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Speakers at the Young Carers Futures Conference 2023

Kirsty McHugh

CEO, Carers Trust

Kirsty is the CEO of Carers Trust, the UK infrastructure charity supporting nearly 130 unpaid carer organisations, who collectively reach 1.1 million unpaid family carers. Prior to this, Kirsty served as CEO of the Mayor’s Fund for London, the independent social mobility charity and CEO of the Employment Related Services Association, the UK membership body for providers of employment support.  Kirsty has also spent nine years as Director of Partnerships at Business in the Community, the UK charity dedicated to responsible business practice.   

Kirsty has previously served as a panel member of the National Lottery Building Better Opportunities Fund, a member of the Investment Committee of social investor, Impetus, and is a non-executive Board Member of Gateway Housing Association. 

Professor Saul Becker

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Health and Education, Manchester Metropolitan University. Chair, Young Carers Strategic Oversight Group, Carers Trust

Saul Becker is Professor of Children and Families at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. Formerly, he was Professor of Social Care Research and Education Practice at Cambridge University; Provost of the University of Sussex; and Pro-Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Social Sciences at Birmingham University. He has held professorial posts at Cambridge, Sussex, Birmingham, Nottingham and Loughborough universities in the UK before coming to Manchester in May 2022 to establish a new Institute for Children’s Futures. 
Saul is regarded as the world leader for young carers’ research, policy and practice having pioneered this field and worked with children and young adults with caring responsibilities for 30 years. He has been awarded 56 research awards as Principal Investigator from multiple sources. He has 570 publications and invited keynote conference papers, including 18 books, and advises governments, policy makers and practitioners around the world on family carers issues, especially young carers. Alongside his MMU role, he is Ambassador for Carers Trust; a Registered Social Worker, and Community Organiser; and Chair of Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal’s Respite Fund for Carers. He and his work have featured in 9 television documentaries. Saul was a young carer in his childhood.  
Saul was named by Universities UK as one of the ‘Nation’s Lifesavers’ – “100 individuals or groups based in universities whose work is making a life-changing difference”. 
You can follow him on Twitter / X: @profsaulbecker 
LinkedIn: Professor Saul Becker

Andrew Baxter

Head of Children in Need Outcomes Policy Unit, Department of Education

Andrew is Head of the Children in Need Unit at the Department for Education. The unit’s work has a strong focus on the commitments in Stable Homes Built on Love to improve education, health and wellbeing outcomes for care experienced young people. He leads work to improve education outcomes for all children with a social worker, including the implementation of the Government’s Children in Need Review. 
Andrew has a long history of policy work to improve outcomes for vulnerable children including SEN and Disability reform and work on children’s rights/Government implementation of the UNCRC. Andrew joined the Children’s Social Care directorate at DfE in 2017, following a two-year secondment at a small disability rights charity.  

Holly Brown

Policy Adviser, UCAS

Holly is a policy adviser in the Progression to HE team at UCAS, making sure that UCAS’s evidence-based insight helps shape the sector. After joining UCAS in June 2022, she has led on co-ordinating the ‘Journey the Million’ essay collection—a landmark report which brings together expertise from across the HE landscape to help the sector prepare for the significant uplift in applicants which we’ll see by the end of this decade. She is currently authoring a new report shedding light on the experiences of young adult carers applying to higher education and apprenticeships, building on her commitment to widening access she nurtured in her previous role designing a programme for The Access Project, a charity supporting students from under-represented backgrounds to go onto selective universities. 

Gillian Churchill

CEO, Movement to Work

Gillian joined Movement to Work in February 2022 on secondment from BAE Systems where she was Head of Media, UK. In this role she led the delivery of the Company’s media relations in the UK, including activity to promote its award-winning early careers programmes and recruitment. She brings this passion to Movement to Work and is excited to be part of the team which continues to make a real difference to young people across the country.    
An experienced communications professional with public and private sector experience, Gillian joined BAE Systems’ Naval Ships business in 2006, undertaking a number of roles in employee and external communications. In 2015 she moved to London to take up the role of Chief of Staff to the Group Communications Director, supporting the management and running of the global communications function, before starting her most recent role in 2018. Previously, Gillian worked at Scottish Enterprise where she led external communications activity for a range of sectors across the Americas region. 
In her spare time, Gillian enjoys working out at F45 and sampling the delights of London’s many restaurants with her chef husband. Originally from Scotland, she also enjoys returning home to see family and friends and taking in the beautiful sights of the surrounding countryside.

Sara Gowen

CEO, Sheffield Young Carers

Sara Gowen has worked in youth and community work for over 35 years, at a local and national level. Her current role is Chief Executive of Sheffield Young Carers (SYC), a youth work charity which supports young people who have caring responsibilities and/or are impacted by familial substance misuse. Sara is an active campaigner for the rights of young people, and young carers are at the heart of how SYC develops, delivers and evaluates its work. SYC has been at the forefront of young people’s participation work, with its own Action Group and coordination of Young Carers National Voice, working with young carers to influence local and national policy and legislation to improve their life opportunities.  
Sara’s research experience includes the University of Sheffield’s Crook Public Service Fellowship (2017-18) and Honorary Research Fellow (2019-2022) and Lead Practitioner on NIHR-funded national research with the London School of Economics (2020-ongoing).   

Dame Rachel de Souza

Children’s Commissioner for England

Dame Rachel is a nationally recognised educator and advocate for improving the life chances of disadvantaged children. Before her appointment as Children’s Commissioner, she led two schools from failing to outstanding, before founding and leading the Inspiration Trust, a family of fourteen schools in East Anglia. The Trust was twice ranked as the nation’s top group of comprehensive schools based on pupil progress at GCSE. She was made a Dame in 2014 for services to education. 
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 Government to look at representing children’s voice in the Online Safety Bill, an ongoing piece of work into driving up Attendance in schools, and was asked to complete the Family Review by Government. 

Barry Fletcher

CEO, Youth Futures Foundation 

Barry joined Youth Futures Foundation, the What Works centre for youth employment, as CEO in January 2023. Barry’s career has been dedicated to supporting people into work and helping young people fulfil their potential. Prior to joining Youth Futures Foundation Barry spent 3 years as CEO at Career Connect a youth focused Charity based in the North West. He began his career at Ingeus, spending 15 years at this large, health, youth, employment and skills provider, with his final role leading the UK business as Managing Director. Barry is passionate about increasing social mobility and supporting the most marginalised in society. This is reflected in the non-executive roles he has previously undertaken including serving on the Board of Youth Employment UK, ERSA, Careers England, and Chair of The Way Youth Zone, part of the Onside network.

Paul Blomfield MP

Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Young Carers and Young Adult Carers

Paul Blomfield has been the Labour MP for Sheffield Central since 2010 and will be standing down at the next election. He was Shadow Brexit Minister from 2016 to 2020 and now serves on the Health and Social Care Select Committee. He has worked with Sheffield Young Carers for several years and took a group to meet former PM Theresa May in 2018. He led a Parliamentary debate on support for young carers in 2019 and established the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Young Carers and Young Adult Carers with the support of the Carers Trust last year. 

Dr Rebecca Lacey

Reader in Social and Lifecourse Epidemiology, St George’s, University of London

Becca is a lifecourse social epidemiologist who is interested in how the family social environment impacts on young peoples’ outcomes. Her research includes the effect of children’s experiences of parental mental illness, maltreatment and domestic violence on young people’s mental health. She has also investigated the lifecourse predictors and consequents of caring in adulthood. All of her work uses the UK’s longitudinal studies to track individuals over time. She currently leads a programme of work looking at the long-term outcomes of young and young adult carers in the UK. 

Andy McGowan

Policy & Practice Manager, Carers Trust

Andy is the Policy and Practice Manager (Young Carers and Young Adult Carers) at Carers Trust. He has over 20 years’ experience of raising awareness and seeking to improve identification and support for young carers and young adult carers on a local, national and international level. In 2022, Andy founded the Young Carers Alliance, a growing network of over 180 organisations and 450 individuals, all looking to improve support for young carers and young adult carers. 
Andy serves on a number of national steering groups and advisory panels, and is a regular keynote speaker on topics relating to young carers and young adult carers.