Our Team

Safer Together is passionate about service user voice and co-production. That is why we have a number of Experts by Experience who are able to share their lived experiences and survivor stories to help support training, inform policy or project work, or to act as key note speakers at events or conferences.

Nikki Holmes

Founder

After graduating with a degree in criminology and psychology, Nikki began her carer with West Midlands Police where she served as a police officer in a variety of different roles. It was whilst working as an Integrated Offender Manager (IOM) that she developed a greater understanding of the issues of exploitation, serious youth violence and trauma.

Nikki recognised that as much as she had a passion for policing, she wanted to use the knowledge she had acquired to support children and young people, rather than as she described ” be complicit in punishing them for their abuse.” This resulted in her taking the brave step of leaving a job she thought she would do for life.

The next step for Nikki was to work in the field of substance misuse, where she managed and developed a young person’s substance misuse service in Warwickshire. She led the development of Hidden Harm Pathways, ensuring that children of parents dependent on substances were no longer invisible and in receipt of the support they needed. This work was recognised by the CQC as an exemplar of outstanding and innovative practice that should be replicated nationally.

In May 2017, Nikki joined the CQC as a Children’s services inspector where she led and contributed to a range of National Review processes including LA SEND inspections, JTAI’s and Children Looked After and Safeguarding (CLAS) reviews. She also managed a portfolio of children’s homes, supporting them to meet the complex needs of children in a way that was responsive and trauma informed. She remains a bank Children’s Services Inspector today. (CSI)

In 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Nikki launched Safer Together. “For me, the pandemic was a moment of clarity, a moment where I reflected on what I learnt as a CSI and a moment where I thought I want to share the learning to support fatigued practitioners and systems to navigate the complexities of the world our children live in, to come together, work together to make society safer.”

In addition to heading Safer Together, Nikki is also an accredited SILP reviewer and author of Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs), Safeguarding Adult Reviews (SARs) and Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews (CSPRs). She is also a researcher, and a visiting lecturer of criminology and psychology.

In the little spare time she has, she fills her cup by spending as much time with her two boys, Joe and Flynn, the two not so little people who inspire her every day to be better and do better so that their world, and the world for their children is a safer, fairer and a more compassionate place.

Stephanie Stannard

Administrator and training co-ordinator

Steph has been supporting Safer Together with all our administration tasks for the last year. She is also our training co-ordinator who arranges and manages our busy training diary! Steph is an ex-teacher, so has excellent knowledge of safeguarding, working with children and young adults and understands all too well the pressure they face in our current social climate. Prior to working in education, Steph worked as PA and Office Manager for a variety of businesses, amassing a wealth of experience in business administration. It is fair to say that Steph is the glue that holds us all together!

Specialist Professional Advisors

The Safer Together Team are supported by a wider team of lived experience professionals and specialist advisors.

Rebecca Hogan

MSc, BA (Hons), DHT, DCP, DCC

A highly qualified and experienced professional with extensive knowledge and expertise of working across large multiple private and public sectors. She has successfully achieved a variety of academic awards including a Master’s in Public Health, Bachelor’s Degree of Science and Nursing.

She is a natural innovator with a unique style to inspire, shape, and motivate individuals and organisations to achieve greatness by taking a creative, energising, solution focused approach to accomplish long term sustainable change. My passion and ultimate ambition are to improve long-term outcomes for all children and young people, promoting an early intervention and prevention principle; breaking cycles of reactive models and replacing with proactive method by applying a robust change management approach. I apply a unique method that captivates the principles of PRINCE2 and LEAN to guarantee systemic quality improvement and long- term sustainable change.

All children should have the same opportunity to grow and flourish living a fulfilled, successful, happier life. I believe that services working directly with children, young people and families are in a privileged position to enhance this notion and develop our future generation. My professional portfolio is exceptionally vast, operating at the intersection of my values and ambition to improve outcomes for children and young people. Ranging from operational delivery as a Health Visitor, working directly with families.
Experienced in strategic leadership and senior management roles within Integrated Care Boards (ICBs), including leading and designing a new 0-19 service. Transforming maternity and neonatal provision across LMNS, focusing from the point of pre-conception to reception and beyond.

 

An independent Transformational and Mind Management consultant providing specialist services, including coaching, mentoring, training and system improvement to enhance provision. A key driver in improving organisational systems and processes at all levels. Promoting a strong infrastructure and interface across all local areas to ensure children, young people and families are at the centre of all decision making, provision is having a positive impact and improving outcomes. Taking a forward- thinking approach to ensure commissioned services are performing to a high, safe, and effective provision, operationally and strategically. Having a positive impact for all families, reducing inequalities, and enhancing better long-term outcomes.

A specialist children’s services bank inspector working nationally to drive forward improvements on a large scale for children and young people. Highly level of skill and proficiency to assess, analysing and evaluating local area service provision across multiple sectors quickly and conclusively. Establishing strengthens and areas for further development to improve the lived experience and outcomes for children and young people.

Rebecca “Beckie” Richards

Senior researcher and trauma informed specialist consultant

We are delighted to have Beckie working with us. Beckie has an extensive 22-years’ experience of working within the safeguarding arena and spent most of her career supporting adults within a criminal justice setting and working at a strategic level within a community based young person’s drug and alcohol service. Beckie’s professional experiences led to her amassing a wealth of knowledge about setting up safe and effective specialist services. One of her greatest passion is in co-production and engaging with and empowering children and adults to be actively involved in service design. She also has acted in the role of Safeguarding Lead for several organisations where she played a pivotal role in Quality Assurance, undertaking complex audits, and the analysis of data to develop strategic reports that influenced and underpinned commissioning and tendering processes. Beckie’s passion project is raising awareness for the need to change society’s current perceptions of victims and victim blaming; along with a drive to support organisations to develop their knowledge of trauma informed approaches.

Joe Cole

Specialist Professional Advisor

Joe has over 20 years’ experience working with children, young people, and adults in the Children & Families sector. Early in his teen years, Joe realised that he enjoys sharing and helping others – but with a specific passion for helping individuals overcome personal barriers. Following this path, eventually led Joe to university to become a teacher and beyond that, seek an education and qualification in counselling and Coaching (NLP). After working with Birmingham City Council for 10 years and numerous support services, Joe felt it was the right time to start a new journey through The RightPath Organisation. Joe is very proud and privileged to partner with SaferTogether, an organisation that we know shares visions, values, and passion for the futures of our children and young people and the part we can play.

Gareth Rogers

Specialist Professional Advisor

Gareth has worked in the education and coaching sector for fast approaching 20 years. Gareth is a qualified PE Teacher who spent 14 years working in schools, FE and HE.
Gareth is now a partner in The Right Path Organisation, where their focus is supporting organisations, schools, staff, students and young people with any barriers they are experiencing in their personal or professional development.

Jack Cudworth

Specialist Professional Advisor

Jack has been working with young people for over 15 years, from mentoring to managing services. 2 years ago, Jack decided to use his years of experience and create his own business: The Mentoring Project – training and developing professionals in Children’s services covering areas such as exploitation, youth violence and self harm. They also offer a mentoring service to hound people, where they support their  many areas to develop those life skills that may not be taught in depth in schools such as violence towards girls, recognising exploitation as well as many more topics.

They have now been working alongside Safer Together for 2 years in many areas from youth clubs to mentoring programmes. Jack enjoys the collaborative work with Nikki as we share so many of the same core values in developing and training adults and Children to progress their futures.

Laura Darby

Specialist Professional Advisor

Laura started her working career in a Children’s Centre, which triggered her passion for learning about child development and and safeguarding. She soon progressed to a Family Support Worker role, then to a Senior Family Support Worker where she worked with the most vulnerable families frontline. Laura performed this role for 5 years and completed a Foundation Degree in Management of Care and Person-Centred Counselling Certificate. Laura says she has always enjoyed learning whilst working and has found it most beneficial in her career and self-development. Laura then left and joined the police in 2014, as a Case Investigator in the Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIU) and also as a Special Constable, now holding the rank of Special Sergeant. Upon leaving the CAIU, she worked in a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) as a Specialised Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) and worked with under 21’s who had been sexually abused and had protected characteristics. Whilst working as a specialist ISVA, she completed a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Law: Child Forensic Studies, as well as completing qualifications in Family Therapy and trauma.
Whilst she excelled in her ISVA role, it came to a point where she felt like she could be doing more for victims. In 2021, Laura founded her own organisation; The Life Skills Mentoring Academy, specialising in supporting those who had been subjected to all forms of trauma with the aim of helping young people with their challenges. Laura is a NLP Life Coach and Mentor and mainly works with young people 1-1, but also delivers information sessions on Keeping Safe, County Lines, Mindset, Basic Mental Health and more.

Joanne Caffrey

Specialist Professional Advisor in control restraint and safer custody

Joanne has an impressive and extensive background in Criminal Justice and is an award-winning trainer. She is an expert in challenging behaviour, the use of control and restraint and safer custody. Her accredited training has supported professionals from a variety of sectors, including the secure sector, education health and care. In addition to her work as a trainer, Joanne is also an experienced Expert Witness and has acted as an Expert Witness for the Independent Office for Police Complaints. (IOPC) Joanne has also acted as a Specialist Professional Advisor for BBC Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live to support their investigations into the use of control and restraint in response to challenging behaviour. Between 2018-19 Joanne acted as Director for Freedom from Abuse. She is also a member of the Safeguarding Association.

Ann Seal

Specialist Professional Advisor in Protective Behaviours and Harm Reduction

Ann is an accredited Protective Behaviours trainer since 2001. She has worked for Warwickshire County Council Education and Safeguarding Service from 2003-2020 and established and managed the Protective Behaviours based Taking Care scheme in 1999. This multi-agency scheme was promoted by the Local Children’s Safeguarding Board (now partnership) to help primary schools across Warwickshire develop their approach to safeguarding. Ann, who is also a qualified nurse, health visitor and lecturer, trains over 1000 professionals in Protective Behaviours each year from a variety of sectors and is passionate about supporting a range of organisations to support professionals to create safer environments for all.

Bonnie Towe

Specialist Professional Advisor in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

Bonnie is a experienced therapeutic social worker, works with the Autistic Society and is a member if the Protective Behaviours Consortium. Bonnie is also the mother of an autistic daughter. She recognises first hand the under identification of Autistic Spectrum Conditions in females, and the range of emotions that a diagnosis can trigger – guilt, denial, anger, fear. Bonnie has developed a range of therapeutic coaching sessions for parents and care givers of autistic girls, to empower them and support them when support is non-forthcoming, fragmented, or simply too overwhelming. All coaching programmes have been co-produced with her daughter and encompass her lived experiences of Autism. A real expert in this often misunderstood field, Bonnie is available to support your organisation become better equipped at identifying Autistic Spectrum Conditions in females, responding to their needs and being better advocates for their futures.

Gill Sommers

Specialist Professional Advisor in Education and PREVENT

Gill has a wealth of experience in education and has been providing expert consultancy and training to teachers and senior leaders in the education sector for a number of years. She is available to provide safeguarding and PREVENT training to Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSL), staff, volunteers and trustees. She can also support with audits, OFSTED preparation and action planning for improvement.

Angela McMillan

Specialist Professional Advisor in Social Emotional and Mental Health and Wellbeing

Angela has a wealth of experience working as a counsellor, psychotherapist and trainer in educational establishments. She is also the founder and owner of Elemental Health and has a successful private therapy practice. Her expertise in Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) has enabled her to support a diverse range of organisations including MIND, The Terence Higgins Trust and the YMCA. Anxiety is Angela’s specialism and she is passionate about supporting young people and professionals to develop practical coping strategies to enable them to support themselves and each other. Her work is centred on the belief that with the right understanding and support, everyone can fulfil their potential. Angela also is a Youth Mental First Aid trainer, and is on hand to support schools and educational settings to achieve this qualification to be better placed to support pupils who have SEMH needs. She also recognises that professionals are encountering much more complexity, and provides support and a safe space to enable them to discuss their concerns and anxieties.

Lucy Marie Russell

Specialist Professional Advisor in Sexual Health, Child Sexual Exploitation and Co-production

Lucy Marie Russell is an independent consultant specialising in a range of issues from women and girls’ rights, gender, equality and social justice to end gender based violence and tackling the exploitation of young people. She has a career history of tackling sexual exploitation, from uncovering the sexual abuse of girls by gangs in Oxfordshire to tackling cross border trafficking of girls in Nepal and calling out the sexual exploitation of girls at work in Uganda. She also specialises in youth participation, supporting the most vulnerable to take part in decisions that affect them, for example young people in the criminal justice system. Before becoming freelance, Lucy was Head of Girls’ Rights and Youth at Plan International and Senior Campaigns Manager at the Howard League for Penal Reform. Before that she created the campaigns for girls in work at the Young Women’s Trust and was Chair of People and Plant, largest student network in the UK campaigning for social and environmental justice. More recently she was Deputy Co-Chair of the UK Government’s Period Poverty Task Force. She is a skilled campaigner with a history of creating ground breaking campaigns for vulnerable youth and girls’ rights in the UK and globally. She has secured changes to the law and policy regarding teenage pregnancy, sex and relationships education, young people in the criminal justice system and more. She founded Plan International’s UK work including The State of Girls’ Rights in the UK report and there she ran campaigns to end period poverty and taboos and street harassment.

Imtiaz Kala

Specialist Professional Advisor

Imitaz has over 25 years experience in the education, local authority and vountary sectors. He is a certified PREVENT trainer, and provides wider training on organisational culture, cultural competence, and change management. With a background in teaching and SEND, Imitaiz is skilled in utilising diverse learning methods to assist inclusive learning. Imtiaz is a Safeguarding Trustee and Governor and has extensive experience of leading diverse teams at senior management level. This experience means that Imtiaz is able to provide strategic insight into the effective leadership of teams, the development and delivery of development plans, audits and policy, and can support regulatory inspection preparation.

Collete Ford

Specialist Professional Advisor

Collete has a wealth of experience in safeguarding practice, working in both early years and the charity sector. She has particular expertise in Quality Assurance, developing audits and working practice to ensure compliance with both Ofsted and CQC standards. Collete is available to write bespoke sector specific safeguarding training to practitioners, volunteers and trustees. She is also able, via consultancy, to support a range of organisations from all all sectors to develop organisational policy and practice to strengthen and improve safeguarding practice.

Lived Experience Experts

We are passionate about achieving positive change and informing social change initiatives and believe that the best way to achieve our aim is to work with those who have “lived experience” of the issues we are committed to exploring, understanding and resolving. Therefore, our skilled, knowledgeable, and highly experienced professional consultants work in collaboration with a diverse range of individuals who have lived experience of a multiplicity of societal issues.

We call upon their personal expertise to inform and strengthen the efficacy and impact of our work. All of our lived experience experts are paid and renumerated for their time and expertise.

Andrew Pain

Lived Experience Expert in Domestic Abuse and Disguised Compliance

In addition to being a high-performance coach and blogger, Andrew is also a TEDx speaker and a domestic abuse campaigner. He has given one of the only TEDx talks to explore female perpetrated abuse, parental alienation, gaslighting and disguised compliance. He also talks about how unconscious biases can influence responses to safeguarding.

Katy Wilmont

Lived Experience Expert in postpartum psychosis, bipolar disorder and mental health

Katy has first-hand experience of postpartum psychosis and bipolar disorder. She has shared her lived experience by working with Birmingham City University to support the training of mental health nursing students. She has also shared her experiences with trainee midwives, GPs, psychiatrists and junior doctors. In addition to her work which supports the training of clinical staff, Katy is a peer support worker at a Midlands mother and baby unit, has a national role with MIND, and is a Mental Health First Aid Instructor. She also works closely with the charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis.

Dan Rowe

Lived Experience Expert in male and paternal mental health

Dan is passionate about breaking down the stigma around mental health within male dominated environments. Dan has used his own experiences of paternal mental health to support organisations to create wellbeing strategies which support fathers and men. In addition to this work, Dan is also the Head of the MenTalk2 Division at Talk Out, and also supports three additional mental health charities, Andy’s Man Club, Dad’s Matters and Opening up Cricket. Dan is passionate about raising awareness of Dad’s mental health needs and vulnerabilities during the antenatal and postnatal period. He is passionate to ensure that the mental health and wellbeing of dads is not overlooked and becomes part of everyday conversation.

Stacey Jade Mason

Lived Experience Expert in Child Exploitation

Stacey is the Director of Creative Optimistic Visions (COV), an award-winning Community Interest Company which provides alternative education, training, universal youth provision and mentoring through the lens of the Protective Behaviours process. In addition to this, Stacey is a TEDx speaker, and talks candidly about her own personal experiences of being groomed and exploited. Stacey is committed to ensuring that all young people understand that it is their right to feel safe and protected from abuse and harm whilst instilling confidence in them to speak out and be heard.

Gary Anderson

Lived Experience Expert in social, emotional and mental health

Gary is an experienced counsellor who has draws upon his extensive experience of mental health to help others. His passion comes from his own lived experience of ill mental heath during his early life and his positive experiences of therapeutic intervention. His lived experience means he is empathetic and understanding of the barriers which may prevent young people from accessing the support they need. Gary is the author and creator of ‘Safeguarding Me’ programmes for schools to give children the awareness and confidence to discuss mental health openly without stigma and shame. He is also in the process of authoring a book to share his personal experience of losing twin daughters and the pain and grief which cripples parents bereaved through loss of a child or children, and is passionate about encouraging fathers to speak about bereavement and loss. Gary is particularly passionate about working with marginalised youth and the most vulnerable in society including the homeless, those with substance misuse issues and offenders. The main mission of Gary is to get everyone talking about mental health and to be able to develop skills to “bodyguard” themselves physically, emotionally and mentally by building resilience and coping mechanisms.

Gemma Aitchison

Lived Experience Expert in gender stereotypes and sexual objectification

Gemma Aitchison is an award-winning expert in gender stereotypes and sexual objectification, activist, researcher and founder of YES Matters UK. In addition to her professional work, Gemma is also a survivor of child sexual abuse and has been impacted by violence against women and girls following the murder of her sister. Gemma has used her expertise to produce compulsory sex education policy, CSE prevention policy, and has carried out research into Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) for the European Parliament. Passionate about achieving equality and positive change for children and young women, Gemma has also worked tirelessly to improve access to justice and has worked in collaboration with the End Violence against Women (EVAW) coalition to formally challenge the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on low rape convictions in the UK.​

Awards won include: 

– WIN Award for the Protection of Women and Girls Rights 2016
– Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize 2017
– Women of the Year Award 2017
– BAH Star of the Community Nominee 2018
– Northern Power Women Person with Purpose Nominee 2019

Gemma is available to inform policy, as a key note speaker and trainer.