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Through keynote presentations, discussions and concurrent sessions, we will explore the current national SEND priorities and ambitions to improve outcomes and reduce inequalities for babies and young children with SEND.

We are privileged to be joined by such eminent speakers


Our Speakers
Dame Rachel de Souza
Children’s Commissioner for England

Dame Rachel was appointed Children’s Commissioner in 2021. In this role she has unique legislative powers, is an advocate for children across the country, and represents children’s needs across Government.
In role, Dame Rachel has completed the largest-ever survey of children ‘The Big Ask’ with over half-a-million responses. This work led to a commission from the Government to look at representing children’s voices in the Online Safety Bill, an ongoing piece of work to drive up Attendance in schools, and was asked to complete the Family Review by the Government.  

Professor Simon Kenny OBE
National Clinical Director for Children and Young People
NHS England

Professor Simon Kenny is a paediatric and neonatal surgeon at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool. As Clinical Director he played a key role in delivering Alder Hey’s strategic plan to become a world-leading children’s hospital including moving to the multiple award-winning new hospital Alder Hey in the Park. Since 2017 Simon has been the national clinical lead for paediatric surgery in the GIRFT programme.
In 2019, Simon was appointed as National Clinical Director for Children and Young People and Chair of the Women’s and Children’s Specialised Commissioning Programme of Care within NHS England.
He was awarded an OBE for services to Paediatric Surgery in the King’s New Year’s Honours List 2024.
Professor Monica Lakhanpaul
Professor of Integrated Community Child Health
Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, University College London

Professor Monica Lakhanpaul is Professor of Integrated Community Child Health at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and an academic, clinician, science communicator and poet. She is also a Consultant Paediatrician at Whittington Whittington NHS Trust, PPI lead for the Great Ormond Street Biomedical Research Centre and  Global Strategic Academic Advisor (India).

Professor Lakhanpaul focuses on using collaborative, participatory research methods incorporating the arts at the intersections of health, education and the environment in order to optimise the health and well-being of children, adolescents and families affected by social and structural inequalities with the aim of influencing practice and policy.

Kenny Gibson MBE
Deputy Director for NHS Safeguarding

Kenny is a proud nurse and midwife with 43 years experience of working alongside Health Visitors and teams. Kenny is currently the national head of safeguarding for the NHS and proudly stands shoulder-to-shoulder with all health visitors as they offer their local practitioner intelligence and actively celebrate their learning from excellence.

Kenny has been actively contributing to all the very recent child safeguarding consultations including special educational needs & disabilities, Working Together and information sharing. Kenny’s aim is to bear witness to the voice of lived experience and carry the key messages from local practitioner intelligence.

June Rogers MBE
Independent Practitioner & Consultant
Down Syndrome UK

June has over 35 years of experience as a Specialist Children’s Bladder and Bowel nurse. Following retirement, she is now working with Down Syndrome UK, supporting families on their toilet training journey and empowering them to manage common continence problems such as constipation effectively.

June has published and presented widely and won several awards for her work. Working directly with over 4,000 families enabled June to proactively develop an effective and adaptable toilet skill development programme and relevant resources. As a result, children with Down syndrome can be toilet trained, age appropriately in the majority of cases, and start school in #pants4school

Jenny Coles
National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panelist

Jenny Coles is a qualified social worker and has been a senior manager in Local Authority Children’s Services since 1997. She has worked extensively in children’s safeguarding and has also managed, Education and Special Educational Needs and Disability. Jenny became Director of Children’s Services Hertfordshire County Council in 2010 and retired in August 2021.

Jenny was President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) from April 2020 – April 2021. She is an independent chairperson and scrutineer of 2 Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships and is currently a member of the National Children’s Safeguarding Practice Review Panel.

Alexis Quinn
Expert by Experience
Lived experience of autistic pregnancy and mother of neurodivergent children

Alexis Quinn is a former schoolteacher, professional athlete and author of two books: her ground-breaking memoir, Unbroken, and Autistic & Expecting, a guide for autistic parents-to-be and those supporting them.

Alexis speaks on neurodivergence, autistic pregnancy, trauma, and mental well-being. She works as Manager of the Restraint Reduction Network, is a mother to two neurodivergent children and is finishing an MSc in Psychotherapy at the University of Greenwich.

Pilar Cloud
Action Cerebral Palsy

As CEO of Action Cerebral Palsy, Pilar works to improve the awareness and understanding of cerebral palsy and its impact on children and young people with the condition in order to foster earlier identification and improved pathways of care, education and support for these children and their families.

We are fortunate to be able to collaborate with healthcare, education and social care professionals as well as with local and national policymakers.

After a 20+ year career in EdTech, Pilar moved to the 3rd Sector, most recently as the Executive Manager of a free early intervention service in the Southeast.

Charlotte Wilson
Specialist Trainer, Empowering Parents Empowering Communities
South London & Maudsley NHS FT

My NHS career started as a Registered Sick Children’s Nurse in Belfast, then a Midwife and Specialist Neonatal Intensive Care nurse. After a career break I moved to parenting education, delivering parenting programmes and training facilitators, before becoming a Children’s Centre Manager.

I have been a trainer with Empowering Parents Empowering Communities (EPEC) for 7 years and am involved with co-producing our peer-led Autism and ADHD parenting programme manuals. I supervise EPEC Parent Group Leaders delivering our Being a Parent series of courses, plan and deliver training and support licenced EPEC Hubs nationally.

Mellissa Mackell
Service Manager

Mellissa Mackell has worked with KIDS since September 2013 and became a full-time Service Manager for KIDS Yorkshire in 2022. During that time she has worked tirelessly with families in Wakefield to help to improve services for families. Mellissa has also been responsible for developing and delivering training to both parents and professionals across the region.

Mellissa jointly set up a crisis prevention service in Wakefield in April 2020 that to date has supported over 1200 families. She has also been involved in the development of the new national training package “Changing Conversations Together” in partnership with the iHV.

Helen Moreland
Lead Clinical Nurse Specialist
SPIRES Cleft Team (Oxford and Salisbury NHS Foundation Trusts)

I am the Lead Clinical Nurse Specialist and have worked with the SPIRES Cleft Centre team since 2021. Prior to my relocation to Salisbury, I was the Lead Clinical Nurse Specialist for the North Thames Cleft Service at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where I had worked since 2013.

I became interested in Cleft care while studying for my Masters in Nursing Science in Nottingham and have supported overseas Cleft provision and training in India, Bangladesh and Lebanon. I strive to provide an excellent and equitable service to all, supporting families from cleft diagnosis through to primary surgery.

Jeannette Parker
Health Visitor
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

Jeannette began her nursing career more than 25 years ago as a paediatric nurse specialising in neonates and training/working in teaching hospitals such as University College Hospital and Great Ormond Street. A role in infant feeding led away from the medical model towards family-centred care and preventing ill health and reducing health inequalities.

Jeannette found her passion in health visiting and became a SEND champion, believing that all children deserve the best start in life. Jeannette is committed to working alongside families, empowering them with empathy and compassion.

Chris Read
Expert by Experience
Lived experience of father to a child with Down syndrome, songwriter and half of musical-comedy duo ‘Harry and Chris’

Chris is a songwriter, producer, and father of three. When his son Theo was born, Chris wrote the song “Every Atom of You” about the blessing of his Down syndrome and their journey as a family navigating his diagnosis.

Chris has written songs for Netflix, The CW Television Network, and Audible. As half of musical-comedy duo ‘Harry and Chris’, he wrote and performed for Sky’s The Russell Howard Hour’, and NBC’s ‘Bring The Funny’. The duo also wrote and performed multiple times for BBC Radio 2, 3 and 4, and wrote and toured four full-length musical comedy shows.

Kirsty Jacques
Health Visitor Clinical Lead for SEND
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

Kirsty qualified as a Midwife in 2012 before commencing her career as a Health Visitor in 2014.  Since June 2021 Kirsty has been a Health Visitor Clinical Lead for SEND in Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust and has been the iHV expert advisor for SEND since September 2022.

As a Health Visitor Clinical Leads for SEND Kirsty is involved in developing processes and pathways, delivering training, and supporting the PHN 0 – 5 years’ service to provide SEND provision.

Kirsty is passionate about early recognition and intervention to improve outcomes for children with SEND and working in partnership with other agencies.

Nikki Freeman
Health Visitor Clinical Lead for SEND
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

Beginning her nursing career in 2013, training as a children’s nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Nikki commenced her SCPHN in 2016 before joining Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust in 2017, and becoming a Health Visitor Clinical Lead for SEND in June 2021.

In this role Nikki has been involved in developing SEND processes, pathways, and delivering training and support for the PHN 0-5 years’ service SEND provision. Nikki has been an iHV expert advisor for SEND since September 2022.

Nikki’s passion continues to be providing the right support at the right time to improve outcomes through early recognition and intervention.

Dr Inyang Takon
Consultant Paediatrician<

Consultant Neurodevelopmental Paediatrician with 19 years experience working at the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust. Special Interest in FASD, ADHD, Epilepsy Tic disorders, and Neurobehavioural conditions in children.

Dr Takon served as a Specialist Expert on the FASD NICE Quality Standards Committee. Dr Takon is also part of the RCPCH FASD faculty delivering training to Paediatricians regularly. She has delivered training to Midwifery students at the University of Hertfordshire and City University London.

Dr Takon is the Quality Advisor on the Child Mental Health Committee, RCPCH and she is also a trainer and appraiser in her Trust.

Nicola Enoch
Down Syndrome UK

When Nicola Enoch’s son Tom was born with Down syndrome, she realised how negatively influenced she was by outdated attitudes and perceptions around disability.

Nicola has gone onto become a leading advocate and campaigner, passionate about ensuring expectant parents have access to the information and support they deserve, delivering the TEDx talk ‘How I nearly terminated my son through ignorance’.

Nicola formed Down Syndrome UK of which Positive about Down syndrome is pioneering in maternity care. She is Vice Chair of the NDSPG providing the secretariat to the APPG on Down Syndrome, pivotal in supporting the Down Syndrome Act 2022.

Marie Stanley, MCSP
Senior Paediatric Physiotherapist and Training Lead
The National Bobath Cerebral Palsy Centre

I qualified as a physiotherapist in 2000 and following a relatively short period of working as a rotational therapist in the acute setting, I moved quickly into community paediatrics. From here I moved to the Bobath Centre and continue to work there today.

My role involves organising and teaching on our training courses. In 2014 I became a Bobath tutor and in 2023 I became a Bobath Senior tutor. I also provide treatment to a wide variety of clients, from babies to young adults who have cerebral palsy or allied neurological conditions.

Jo Harrison
Director and East of England Representative
National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF)

I am a parent of 2 children who are neurodiverse, and I am neurodiverse myself, with a diagnosis of ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia.

My background was in finance and civil litigation working in London; however, I went back to university in 2015 and now I hold 1st Class Early Years Degree (child development age 0-8) and Education PG Cert. I have also completed IPSEA SEND Law Levels 1,2 and 3.

I have been involved in Parent Carer Forums since 2019, working locally with Essex Family Forum and appointed Director and EOE representative for NNPCF in August 2023
Cathy Gough
Highly Specialist Speech & Language Therapist in Early Years
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

Cathy Gough is a Highly Specialist Speech & Language Therapist in Early Years from Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust. Cathy’s role involves working with the wider workforce to highlight and promote the importance of early intervention to ensure that supporting communication in the early years remains a priority for us all.

Cathy has a passion for empowering families and professionals to support speech, language and communication development right from the start. Cathy helps to shape the delivery of the SLT Service, to enable early access to advice and support, therefore helping to improve outcomes for children.

Laura Black
Highly Specialist Speech & Language Therapist
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

Laura Black is a Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist from Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust. She works within a multidisciplinary team to diagnose autism, and provides speech and language therapy for autistic children, and children with social communication needs.

Laura has a specialist interest in providing neurodiverse-affirmative approaches and interventions, and promoting these messages to families and the wider workforce. Laura supports the Children and Young People’s Therapies team to design therapy pathways and develops training for parents/carers and health and education professionals.

Rachel Olivier
Specialist Speech & Language Therapist
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

Rachel Olivier is a Speech and Language Therapist specialising in Early Years, Speech Sound Disorders, cleft/non-cleft velopharyngeal dysfunction and Selective Mutism. Rachel is passionate about early intervention and empowering parents and the wider workforce to achieve better outcomes for children.

Rachel delivers training to early years professionals and is involved in service development to improve evidence-based practice in the care pathway for speech sound disorders. Rachel is a link therapist for cleft/non-cleft velopharyngeal dysfunction within the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, working closely with regional cleft centres to provide effective support to children across Hertfordshire.

Lucy Tomlinson
Health Visitor
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

I began my nursing career as a qualified adult nurse working on the labour ward scrubbing in for any emergency procedures, I then went onto orthopaedic and general surgery wards but knew that I always wanted to pursue a career in Health Visiting after spending some time with a local team as a student nurse.

I have been qualified for 2 years, I have learnt a lot and am still learning, and I am also the mental health champion for my team.

Pritrica Webber 
Health Visitor
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust

Pritrica qualified as a Midwife in 2007 and worked firstly in Birmingham and then at Northwick Park Hospital. After 8 years in Midwifery, Pritrica completed the SCPHN course in 2015 and has been working as a Health Visitor with Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust since.

Pritrica enjoys her role supporting families and delivering the Healthy Child Programme, empowering them to give their children the best start in life. Pritrica is also a Neonatal Blood Spot Screening Champion for her team.

Leanne Gelder – Sponsor Breakfast Session Speaker
Specialist Advisor of Quality Improvement & Reducing Restrictive Practice Lead
National Mental Health, Learning Disability and Autism Quality Transformation Programme
NHS England

I am a Specialist Advisor and registered mental health nurse working for NHS England and leading on reducing restrictive practice across mental health, learning disability and autism. I have over 20 years experience working in and leading Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHs) in both the community and in hospitals. I have also trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) skills and Non-Violent Resistance (NVR). I spent some time working as a Nurse Consultant specialising in Trauma Informed Care and have a postgraduate diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and a postgraduate qualification in Leadership and Management.

Kath Marginson – Sponsor Breakfast Session Speaker
Senior Project Manager: Violence Prevention and Reduction Team
NHS England

I’m a Registered Mental Health Nurse that specialises in violence prevention following the completion of a BSc in Professional Practice. My experience includes leading on and training staff in the prevention and reduction of violence and restrictive interventions, utilising a public health and trauma informed approach.

I currently work on a national programme of preventing and reducing violence and abuse to the NHS workforce through partnership working with Integrated Care Boards, their communities, and the wider health and care system.

I also work with the Lancashire Violence Reduction Network, delivering Trauma Awareness training to NHS Staff across the Lancashire footprint.

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