My email is benefits@assertbh.org.uk

Autism Case Worker and Community Engagement worker

Jenna Dadak

My name is Jenna! I am now the Autism Case Worker and Community Engagement Worker! I first volunteered with Assert in October 2016 and I did this for about a year and really enjoyed helping work on cases and unpick PIP applications and even write the odd letter to the DWP. And then during Spring 2019 I came back to Assert, this time volunteering with Julia, the lovely Education Coordinator. I had a really interesting summer assisting Julia on the Life Skills courses, helping her to develop and deliver the courses. It was then that this new role came up and am very excited to have got the role and be a member of the Assert team!

As part of this new role I’m going to be running a Coffee Club on the 2nd & 4th Wednesday afternoon of the month from 2pm-4pm at the Brighthelm Centre café. Coffee Club is a drop-in session for clients to attend if and when they want.

I will also be organising the monthly Active Club so we can get out and do some physical exercise!

As well as these activities, I will be offering up to 7 hours of Support Sessions. During the sessions we will work together to break down either an aspiration you’d like to achieve or an issue you’re experiencing that you might need some extra support, advice or advocacy with in order to achieve your goal.

I will also be working with a new network, Community Roots. As a Community Engagement Worker I will be working in close partnership with other key providers in Brighton & Hove to ensure integrated pathways for people when accessing support.

Overall there will be a lot going on in the coming months while I get properly set up – so if you’re interested in either the Coffee Club, Active Club or the Support Sessions my email is jenna@assertbh.org.uk

Operations Manager

Debbie Taylor

I’m Debbie Taylor and I would like to introduce myself as Operations Manager, a new post within Assert, which I took up officially on 18th August. Some of you may have met me before, perhaps through my being a facilitator with the Assert Peer Discussion Group since 2014, as a volunteer on walks and other Assert activities, the annual Christmas meal or as a Trustee for Assert since around 2012. I am excited to move into this new role and become more involved in Assert and all it has to offer. I also look forward to meeting many more of you in person, as soon as it becomes safe to do so.