Here are brief details of the speakers/participants at the Multidisciplinary Conference on 1 June

Cathy Ashley – Chief Executive of Family Rights Group, England and Wales

Family Rights Group ( is the charity in England and Wales that advises and supports families whose children are in need, are viewed as at risk or are in the care system.  Their national advice service helps parents and wider family members to:

  • Navigate the child welfare and family justice system, which can be daunting and overwhelming;
  • Understand their rights and options in order that they can make informed decisions and challenge poor decision making;
  • Work constructively with practitioners, which is key to keeping children at risk safely at home;
  • Influence decisions about their children when the state is involved.


Family Rights Group promotes policies and practices, including family group conferences to help children to be raised safely and securely within their families.  The Charity has established ‘Your Family Your Voice: An Alliance of families and practitioners seeking to transform the system’ and are supporting a national parents’ panel, comprising birth and adoptive mothers and fathers whose children have been subject to statutory state intervention.  We lead the work of the Kinship Care Alliance, campaigning for family and friends carers, including grandparents and older siblings who are raising children that cannot live at home.


Cathy has recently written What happens to siblings in the care system? (2015, FRG) and edited The family group conference toolkit – a practical guide to setting up and running an FGC service (2006, (FRG/DfES/Welsh Assembly); Family Group Conferences – Where Next? Policies and Practices For The Future (2007, FRG); Working with risky Fathers: Research findings on working with domestically abusive fathers and their involvement with children’s social care services (2011, FRG); and Big Bruv Little Sis- Research findings on sibling carers raising their younger sisters and brothers (2011, FRG).


In her spare time, Cathy is Chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and is Vice Chair of the Parent Promoters’ Foundation in Lambeth, which set up the first parent promoter comprehensive school in Britain.


Jane Auld – National Parenting Initiative

Jane practised as a barrister for 25 years in London and Bristol, the last 10 years specialising at the Family Bar, ceasing practice to bring up her own family.   Since October 2012 she has been the national coordinator of the National Parenting Initiative, a church initiative to encourage all churches in the UK to run parenting courses.


Vicki Ellis

Vicki Ellis is an experienced social work practitioner, qualified since 2002. She has worked for East Sussex and Brighton Children’s Services departments, and as an independent social worker. She has worked in a combination of front line locality teams and specialist family assessment and intervention services.

Over the past five years, Vicki has specialised in working in the area of social work and parental drug and alcohol use, culminating in her appointment as an Advanced Practitioner in April 2013 for SWIFT.

SWIFT comprises of a number of different multi-disciplinary teams which undertake assessment and intervention with families in which complex difficulties are impacting on the safe care of children. The service in East Sussex is jointly commissioned by both health and social care and in her current role Vicki is responsible for the management of the multi-disciplinary team serving a problem solving court in East Sussex. SWIFT for FDAC was launched in East Sussex in in April 2015.


Sir Mark Hedley

Sir Mark Hedley is a former High Court Judge who has been involved in some of the most important family court decisions of recent years. His comments in Re L (Care: Threshold Criteria) (Family Division 26 October 2006) remain particularly pertinent in 2015 and provide the background for discussions at the conference about what we can expect from the child protection system.

“Society must be willing to tolerate very diverse standards of parenting, including the eccentric, the barely adequate and the inconsistent. Children will inevitably have both very different experiences of parenting and very unequal consequences flowing from it. It means that some children will experience disadvantage and harm, while others flourish in atmospheres of loving security and emotional stability. These are the consequences of our fallible humanity and it is not the provenance of the State to spare children all the consequences of defective parenting.”


Sarah Phillimore

Sarah was called to the Bar in 1994 and has been a member of St John’s Chambers in Bristol since 2010 and specialises in care proceedings. She is the site administrator of and has a long standing interest in how the child protection system operates and how it can be improved. Sarah is one of the Trustees of the Transparency Project.


Surviving Safeguarding

Surviving Safeguarding is a parent who has spent three years in proceedings as a result of issues surrounding her mental health. She had a newborn removed at birth and placed into foster care with an ultimate plan of non-consensual adoption, however she contested this plan through the court system and won, despite being told she had a 0.2% chance of success. Her baby was ultimately returned to her care. Surviving Safeguarding now advises other parents going through the Child Protection Process, facilitates workshops for trainee Social Workers from a parent’s perspective, and advocates for breastfeeding mums, specialising in newborn removal. She is the Author of a new Blog “Surviving Safeguarding”, which aims to give parents the right advice in order to ensure the best interests of the family are met.


Lucy Reed

Lucy Reed was called to the Bar in 2002 and is a barrister at St John’s Chambers She specialises in children work and is also a well known legal blogger at Pink Tape.  Lucy is the author of ‘Family Court without a Lawyer’ and she has a keen interest in examining the challenges faced by litigants in person in navigating the legal system. Lucy sits as a Deputy District Judge and is also a qualified mediator. Lucy is one of the Trustees of the Transparency Project.


Kirsty Seddon

Kirsty Seddon is a 27 year old care leaver who has involvement with the child care system her entire life.  Kirsty has experience of involvement as a child needing protection, a child within the care system, a care leaver and most recently a parent. Kirsty is part of an on-going cycle whereby her mother was in care, she was in care and now her own daughter is within the system as an adopted child.

For the past 6 years Kirsty has been heavily involved in campaigning for change within the system which failed so many children and parents. Kirsty has attempted to create change within the care system using the court processes, she appealed against her Daughter’s proceedings upto an application to the European Court of Human Rights which reached judgement stage, she tried using the civil route to hold her council to account for failing her as a child within the system, and more recently she is attempting to hold the council to account for their actions and involvement post the making of an adoption order.

Kirsty’s experience within the system has allowed her insight of the system from many people’s point of view, including children, parents, social workers and other professionals, this has allowed her to see where the system has flaws and failures which need urgently addressing.


Betsy de Thierry

Betsy de Thierry is a psychotherapist and teacher who has pioneered the UK charity The Trauma Recovery Centre ( which has a centre in Bath, one in Bristol and current plans for many more. The charity provides therapy to more than 100 children, young people and their parents each week. The TRC has also pioneered a therapeutic alternative education centre for children who have been excluded from mainstream schools due to their response to traumatic experiences. She is the author of ‘Teaching the Traumatised child’ published by Grosvenor publishing and delivers training to teachers, police and psychotherapists and other professionals around the UK.


Alice Twaite

Alice Twaite is a non-practising family law solicitor and registered social worker. She works freelance advising families at the Family Rights Group and as a volunteer for Project 17, advising destitute families with no recourse to public funds. She is a member of the Transparency Project and previously worked as a solicitor at Fisher Meredith and a part time legal advisor at Family Rights Group.