Sam Smethers l Chief Executive

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive, is the former Director of Public Affairs at the Equal Opportunities Commission. She has worked as a communications consultant and also has eight years’ experience of working in parliament. Sam is a trustee of Gingerbread and a former trustee of the Fawcett Society. She has four children and was brought up by her grandparents.


Sarah Wellard l Director of Policy & Research

Sarah Wellard is the Director of Policy, Research and Communications.  She has nine years’ experience in the voluntary sector working for a national disability charity and as Parliamentary Officer for Barnardos. Sarah has also worked as a freelance journalist and consultant, an advisor within the civil service and has an MSc in social policy from the LSE. She has three children and is a school governor.



Sacha Shabbir l Information Systems & Office Manager

Sacha Shabbir is the Information Systems and Office Manager and has previously worked with the Child Protection Reviewing Team, Hackney Children’s Services and has several years’ experience in both the voluntary and private sectors. She is a volunteer at her local community and education centre and is a member of their Unity within Communities’ advisory board.


Alison Blaxland l Support Network Manager

Alison Blaxland is the Support Network Manager. She has worked in the voluntary sector for almost 20 years in media and communications roles and previously worked for the children’s charity Barnardo’s as an Editor. Alison has one son.


Susannah Cardy l Support Network Co-ordinator

Susannah Cardy is the Co-ordinator of the Support Network. Susannah has 15 years’ experience as a television director, working on a range of documentaries, and as a freelance writer.  She directed ‘A Grandparents’ Tale’ for Channel 4, which followed 3 sets of grandparents who were raising their grandchildren. Susannah has been a kinship carer for 8 years raising her 3 nephews and 1 niece, after the death of their father. She also has 2 younger children of her own.


Jo Raine l Advice Service Manager

Jo Raine is the Advice Service Manager. She previously worked as a Citizens Advice Bureau adviser for five years.  She has also worked for many years in Supported Housing, after doing an MSc in Housing.  Jo has two children, and their grandma plays a big role in their lives.


Gail Wagstaff l Advice & Information Worker

Gail Wagstaff is the Advice and Information Worker. She was previously worked as an advice worker in a law centre; for Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity and for a local council. She had previously worked in housing management in housing associations in the south east. She has a MA in housing law and policy and is currently studying to be a social worker.


Agnes Gautier l Policy Officer

Agnes Gautier is the Policy Officer. She has nine years of policy, project and campaigns experience in the voluntary sector. She’s worked for the United Nations International Labour Office and the National Union of Students. She has a Msc in European Social Policy from LSE and studied politics in France.


Sam Martin l Fundraising & Communications Officer

Sam Martin is the Fundraising and Communications Officer. He has five years experience of working in charity fundraising including previous posts at health charity Diabetes UK and international NGO RedR. Sam studied representations of welfare and poverty in the UK as part of an MA in the History of Ideas from Birkbeck College London which he completed in 2011.

Alana Genge Alana Genge l Communications & Marketing Assistant

Alana Genge is the Communications and Marketing Assistant. She is currently studying at Kingston University to gain a MSc in Political Communication, Advocacy and Campaigning. She volunteers for her local MP and has previously been our Campaign and Communications Intern.


Yaw Addo l Finance Administrator

Yaw Addo is the Finance Administrator. He has many years experience working the voluntary sector with organisations as Lambeth Voluntary Action Council, Islington Voluntary Action Council and was treasurer for Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development. Yaw is married with 2 children.


Cath HalseCath Halse l Project Manager, Relative Experience

Cath Halse is the Project Manager for the Relative Experience project based in the North East of England. Cath brings a wide range of experience in both statutory and voluntary sector settings. From starting out as a social worker in Newcastle she has moved to the Voluntary Sector in both development and management roles and has experience of working for 5 different charities, both local and national. She is married with two sons.


Yvonne BrownYvonne Brown l Project Administrator, Relative Experience

Yvonne Brown is the Project Administrator for the Relative Experience project based in the North East of England. She brings to the project over 30 years experience of PA and administrative positions within Newcastle Social Services, including management roles. Yvonne has experience of fostering and has one daughter.


Dawn-webDawn Jenkins l Project Worker, Relative Experience

Dawn Jenkins is the Project Worker for the Relative Experience project based in the North East of England. Dawn is a qualified social worker and has 14 years experience in education, voluntary and statutory sectors, with a particular focus on children, young people and their families. She has three children.


Ray BlytheRay Blythe l Project Worker, Relative Experience

Ray Blythe is the Project Worker for the Relative Experience project based in the North East of England. Ray has worked within both statutory and voluntary sectors, with families and children for over 10 years. She has worked in a number of roles including mentor, advocate and mediator for 3 different charities and in 2 different local authorities. Ray is a school governor with 3 children.