Meet our team

We are a group of parents and carers of children and young people with disabilities and additional needs aged 0-25. Together we form the Management Committee that supports and coordinates Essex Family Forum as an independent parent carer forum for the whole of Essex. We are passionate about aiming for quality outcomes that meet the needs of all our families.

Andrea Pereira


I am a parent carer for my 24 year old son who has autism and a learning disability.  He has benefited from special provision throughout his education and he has now moved into adult services.  Alongside my lived experience, I have been working for SNAP (Special Needs and Parents) as Family Information Coordinator and adviser for 20 years.  Over this time I have heard many issues families across Essex are facing with their children who have additional needs and disabilities. I trained under the Family Partnership Model, which is an ethos I feel passionately about and should be used by everyone who wishes to work effectively with parent carers.

In a voluntary capacity I have been involved in the creation of this parent carer forum for Essex since the beginning, as I feel strongly that families’ experiences and needs should be listened to and considered throughout the entire planning process of all services and opportunities.

Katrina Farrall

Treasurer / Vice Chair

In my working life, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1995 and spent a total of 12 years working in the City.

I now live in Benfleet with my husband and two sons, one of whom was diagnosed with Autism at age 3. I volunteered for Home Start Basildon in 2013, working mostly with families with Autism, then, later became a Trustee.

I became part of the Essex Family Forum Steering Group, during 2017, since I felt passionate about making parents voices heard when decisions were being made when developing and providing services to children and young adults with disabilities.

Elizabeth Keig

Management Committee

My Name is Liz and I am Mum to Florence and Bobby, Step-Mum to Chezzi and Izzy and wife to Geoff. We live in Coggeshall, Essex and are lucky to live in a wonderful community. Florence has Down’s Syndrome which was a surprise for us when she was born. She has taught me so much about myself and enhanced my life in so many different ways,.

It’s not always easy being a parent/carer of a young person with additional needs though, it can be overwhelming. This is why I am delighted to be a part of the Essex Family Forum. It’s a wonderful opportunity to help make our voices heard. Collectively we have the power to ensure our children and young people get the services they need.

Rob Williamson

Management Committee

Hi, I’m Rob. I’m a dad to a beautifully enigmatic autistic Thomas the Tank Engine enthusiast and a Neurotypical “Muggle” daughter. My Son goes to a special school in Essex which specializes in providing for children and young adults with severe and lifelong
Educational needs.

For the last 10 years I have volunteered for advocacy charities working at local and national government level, ensuring that parents voices are heard. I have also delivered training on the importance of creating multidisciplinary “Teams around the Child” with the goal of creating comprehensive care and services to professionals from Healthcare, Education and Social Services. Essex Family Forum is the next step in ensuring that we can get the best support for our families and kids.

My wife and I have worked in our Chelmsford based therapy clinic since 2002.

Ange Neal

Ange Neal

Management Committee

Victoria Sanderson

Management Committee

I am a parent to two wonderful, school-age children, both with SEND.

My son has autism, ADHD, hypermobility and sensory processing difficulties. He has lots of struggles, but has the most charmingly cheeky nature and an infectious laugh!

My daughter has hemiplegic cerebral palsy and development delay. She also has a variety of struggles, but is a very gregarious and gorgeous little bundle of determination and sass!

I consider myself a ‘slightly-quirky neurotypical’, but feel thoroughly blessed to come from a neurodivergent and SEND family (and coincidentally married in to one as well!); with a variety of conditions and SEND over the generations.

Pre-mummy and carer life, I studied Law and Philosophy at university between 2002 – 2006 and then completed a postgraduate diploma in Human Resources Management, graduating in 2010. I spent most of my professional career before my son was born working in Human Resources and Employment Law in both a private sector and local government, public sector environment. Since having my children I have held several voluntary roles in my local community, running and coordinating SEND-friendly baby and toddler groups. I have  completed childcare qualifications, focussing on SEND, during this period also.

I am passionate about parents, children and families having their voices heard and their needs met. I am a big believer in giving positive feedback where it is due and tenaciously driving change for improvement where services have been found to be lacking. I feel truly honoured to be part of Essex Family Forum and in a position to influence a positive future for all our children.

Julia Brunning

Strategic Lead

I have lived in Billericay, Essex for nearly 12 years with my husband and children, having moved from where I grew up on the East London/Essex border. Before having the eldest of our 3 lovely sons, (who are now all aged in double figures), I worked as a Client Service Manager for a Lloyd’s Insurance Broker in the City. When our youngest son started school, I began training and working as an SEN Learning Support Assistant, and achieved Level 3 Accreditation. I spent 5 years supporting some wonderful primary-age children – seeing the progress they made as their confidence and belief in themselves grew was very rewarding.

Our eldest son has additional needs and with the support and understanding of our families, friends and everyone at his brilliant school, he has grown from a little boy who was quite bewildered by the world into a happy, contented young man who dotes on his younger brothers but has a growing need and desire for independence. From the start of my journey as a parent of a child with additional needs, I have taken every opportunity offered to me, where possible, to learn how best to support my son by attending courses like the Good Beginnings course, when he was first diagnosed, and learnt basic Makaton, as well as a host of other courses on behaviour strategies and planning for annual reviews, etc. I hosted a monthly coffee morning at my house for the parents of other children with additional needs at my sons’ primary school and it was during this time I realised that a collective voice of parents was a very powerful tool for influencing change.

Joanne Harrison

Participation Lead

I live in Colchester and am lucky to have 2 amazing girls! Charlotte, 8 and Holly-Ann 7. Charlotte has a diagnosis of autism and also has sensory processing disorder. She is obsessed with riding her bike, loves music, dance and going to Brownies. Holly-Ann loves fashion and dance and is also a Brownie. She never sits still and does a great job of being the “big” sister sometimes.

Pushing for explanations, advice, help and a diagnosis for Charlotte from the age of 2 has made me passionate about SEN and in particular the need for early intervention and on-going support for the whole family.

My background was in finance and civil litigation in London, however since becoming a mum I have completed an Early Years Degree (child development) and I spent my time researching and writing about autism and sensory processing disorder. I am still continuing with my studies at a Masters level, and using my studies to gain further insight to SEN educational provision.

More recently I have worked in an integrated nursery which provided amazing care and support to families of child with SEN and then went on to work at a moderate learning disability school, spending some of my time in a teaching role.

I volunteered for the forum for a year as a family champion and I am now delighted to be working for the forum, helping to ensure the voice of children and families is heard!

Kevin Gay

Management Committee

I have lived in Harlow for most of my life having moved from London (Stoke Newington) at the age of 5. I became a police officer in Essex in 1988 and after 30 years’ service retired as a Police Inspector in 2018.

I am Married to Lisa and have two wonderful children, a 23 year old daughter who is a health care assistant with the NHS and our son, Callum who is now 19.

Callum was diagnosed on the Autistic Spectrum when he was 5, has Sensory Processing disorder, along with learning difficulties. Callum was also recently diagnosed with ADNP syndrome, a rare genetic disorder causing a mutation of the ADNP gene and linked to Autism.

I am now, very lucky to be working as the Charity manager at PACT for Autism, a charity based in West Essex supporting Children, Families and Individuals living life along the Autistic Spectrum. Lisa, my wife and co-worker was one of the founding members of this charity back in 2005 and I previously served on the board of trustees for several years and fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve as Chair of the board.

Through my personal life experiences and working with PACT, I am passionate about ensuring the Autistic community has a voice and is represented in all areas, I work hard to renew working partnerships and connections with other service providers, charities and organisations.

I am now very lucky to count myself as a member of the Essex Family Forum Management Committee and will strive, to work hard across both arenas to ensure the voices of our children and families are listened to, heard, and improvements to services and support networks achieved.