Consultation participants

Below are biographies of the individuals who will be taking part in our consultation at St George's House.

Sue Burridge

Sue has been the Marriage and Family Policy Adviser for the Church of England since 2000. In that time, she has briefed Bishops in the House of Lords on most of the Labour Government’s legislation on marriage, family and children. She implemented a research programme in 2002 on how the Church supports adult relationships, resulting in changes in the Church’s marriage law. More recently she has been a consultant to the Weddings Project, a two-year project to improve the Church’s welcome and support of couples wanting to get married (see

 Other significant projects include developing guidelines for those with pastoral responsibility on domestic abuse and working with The Children’s Society on the Church’s response to the Good Childhood Inquiry. She was a trustee of the Church of England Family life and Marriage Education Network and until recently, Secretary to Churches Together for Families. Before 2000, she was Head of Personal, Social and Religious Education for a large Girls’ Comprehensive in North London.

Ken Caldwell

After an early career in industry and management consulting, Ken has spent most of his career working on issues of poverty reduction and young people, both in the UK and internationally. He was until 2009 the Programmes Director of Save the Children, and now runs his own consulting business specialising in strategy and governance issues for large charities. Ken joined the Board of The Children’s Society in 2010, and chairs the Campaign for Childhood Committee.

Elissa Da Costa

Elissa began her legal experience almost forty years ago working in a solicitors’ office. Since her call to the Bar in 1990, Elissa has become an established practitioner in her chosen fields of matrimonial finance and claims between unmarried partners. She is also a family mediator and trained collaborative lawyer, committed to resolving family disputes outside the court process.

In addition to her busy practice Elissa is a regular speaker and author on legal subjects. She contributed from its inception in 2003 to Blackstone’s Civil Practice, co-wrote Family and Matrimonial Law (Cavendish) and is the sole author of Everything You Wanted to Know about Practising Family Law (Cavendish). Elissa is the proud mother of Melanie and Daniel and even prouder grandmother of Rafi with two further grandchildren expected early this year.

Jim Davis

Jim was a panel member of The Good Childhood® Inquiry, an independent Inquiry tasked with determining what makes for a good childhood in the 21st Century.
Jim has worked for The Children’s Society for 29 years in community work, youth work and social work. His current role as Good Childhood Advisor aims to support a positive change in public attitudes toward children and young people.

 He has published research into the experiences of children experiencing poverty in rural communities and on work with New Age Travellers. He is a Board member of the Youth and European Social Work Forum, a network of NGO’s and statutory organisations from across Europe promoting the participation of socially excluded young people in society. Jim is married with four daughters and lives in Bath.

Jerry Doyle

Jerry is Communications Director for The Children’s Society and works within the Campaign for Childhood Division. She manages the Media & PR team, Internal Communications and Campaigns.

Jenny Frank MBE

Jenny is Programme Manager of The Children’s Society Include project, which is home to the National Young Carers Initiative. She has worked for The Children’s Society in the field of young carers and their families for over 15 years. She is the author of a number of publications and has been instrumental in raising awareness of the needs of young carers and their families and campaigning for their needs to be interagency and inter departmental responsibility at a National level in England.

 Her work and that of The Children’s Society’s is based on enabling young carers to be consulted and to support them in enabling their views and wishes to influence change in policy and service delivery and to achieve a whole family approach. Jenny is a member of The Government Standing Commission for Carers and was recently awarded an MBE for service to young carers.

Ross Hendry

Ross was appointed to the post of Director of Policy at the office of the Children’s Commissioner for England in June 2009. Since starting at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner he has initiated a number of new project themes, including work on families and parenting.

Ross has many years’ experience of policy, research and campaigning, and prior to joining the Office of the Children’s Commissioner he was Head of Public Policy at Action for Children. He has also worked for the trade union Unison, the Association of London Government (now London Councils), after starting his career as a Research Officer in the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion based at the London School of Economics. In May 2010 Ross was appointed chair of the Anti Bullying Alliance in 2010.

Elaine Hindal

Elaine joined The Children’s Society in April 2009, as Director, Campaign for Childhood Division and a member of the Society’s Management Team. Elaine has extensive communications and strategic marketing experience in major blue chip companies. Elaine has recently achieved an MSc with Distinction in Occupational Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire.

Richard Hyslop

Richard is EU and International Affairs Policy Adviser at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) where recently he has been heavily involved in European plans to reform maternity and paternity leave. Prior to joining the FSB Richard worked at the Federation of Master Builders, the National Landlords Association and for the Conservative Party in both the Scottish and European Parliaments.

Outside of work Richard is a Parish Councillor, a committee member of his local branch of the Royal British Legion, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Old Windsor Day Centre. Richard is married to Venetia and they have a son called Alexander who was born on Sunday 30 January 2011.

Jill Kirby

Jill was Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, an independent centre-right think tank, from 2007 until January 2011. Previously she chaired the Centre’s family and welfare policy group and authored a series of reports on family policy. She has combined these roles with freelance writing, her op-eds and articles appearing in all the major national newspapers, and providing comment on current affairs programmes. Jill has recently been appointed to head a new, web-based policy project, which launches in the spring of 2011.

Jenny Lewis

Jenny has lived and worked in north east England since 1977. She trained as a teacher of geography, moving into managing local authority education services in 1987. In 2001 she was appointed Director of Education with Redcar and Cleveland Council, becoming Director of Children’s Services in 2005. She is now an independent consultant, working with Local Authorities on varied projects such as school re-organisation and independent reviews and the National College on peer support for Directors of Children’s Services. She is also training as a psychotherapist. Jenny is a Trustee of the Children’s Society and chairs the Standards Committee.

Mr Gary McKeone

Gary McKeone was Literature Director at Arts Council England from 1995-2006. Before that he worked with Field Day Theatre Company in Ireland and at the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank. He is currently Chair of the Poetry Archive and the Poetry Translation Centre and is also involved with a number of other literature organisations in England. Originally from Derry, N.Ireland, he was educated at St Columb's College and Trinity College Dublin. He has been Programme Director of St George’s House since November 2008.

Larissa Pople

Larissa joined The Children's Society in 2006, having previously worked for UNICEF in the UK and at the International Research Centre in Florence. Between 2006 and 2009, Larissa was the designated research and policy lead on The Good Childhood® Inquiry, an independent inquiry into childhood in the 21st century. In a sojourn from The Children’s Society in 2009-2010, she worked on the Independent Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour. Returning to The Children’s Society in May 2010, she now works as a Senior Researcher on the well-being research programme.

Sheikh Hojjat Ramezanzadeh (Ramzy)

Dr Ramzy is an Imam, an executive member of the Muslim Council of Britain’s (MCB) Education and Interfaith Relations Committee and a member of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales. He is also a member of the International Interfaith Forum UK and an Ambassador for Peace for the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). Dr Ramzy is a Director of the Iqra Islamic Institute, and founder of the Oxford Islamic Information Centre, providing a wide range of Islamic material, lectures and advice to educational establishments and organisations across the UK.

He is also an Islamic Advisor and Chaplain for Thames Valley Police, Oxford’s major hospitals and the Immigration Centre. He is a long-term, former member of SACRE (Standard Advisory Committee for Religious Education) and a long term former governor of several Oxfordshire Secondary Schools.

Bob Reitemeier

In his seven years as Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, Bob has led the transformation of the charity’s work to make childhood better for all children in the UK, with particular commitment to the most disadvantaged. He commissioned The Good Childhood® Inquiry, an independent assessment of childhood today. Bob has been a member of the Youth Justice Board since 2006 and was Deputy Chair of the Government’s Social Work Taskforce in 2009.

Dr Tess Ridge

Tess is a Senior Lecturer of Social Policy at the University of Bath. Her research focuses on child and family poverty, especially exploring the experience of childhood poverty from the perspectives of children themselves. She also has a keen interest in the role of policy and the provision of welfare and economic support for children and families. She has extensive experience of carrying out qualitative research with low-income children and their families. Most recently she has been working with the Child Poverty Unit in government reviewing research with low-income children and families and contributing to the development and progress of the recently passed Child Poverty Act.

Denise Robertson, MBE

Denise has been This Morning’s resident agony aunt from the very first show 22 years ago. Her TV career began in 1984 on BBC’s Breakfast Time, where she appeared with Selina Scott and Frank Bough. From there she went to BBC’s Open Air before joining This Morning. During her years in broadcasting - in TV, radio, the national press and magazines - she has received over 200,000 letters and e-mails detailing the multitude of problems which affect ordinary people - many of these difficulties she has herself experienced.

She has written over twenty novels - the first of which won a literary award - two no fuss parenting guides called ‚Relax! It’s Only a Baby‛ and ‚How to be a Good Parent‛ and has edited a series of self-help books for This Morning. Her creative works include an award winning TV play and a stage musical, 'Fine, Fine, Fine'. Her autobiography, 'Agony: Don’t Get Me Started' was published in 2006. Her latest novel ‚Endgame‛ will be published in March. She writes comment columns for some of the Trinity Mirror regionals and an agony column for Candis magazine.

In 2006 she was made an MBE. She holds an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Sunderland and an honorary fellowship from St Mary’s College in the University of Durham. She is a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Durham and holds the Freedom of the City of Sunderland. Twice widowed, Denise lives with her third husband, Bryan Thubron and an assortment of dogs. She has five sons, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Maxine Room

Maxine is the Principal at Lewisham College, a large urban college based in South East London with over 14000 students. Maxine was the first black Principal to be appointed to a general FE college in London and the second black woman Principal to be appointed in the UK. Maxine is passionate about education, training and skills and has a variety of qualifications in education and management. Her career started in teaching in Somerset.

Maxine is a member of the 157 Group, Chair of the London Capital Colleges’ Group, the AoC Skills Strategy Group, the Network for Black Professionals and is a mentor for the Black Leaders’ initiative. She is also a member of a range of boards and committees linked to education, skills and training including the Northern Ballet Board, Helena Kennedy Foundation, Women’s Leadership Network, London South Bank University and Rose Bruford College.

Ryan Shorthouse

Ryan is a researcher for the Social Market Foundation with expertise in social policy, including early years, education and welfare. He was previously a researcher for Rt Hon David Willetts MP, where he authored the Conservative Party's Childhood Review, and an adviser to the Shadow Minister for the Family, formulating Conservative party policy and managing media relations. Ryan is the spokesman for Bright Blue - a group campaigning for progressive policies from the Conservative Party - and is editor of The Progressive Conscience, Bright Blue's magazine.

He was the Political Secretary of the Bow Group and writes regularly on social affairs for various national newspapers and magazines. He was educated at the University of Warwick.

Enver Solomon

Enver was appointed as Policy Director for The Children’s Society on 5 January 2011. Enver joined from Barnardo’s where he was Assistant Director responsible for Policy, with lead policy responsibility for children in care, safeguarding, sexual exploitation, missing and youth justice policy and research. Prior to joining Barnardo’s, Enver was Deputy Director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, and has previously worked for Revolving Doors, the Prison Reform Trust and the BBC.

Pam Spurr

Pam is a chartered research and teaching psychologist, receiving her doctorate at Guy’s Hospital where she researched ways to support parents experiencing difficulties within the home and with their children. Currently in private practice as a life coach, Pam is an award-winning radio presenter, agony aunt, relationship expert and author of 12 self-help books. She appears regularly on radio and TV commenting on issues from parenting to self-esteem.

Pam has written for, and had columns in, numerous magazines as well as internet columns through which she's advised millions of people. She also writes freelance for national newspapers with articles appearing most weeks.

Sylvia Thomson

Sylvia has worked in the private, public and voluntary sectors. In the private sector she worked as an industrial relations negotiator in the Engineering Industry. In the public sector she worked for 18 years at HM Treasury, including a two-year spell on secondment as the first Deputy Director of the Sure Start programme for young children and their parents in severely disadvantaged areas.

In the voluntary sector she has had a variety of roles with arts, education and social welfare charities. She has been a member of the Finance Committee of The Children’s Society since October 2006, and was appointed Trustee and Honorary Treasurer in September 2010.

Nigel Varndell

Nigel has been the Head of Church Partnerships at The Children’s Society for the last year. He previously worked at Christian Aid for 14 years in fundraising, church partnerships and finally as the organisation’s Inter-Faith Manager. He also served as a member of Christian Aid’s advisory group on the Palestinians and Israel. He studied zoology at Cambridge University and received a PhD in Evolutionary Biology from Imperial College.

Paula Wallace

During a career in public relations - in both the private and third sectors and in the UK and Portugal - spanning nearly 30 years, Paula has covered most aspects of internal and external communications. As one of her strengths has always been events management, she was delighted to accept the role of Marketing Conference and Events Manager for The Children’s Society last July. Along with Jim Davis, she has been instrumental in putting together this consultation at St George’s House.

Rosalie Ward

Rosalie is Project Manager of the Equality and Human Rights Commission flagship project 'Working Better’ under which several key policy, research and guidance publications have been produced. This includes ‘Working Better - Meeting the changing needs of families, workers and employers in the 21st Century' which set out the case for a radical overhaul of current maternity, paternity and parental leave policy to ensure that parents can best reconcile their work and care roles. Rosalie joined the EHRC in 2008.

Previously she was a Teacher and Lecturer in Social Science and most recently has held a number of roles in equalities research, policy and practice and employment rights in organisations in the voluntary sector and in public services trade unions.’

Sarah Wellard

Sarah is Policy and Research Manager at Grandparents Plus, the national charity which champions the role of grandparents and the wider family in children’s lives. Sarah has eight years’ experience in the voluntary sector, working previously for the national disability charity United Response and as Parliamentary Officer for Barnardo’s. She has also worked as a freelance journalist and consultant, as an advisor within the civil service and has an MSc in social policy from the London School of Economics. Sarah has three children and is a school governor.

Rob Williams

Rob is Chief Executive of the Fatherhood Institute, the UK think tank on the changing role of fathers. From 2006-2008 he was Chief Executive of 11 MILLION (the Children’s Commissioner’s Office) and was appointed Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England in February 2008. He was Chief Executive of BLISS, the premature baby charity, from 2003-2006 and prior to that he spent ten years working in international development including spells as Country Director for Concern Worldwide in Cambodia and Burundi and two years leading rapid response teams to conflict zones in Africa and Asia.

As Concern’s Operations Director in New York from 1999-2002 he was responsible for child survival programmes in several countries, achieving large reductions in maternal and infant mortality in poor urban and rural communities. Rob graduated in law from Oxford University in 1986 and qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Ernst and Young before joining the voluntary sector. He joined the Board of Trustees of UNICEF UK in December 2008.