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Speakers and workshop facilitators’ biographies

Keynote speakers

Dr Hilary Cottam OBE

Hilary is an internationally acclaimed social entrepreneur working with communities and governments around the world to design collaborative, affordable solutions to big social challenges.  Innovations include new approaches to employment, ageing and chronic health conditions.  Transformation is achieved through an emphasis on human relationships supported by technology.

Hilary’s current work focuses on the need for a ‘fifth social revolution’: to enable widespread flourishing in this century as work, society and our economies go through deep structural change.

Hilary’s book Radical Help on the future of welfare was published to widespread acclaim in June 2018 by Little Brown UK.  Her TED talk on the future of social systems has had over 750,000 views.

Hilary was educated at Oxford, Sussex and the Open University.  She is an Honorary Professor at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose.  Hilary has been recognised by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and was named UK Designer of the Year in 2005 for her work pioneering social design.  She was awarded an OBE in 2019 for services to the welfare state. Hilary lives in London. @HilaryCottam

Madeleine Bunting

Madeleine Bunting is an award winning author. She has written five works of non fiction, most recently, Labours of Love, The Crisis of Care longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2020, and her second novel will be published in 2021. Formerly associate editor and columnist at the Guardian, she is a regular broadcaster. Born in North Yorkshire, she now lives in East London with her family.

Megan Lewis, Ambassador, Shared Lives Plus

Meg joined Shared Lives in August 2016, she lived with her Shared Lives carer, Hayley, until she moved to her own house in January 2018. She still receives day time support from Shared Lives and over-night stays. After spending years in psychiatric hospitals, she is now managing well in society and everyday life thanks to the support of Shared Lives. She is very passionate about spreading awareness about mental health and about the amazing benefits of Shared Lives and hopes that people will have the opportunities that she has.

Tom Milnes, Ambassador, Shared Lives Plus

Tom lives with his Shared Lives carer, Jo, in Keighley, Bradford.  He moved in with Jo in 2018 after a difficult period of mental ill health.  Since living with Jo, Tom has become part of the family and is supported to live his best life.  Tom now works as a Shared Lives Ambassador, using his story to inspire other people about how Shared Lives can make all the difference to someone’s life.  He also now enjoys going to the gym, cooking, and painted the kitchen during lockdown.

Abby Farrell, Ambassador, Shared Lives Plus (Scotland)

I am an Ambassador for Shared Lives Plus and I live in Dunbar, East Lothian. I live with my Shared Lives family, Louise and Andrew and my puppy Derek. I volunteer on Christmas day to help serve Christmas dinner to less fortunate people, and I also volunteer at Sunny Soups which is making soup and it is put into a freezer which anybody can help themselves to.

Kindness to me is helping others and never taking for granted what you have got, Always Be Kind is one of my favourite quotes.

Heather Thomson, Ambassador, Shared Lives Plus (Scotland)

Hi my name is Heather, I have been living with shared lives for 3 years and I stay with Andrea and Layla and Mitchel and Spencer and Kirsty. I like to keep busy and active by riding to the shops and walking my two dogs, Dolly and Hans.

I also work in a cafe support by Cornerstone, with the New Beginnings Group we run the cafe with a little bit of support. My job within the cafe is baking the cakes, it first started as a hobby and now it my full time job and I love it, and miss it.

I love shared lives because it has not given me a placement, it has given me a family.

Emma Parrish-Andrew, Homesharer, Homeshare UK

I have been a Homesharer since August 2019, during which time I’ve lived with three different ladies in their homes. Prior to becoming involved with the Homeshare scheme, I had lived abroad for 24 years returning to the UK to support my daughters who had taken university and college places in Hartpury in Gloucester. The Homeshare scheme has been something which has enabled me to be close to my daughters at this very important stage in their lives and without it, it simply would not have been possible for me to make the move. The whole concept of Homesharing leads to a win-win scenario and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone. I hope that my experiences will lead to many others joining in with this amazing opportunity.

Jennifer Wallace, Head of Policy, Carnegie UK Trust

Jennifer leads the Wellbeing and Towns team at Carnegie UK Trust. An experienced manager and public policy researcher and analyst, her work in the public and voluntary sector has led to positive change in legislation, policy and practice. A prolific writer she has authored more than 40 reports and 3 books and is a recognised expert on wellbeing, public sector reform and community empowerment.

She holds the degrees of MA (Hons) in Social Policy from the University of Edinburgh and MPhil in Social Science Research from the University of Glasgow. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a member of the REF 2021 Main Panel for the Social Sciences, a board member at Barony Housing Association and past Convenor of Evaluation Support Scotland. @Jen_CarnegieUK

Alex Fox OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Shared Lives Plus

Alex Fox OBE FRSA is CEO of Shared Lives Plus, the UK network for Shared Lives and Homeshare. Alex sits on the NHS Assembly and is Vice Chair of the Think Local, Act Personal board, leading its Building Community Capacity network. He chaired the government’s review of health and care charities (2015-18) and co-chaired its  Social Care Learning disability & Autism Advisory Group. He is an Honorary Senior Fellow, Birmingham University, and trustee of the Social Care Institute for Excellence. A new health and care system: escaping the invisible asylum is published by Policy Press. Blog here and tweets: @alexsharedlives


Anna McEwen, Executive Director of Support and Development, Shared Lives Plus

Anna has worked in the social care field for over 20 years in roles in both the voluntary and statutory sectors. Anna’s background is mainly in learning disability services and includes managing Advocacy services across East London, setting up and managing a Shared Lives scheme and as a local authority commissioner of adult social care.

Anna is now Executive Director of Support & Development at Shared Lives Plus where her role involves working across the health and social care sectors to develop and diversify the Shared Lives model in the UK, and also internationally, while supporting our members to continue to offer quality services during a period of significant growth.

Lynette Barlow Finance Director, Shared Lives Plus

Lynette is a qualified CIMA accountant working in the third sector for almost 30 years, specialising in charities for the last 20. She has worked for a wide range of charities, but her heart lies with those offering opportunities and support to young people and vulnerable adults.

Lynette’s role in Shared Lives Plus is to manage the £2.5m budget and all of the finance and back office functions, as well as being an active member of the senior team driving change in social care and embedding Shared Lives and Homeshare across the UK.

Richard Jones, Chair of Board, Shared Lives Plus

Richard trained as a social worker and worked for many years in local government. He was Director of Social Services in St Helens and Executive Director of Adult and Community Services in Lancashire. He has also worked for the Department of Health and was responsible for the inspection of social care services.

Richard has worked in the NHS and in his last role he was an Area Director for NHS England in Lancashire. In 2010/11 Richard was President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. He now works part time as a consultant with care providers and public sector organisations. He is a Trustee at Action on Hearing Loss and Look Ahead Care and Support. He also chairs a group of social Enterprises in the North West working in the areas of domestic abuse, drug and alcohol dependency and homelessness. Richard lives in Cumbria and enjoys spending time walking and seeing his grown up family.

Ian Coleman, Treasurer

Ian read Economics at university and is an Accountant by profession. He was Finance Director of one of the largest metropolitan councils for 15 years and now has his own business advising on financial management and pension fund management. He consults on projects across the public, private and charity sectors. Ian holds a season ticket holder at Manchester United, (one of the rare breed who actually hails from Manchester…!) and enjoys being a member of the National Trust. He has supported us for over 10 years.

Celia Osuagwu, Medicines Optimisation Team Care Quality Commission 

Celia Osuagwu is a Pharmacist Specialist and a member of the Medicines Optimisation Team (MOT) at the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Celia is also part of the Adult Social Care Network (ASCN) – a group of Pharmacists at the CQC who’s work focuses on Adult Social Care. The MOT continually promotes the fair and consistent regulation of medicines across health and social care. In light of the ongoing pandemic, the ASCN are focused on supporting providers to navigate the pressures of the COVID-19 response in relation to medicines optimisation in social care.

Jayne Butler, Law Centre Network

Jayne is Head of Development at Law Centres Network. Jayne has a background managing services across the voluntary sector, including Law Centres, Mental Health and Child Protection services.

Nathan Fitzpatrick, Law Centre Network

Nathan joined LCN from Bristol Law Centre, as Learning and Transformation Lead in June this year. His work at LCN is based in the Development Team, and is particularly focused on helping Law Centres to share best practice with one another; helping Law Centres to adapt to new ways of working post-Covid; and working across the network to support the development of the next generation of social welfare lawyers.

Eilidh Turnbull, Human Rights Officer, British Institute of Human Rights

Eilidh joined BIHR in March 2019 after six months as a project assistant in European Council on Refugees and Exiles. Prior to this she completed legal research internships at the Council of Europe and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute. Eilidh also has a background in asylum support casework. She holds a LLB, a LLM in Human Rights and Migration Law and a Diploma in Professional Legal Practice.

Tom Evans, bild

Tom is Positive Behaviour Support lead at bild (British Institute of Learning Disabilities) where he provides consultancy and support for social care, health and education organisations to implement whole organisation PBS as a member of the senior leadership team. He also manages the PBS helpline which Shared Lives Plus carers and staff have been using since April.

Anna Gillions, bild

Anna is a mindfulness teacher and PBS practitioner, with many years experience in working with vulnerable people and supporting mental health. She is a consultant with CAPBS at bild (British Institute of Learning Disabilities) and has recently been working on the PBS helpline.

A development and wellbeing professional with 25 years’ experience Anna is passionate about the ability of each person, organisation, community and society to achieve positive change.  Anna is committed to inclusive and consultative working that values the unique expertise and contributions of those involved.

Cath Barton, Community Connector – Community Circles

Cath is passionate about person-centred approaches and strives to ensure everyone has quality in their lives, as valued members of their communities with support that makes sense to them. Cath was invited to be part of Community Circles leadership team in 2012 and became the first full time Community Circles Connector, funded by Alternative Futures Group in 2014. Cath is married, with two children and two beagles. She loves family get-togethers and pilates.  Get in touch with Cath at

Gillian Wrigley, Technical Officer, Low Income Tax Reform Group

LITRG is an initiative of the Chartered Institute of Taxation to give a voice to unrepresented taxpayers in the tax and related welfare systems.

Gillian has been employed by LITRG for around seven years, concentrating on the tax, National Insurance and associated state benefit issues arising for those on low incomes and other vulnerable groups. After many years advising the wealthy, she felt it was time to use her skills for people who cannot afford to pay for professional help. Both Shared Lives carers and foster carers are within her areas of interest.

Judith Dugdale, Head of Digital Solutions, Moore and Smalley

Judith work’s with owner managed businesses across the North West and her clients range in size and complexities from new start ups to established and growing businesses across a multitude of sectors. She heads up the Digital Solutions team at MHA Moore and Smalley which is a dedicated team of people who help business owners improve their inhouse financial reporting function and bookkeeping efficiency, as well as providing proactive support to help those businesses improve their profit margins and reduce their tax bills. The Digital Solutions team provide set-up, training and support on cloud accounting software and business improvement apps as well as ongoing advisory services.

Mark Brown

Mark has worked in and around mental health for 14 years. He founded mental health magazine One in Four, was Centre for Mental Health’s first writer in residence, is one half of the duo producing mental health podcasts for BBC Ouch and is currently working closely with the National Survivor User Network.  He was involved in the creation of DocReady (, an innovative web app that helps people get ready to visit their GP to discuss their mental health for the first time. He writes and speaks regularly on mental health, social change and technology including for The Guardian, Mental Health Today, Prospect, Shortlist and the i-paper. He is @markoneinfour on twitter.

Caroline Cooke, Founding Director of Share and Care Homeshare and Dementia Friends Champion

Caroline is the Founding Director of Share and Care Homeshare. Share and Care is a Community Interest Company (CIC) which has been matching and supporting live-in Homeshare arrangements in London and across the UK since 2006. As well as 70% of Share and Care’s Householders living with various forms and levels of dementia, Caroline also has personal experience as her father had Vascular Dementia. This led Caroline to train as a Dementia Friends Champion.

Phoebe Rowell, Communications Manager, Shared Lives Plus

Phoebe is CIPR qualified and has 10 years’ experience in stakeholder engagement, media relations, change and crisis communications. She brings her enthusiasm, strategic thinking and tenacity to strengthening our relationship with Members and raising awareness of Shared Lives and Homeshare so more people can enjoy them. Her previous experience includes PR and communications for national and local housing associations, PR agency for Department of Health and Scope, the national disability charity.

Nick Gordon, Senior Communications Officer, Shared Lives Plus

Nick has 20 years’ experience in marketing and communications. He has worked for a variety of organisations and sectors, including health, transport and leisure, overseeing marketing and PR campaigns on regional and national level. Nick’s role started as the communications lead for Shared Lives in health, as part of a four-year programme in partnership with NHS England, to demonstrate how Shared Lives can support people with intermediate or long-term health needs. As well as supporting Phoebe and Michael, Nick now helps to raise awareness of Shared Lives Plus strategic support services nationally, as well as delivering any communications projects within strategic support.

Mark Gallagher, Strategic Advice and Support Delivery Manager, Shared Lives Plus

Mark has worked for Shared Lives Plus since 2014 and is currently responsible for the management and delivery of our strategic advice. Before his current role, he was responsible for membership support, advice and guidance to Shared Lives schemes across the UK and was the national lead for Shared Lives with stakeholders including CQC and the Department for Health. He brings a wealth of expertise in Shared Lives, supporting and empowering disabled people, service improvement and development.

Lynne Harrison, Head of Membership, Shared Lives Plus

Lynne has been at Shared Lives Plus since 2014 and was appointed to Head of Membership in July this year, she formerly held the post of Operations Manager.   As Head of Membership she has responsibility for overseeing the support, information and guidance provided to Shared Lives Schemes and Shared Lives carers.   Lynne is also responsible for looking at how Shared Lives Plus can develop, maintain and share good practice to raise the quality of Shared Lives across the UK and to ensure that Shared Lives members’ voices feed into and influence everything we do.

Lynne’s background is varied and she has worked in private and public sector.  At Liverpool City Council she had responsibility for implementing cultural and change management programmes; including the refocusing of some customer facing services.  Lynne has always been passionate about working directly with people to deliver services to improve and enrich their lives.

Andy Cooke, Shared Lives carer Champion, Shared Lives Plus

After a successful career in teaching Andy became a Shared Lives Carer in 2010 when he and his family began sharing their lives with James.

We all live in Hertfordshire sharing Bronte the dog, who accompanies us almost everywhere we go! Andy is a Shared Lives Plus carer Champion working in the south east of England. James is a Shared Lives Ambassador, and we often work together both nationally and locally, speaking at conferences and running workshops.

In 2016 Andy founded ‘Local Social’, a Community Interest Company that supports people to connect with each other for friendship and activity, in East Hertfordshire. Bronte is a trained’ Dogs for Good’ volunteer event dog and brings joy to lots of people.

Andy is a member of TLAP Community Building Network, on the Board of Trustees for Broxbourne and East Herts CVS and continues to expand his community building work with ‘Local Social’.

Steve Collis, Shared Lives carer Champion, Shared Lives Plus

Steve has been a Shared Lives carer Champion since February 2019.   Without question, caring is in Steve’s blood and over the last 27 years he has worked in formal nursing and care environments.

Steve has a passion for the caring profession and wants to inspire others to be better, he says that “Being part of a shared lives community is very satisfying and so rewarding, especially when you know you can make a difference. I love nothing more than knowing that I have helped carers in their daily job role and inspire them to be the best they can be, and I hope I always inject a bit of humour in what can be a very difficult vocation.”

Helen Piscieroni, Shared Lives carer Champion, Shared Lives Plus

Helen has been a shared lives carer for Greenwich Shared Lives for 30 years, caring for 3 gentlemen in her home for 27 of those years.   Helen has worked tirelessly to make the gentlemen a part of her family which she says has, at times has been challenging but has given her more joy than she could have ever imagined.   Helen joined Shared Lives Plus in February 2019 as a Shared Lives Plus carer champion.   Helen has supported many Shared Lives carers from across the UK and says “my time with Shared Lives Plus has been and continues to be a great experience knowing that having a simple “chat”  or taking “that call” can help make a true difference to these wonderful people. Long may it continue, and I hope that my 30 years of experience will help and inspire future carers”.

Ben Dunne, Development Officer, Homeshare UK

Ben recently joined Shared Lives Plus in May 2020 and is part of the Homeshare UK team. He is responsible for helping to build the profile of Homeshare, supporting the UK network of Homeshare providers, removing the barriers preventing people from taking part and developing resources to support the network to deliver Homeshare services. Ben is also responsible for growing the Homeshare sector in the East of England, so that anyone wanting to benefit from Homeshare can participate. Before joining Shared Lives Plus, Ben worked in the public and voluntary sectors with a focus on stakeholder engagement, public consultation and developing volunteering schemes.

Alice Williams, Development Officer, Homeshare UK

Alice Joined Shared Lives Plus in June 2018 as part of the Homeshare UK team. Key responsibilities include developing the Homeshare movement across the UK, raising awareness and supporting it’s network members. Alice has over 10 years’ experience working in the third sector as a marketing and communications professional as well as supporting a network of social businesses. Providing tools and guidance for businesses trading for social good to start-up and grow, she believes in the importance of sharing best practice, peer learning and developing a thriving and supportive network. The learning and knowledge she has gained from Homeshare and Shared Lives has made her passionate about housing and social care and bringing innovative solutions to many more people.

Ali Miller, Development Officer for Domestic Abuse and Modern Slavery, Shared Lives Plus

Ali’s background is primarily in managing services and projects for disabled and socially excluded children and young people. Ali was Shared Lives Plus’s Development Officer for Young People in Transition from 2017-2019 and is now leading on our Domestic Abuse and Modern-Day Slavery projects. Ali works closely with specialist organisations to develop the Shared Lives model from a trauma- informed perspective and is dedicated to involving survivors and people with lived experience in the designing and implementation of projects and services. She is working closely with partners, such as SafeLives, Hestia, Crisis, Women’s Aid and BAWSO to ensure Shared Lives keeps the needs of survivors at the forefront of developing our model for people with specific support needs.

Rebecca Viney Wood, Policy Officer, Shared Lives Plus

Becky joined Shared Lives Plus in November 2019 as the organisations’ first Policy Officer. Prior to working for Shared Lives Plus, Becky accrued experience across the third sector, regulation and academia. This includes working as a human rights observer in the Middle East and completing a PhD in refugee history at the University of Manchester. As Policy Officer, Becky is enthusiastic about keeping Shared Lives Plus members updated on policy issues which may affect them. She is also passionate about representing the voices of both Shared Lives and Homeshare at the local and national policy levels.

Cathy McSweeney, Support and Quality Officer, Shared Lives Plus

Cathy has worked in a variety of social care and educational settings, with people with a range of disabilities, over the last 25 years. Before Shared Lives Plus, she was part of the set up and running of an independent Shared Lives Scheme in Suffolk and Norfolk for 8 years.

Cathy now works as part of the membership team in providing support, information and guidance to Shared Lives Schemes across the country. This includes monitoring the Google Group forum, supporting regional and national meetings and supporting Shared Lives schemes to access and use the My Shared Life outcome tool.