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 what is now 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.

Elizabeth Keig

Co-Chair

My Name is Liz and I am Mum to Florence aged 7 and Bobby aged 5, 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

Co-Chair

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.

Katrina Farrall

Treasurer

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. In December, I accepted an invitation to become the Treasurer of the Steering Group.

Angie Hart

Management Committee

My name is Angie and I live in Chelmsford. I am a full time mum to my son of 22 and my daughter who is 18. My daughter has Low Functioning Autism, behavioural, sensory and communication difficulties as well as Epilepsy.
I worked for 23 years for a London Bank but due to the many issues and demands of life with my daughter I had to give up.

I have first hand knowledge of the daily challenges that come with attaining the correct advice, help and funding for my daughter and this is now even more complex due to the constraints of Government funding.

By helping to strengthen parent/carer involvement across Essex together we can ensure the services provided by our local authority best meets the needs of our disabled young people and their families.

Julia Brunning

Development Worker

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.

Andrea Pereira

Management Committee

I am a parent carer for my 21 year old son who has autism and a learning disability.  He has benefitted from special provision throughout his education and we are currently preparing for him to move into adult services later this year.  Alongside my lived experience, I have been working for SNAP (Special Needs and Parents) as Information Officer and adviser for 17 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 new 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.

When I’m not working I love to spend time with my family, my wonderful grandchildren, and walk with my dogs in the countryside.

Joanne Harrison

Development Worker

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 have volunteered for 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!

Rita Dovey

Development Worker

I live in Epping with my husband and my two beautiful girls aged 10 and 7. Both my daughters are on the autistic spectrum, along with other challenging problems. My eldest is more severe and attends a special school. My youngest attends a mainstream school. Prior to becoming a parent, I went to university to study finance and once graduated I went into full time employment as senior accounts.

Due to the demands of family life and the needs of my eldest daughter, I had to leave my full-time job to become a full-time parent.

When seeking support for my daughters it become apparent that support for your child is not an easy process, especially when they need additional support. I am a proactive parent and have taken any opportunity to learn how to best support my children, by attending courses, using resources that help them develop in the way that is suitable for them. On this journey I have met some wonderful other SEN parents, and it soon came to light that we all are dealing with difficult situations and the lack of support and services there are for SEN families.

I started volunteering for the forum just over a year ago, as I felt passionate about the ethos the forum has. By being part of the forum, it ensures the lived experiences of our families are heard and influence the decisions that affect our families. The more members we have the louder our voice. In February 2019 I was honored to be asked to join the forum team.