Mark Willis has been in social work for over thirty years. He began work in 1984 as a residential and day care worker with people with learning disabilities. In 1987 he moved into child care work as an assistant social worker before qualifying with the Diploma in Social Work seven years later. Further to this he worked as a social worker, senior practitioner and team manager within local authority social services departments. He also spent a year co-ordinating child protection training for a large social care department, developing two academically-accredited training programmes on child protection risk assessment. In 2000 Mark became a self-employed Children’s Guardian representing children’s interests in over 100 cases in Kent and Essex.
Mark established WillisPalmer in 2004 with former business partner Andre Palmer. He has grown the company over that time whilst never losing sight of the core social work values which to this day are at the heart of the business. His commitment to these values means WillisPalmer retains its status as an ethical and responsible company.
Mark is also co-Director of both Think Therapy 1st which provides occupational therapy rehabilitation services to insurers, legal markets, charities and the public alike and WPCM Services. WPCM Services provides holistic support to survivors of childhood abuse. The three organisations are part of the ‘WillisPalmer Group’.
Sarah was the first team member WillisPalmer recruited back in 2005 and has recently taken on the role of Managing Director. Having previously worked for large corporate companies in a variety of positions she wanted to work for a business that truly cared about people, putting them at the heart of every decision.
Sarah has overall responsibility for running the business on a day to day basis and has developed excellent relationships with customers and contractors over the past fourteen years. Her commitment, enthusiasm and motivation ensure WillisPalmer maintains its first-class reputation, whilst always striving to be the best provider of services to children and families.
Phil has been in social work for nearly 40 years, focussing on working with children and families, although he has undertaken specialist training in mental health and learning disability. He began his social work career in residential work, qualified in 1980 and practised as a social worker, before then moving into various management roles.
Later, his career choice was to return to direct practice by working as an independent social worker, initially as a Children’s Guardian. Within this role, he acted in an advisory capacity to national committees and as a country-wide trainer. He was an adviser to the Law Society on the development of the Children Panel for solicitors and was joint-partner of an agency offering training to solicitors. In 1998, he co-founded independent social work agency, ISWA, which went on to grow into one of the largest and most successful agencies in the UK.
This agency offered specialised risk assessments, fostering assessments, family group conferences, training and consultancy. Alongside his role as Director of ISWA, Phil acted as an expert witness in care proceedings and subsequently utilised his skills to become one of very few experts in the UK to offer opinion in cases of possible negligence and failure of duty of care.
In 2017, ISWA merged with WillisPalmer and Phil has remained as an Executive Consultant, where he has led on developing and expanding the Child Abuse Litigation Service which now provides a team of experts to offer opinion in cases of potential failure of duty of care. Over the years, Phil has become respected in his field, he has been involved in various research projects, and has a number of publications to his name. He remains committed to ensuring the interests of children are at the core of everything he does.
Head of PR and Marketing
Clare Jerrom is WillisPalmer's Head of PR and Marketing and has been a social care journalist for the past 20 years.
Clare began her career at Community Care as a junior reporter specialising in and campaigning on youth justice and better treatment for vulnerable children in prison. As a junior reporter, she was awarded a national industry New Online Journalist of the Year award.
Clare rose to become Community Care's website editor where she was responsible for developing online content and managing the transition taking the content from the magazine to web only.
Following her 10 years at Community Care, Clare worked for the children and young people's mental health charity YoungMinds as their website editor and launched a website for young people about mental health medication and side effects. She also worked for social work organisation BASW writing for its publication Professional Social Work and her area of speciality was Independent Social Workers.
Clare has also had articles published in The Guardian on children's services issues.
More recently, Clare worked as a freelance journalist both for WillisPalmer where she produced website content and the monthly newsletter Children First, and as the editor of Locum Today, a website for locum social work, mental health and occupational health professionals.
Clare is responsible for online content, communications and marketing at WillisPalmer. If you have a story for Children First contact Clare at: email@example.com.
Consultant Social Worker (Employed)
Lucy has 11 years post-qualifying experience as a social worker and started out in a family support and protection team at Essex County Council before becoming a senior practitioner within the department. Lucy then spent seven years as a family court adviser and children’s guardian at CAFCASS before joining WillisPalmer in September 2020.
Lucy has a BA (Hons.) in Film Studies and Literature from the University of Essex, MA in Social Work from Anglia Ruskin University, and MA in Advanced Social Work from the University of East Anglia. She is a qualified Practice Educator and Practice Assessor for students and newly qualified social workers.
During her time in family support and protection, Lucy held a caseload of children subject to child in need and child protection plans. She undertook initial assessments, core assessments, child protection conference reports, Section 37 reports and prepared statements and care plans for court proceedings.
As a family court adviser and children’s guardian, Lucy has prepared over 350 reports and has regularly provided evidence to the courts.
As a Consultant Social Worker at WillisPalmer, Lucy will be responsible for the recruitment of professionals, mentoring, training and service development.
Consultant Social Worker (Employed)
After qualifying as a social worker, Dave spent 12 years working at Essex County Council where he went from a social worker in children and family assessment, and children in care teams to a role as a senior practitioner at the family centre, before then becoming a child-in-need reviewing officer. Dave’s final two and a half years at Essex prior to joining WillisPalmer were spent as a team manager of the children in care service.
During his time as a social worker and senior practitioner, Dave gained extensive experience undertaking assessments and implementing care plans for children at risk of harm within their families, and for care proceedings. While working as a senior practitioner at the family centre, Dave completed specialist training in understanding the risks posed by sexual offenders and perpetrators of domestic abuse. He also designed and delivered a groupwork programme for perpetrators of domestic abuse.
As a child-in-need reviewing officer, Dave worked on building effective relationships with frontline social workers, provided consultation for them on individual cases and common themes of risk and need.
In addition to his team manager responsibilities at Essex, Dave helped shape and develop practice including redesign of the children-in-care care plan and involvement in the development of an emotional wellbeing project for social work staff. Dave is a Fellow of the Firstline social work leadership programme and a NAAS accredited child and family practice supervisor.
Joining WillisPalmer in September 2020, Dave’s role as Consultant Social Worker means he has responsibilities for direct practice, service development and special projects.
Referrals Manager Rachel Holt joined WillisPalmer in March 2021. Rachel’s background is in sales and e-commerce where communication, customer service and team work were key elements of her job. Rachel takes the initial enquiries made to WillisPalmer for the various independent social work and psychological services we provide along with our multi-disciplinary services. She takes all the details about the case before assigning it to our professionals, and, once the instruction for work has been agreed, the case is passed across to the responsibility of the case management team, meaning Rachel’s job is very much at the ‘front-end’ of the business. Rachel is looking forward to building strong relationships with our professionals and customers. She has three children aged between 17 and 22, three dogs and enjoys a good home project in her spare time making improvements around the house.
Chloe worked within the NHS before joining WillisPalmer, where she developed excellent customer service and administration skills. Before this, she worked for a firm of solicitors giving her vital experience of legal processes and working to tight deadlines.
When Chloe joined WillisPalmer in 2009, she provided administrative support to all members of the team as well as taking responsibility for managing cases from beginning to end.
As Business Administrator, Chloe provides administrative support and management information to the Chief Executive and Managing Director. Chloe is also responsible for managing the office facilities, as well as the end to end recruitment process for all WillisPalmer contractors.
Chloe’s highly organised, methodical approach and professionalism guarantee WillisPalmer maintains it’s very high standards.
Eavan initially joined WillisPalmer in a part-time capacity but quickly realised she loved working for a company where the focus is on children and their families. Eavan has now taken on the role of full- time business administrator where her primary focus is assisting Lucy with the recruitment of professionals. As Eavan really loves people and has a very warm and fun personality she really enjoys the recruitment part of the business.
Senior Case Manager
Tracy has been with the WillisPalmer family since June 2016 and strongly believes in the WillisPalmer values, making sure they are embedded into everything she does.
As the Senior Case Manager, Tracy takes responsibility to oversee the Case Management Team and the variety of different services that the team provide administration for which includes Social Work and Psychology assessments, Family Support and Child Abuse Litigation services.
The team assist with all administrative tasks for the discrete pieces of work being undertaken by our consultants from initial instruction through to completion of work and invoicing.
It is imperative that the Case Management team are highly organised to assist in all matters as they are the first point of contact for any queries, and will be the liaison between the consultant and the customer. Tracy manages the team on a daily basis to ensure that sure that work is completed to a high standard and reports are filed in a timely manner.
Tracy has a wealth of skills and experience, having previously worked for a large corporate banking operation and in adult social care services, and she is passionate about Customer Service and processes.
Fay joins us with a strong background in administration, having worked for a broad range of companies, including a large corporate bank, a management consultancy and an estate agent. More recently Fay ran her own childminding business for six years which was rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted, and then she worked within health and social care looking after adults with autism and learning disabilities. Both of these roles convinced Fay that whatever career path she chose next it had to be something where she could help make a difference.
Fay is one of the case managers here at WillisPalmer, taking responsibility for managing a case from beginning to end. This is a challenging administrative role which requires constant liaison with both customers and consultants, the ability to work to strict deadlines and ultimately results in the filing of high-quality reports. Fay understands the importance of providing an excellent service, she is highly organised and works well under pressure.
Holly is the newest member of the WillisPalmer team having joined in January 2019 as maternity cover for her colleague Fay Roffe. It quickly became apparent that Holly was an asset to WillisPalmer and in April 2019 she was recruited as a permanent member of staff.
Family is everything to Holly. She enjoys her role as a Case Manager where she is able to use her highly effective administrative and organisational skills to provide valuable support to organisations working with children and their families. Having had her family at a young age Holly is able to identify and empathise with some of the pressures many families face on a daily basis and hopes that in her role she is able to make a difference.
Quality Assurance Team
Child Abuse Litigation Service
Executive Consultant Philip carries out the quality assurance of the Child Abuse Litigation Service expert reports for work completed in England, Wales and Scotland.
Dr Anna Preston
Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Anna Preston has 18 years’ experience working with adults and families in clinical, NHS and private settings. Dr Preston has worked extensively with people who have particularly complex mental health needs and who experience a range of difficulties in combination; for example, personality disorder and mental illness in combination with learning disability and/or autistic spectrum disorders. Dr Preston is experienced in delivering interventions including CBT, DBT and MBT and is also a trained EMDR therapist. Dr Preston was previously the Trustwide Lead Psychologist for Acute Psychiatric Care Services and Lead for an outpatient Personality Disorder Service in Surrey. She is currently an Independent Psychologist practitioner providing expert witness assessments and psychological therapies. Dr Preston started work in January 2021 as a Consultant Psychologist at WillisPalmer, quality assuring expert psychological reports written by our experienced professionals to ensure they adhere to our high standards and meet all the instructed requirements. Dr Preston has been carrying out expert witness assessments for WillisPalmer for 10 years.
Consultant Social Worker
Marion Farmer is a qualified social work practitioner with over 35 years experience in the field of child care. She has undertaken consultancy work for a local authority and health authority, helping to shape the direction of future service provision for looked after children and children with special needs.
Marion became a self-employed Children`s Guardian in London, representing the interests of children in care, adoption and other specified proceedings, providing more than 150 reports over a period of 16 years. Alongside this, she undertook a range of independent social work assignments, including assessments of parents, potential kinship carers and prospective foster carers. Since 2007, she has undertaken work through WillisPalmer. In 2013, Marion developed the role of Care Proceedings Manager for a London local authority, establishing procedures and protocols for pre-proceedings and court work, providing training and quality assuring evidence. She subsequently developed and managed the Court Team. Since 2014, she has been involved in mentoring social workers within a safeguarding service, providing training on risk assessments, and developing a parenting assessment framework for a South London local authority. She joined the team of Quality Assurance Consultants at WillisPalmer in 2014.
Consultant Social Worker
Sue is a qualified social worker with over thirty-five years’ experience of working in the field of child-care and child protection. Sue has worked as a self-employed Children’s Guardian in London for over twenty years. She has undertaken work in private law and adoption as well as public law matters.
Sue has worked as an Independent Social Worker since 2001 carrying out parenting assessments, including PAMS, kinship, Special Guardianship and sibling assessments. She joined WillisPalmer as an independent social worker in 2006.
Prior to working independently, Sue worked with various London local authorities as a social worker, senior practitioner, team manager and child protection conference chair. More recently she has worked as an independent reviewing officer and has provided mentoring to newly qualified social workers in a local authority safeguarding team.
Sue joined the team of Quality Assurance Consultants at WillisPalmer in 2017.
Consultant Social Worker
Mike Bazzard has almost 40 years’ experience as a qualified social worker and 21 of those years has been spent working as an Independent Social Worker. Mike initially trained as a teacher but his training taught him that he preferred working with smaller groups of children. He embarked on a career in residential care before qualifying as a social worker.
Along with like minded colleagues, Mike set up The Breslaff Centre – Residential Family Centre before going on to become a guardian ad litem. He then set up a private independent social work agency in Brighton Targa Partnerships where he carried out assessments for the courts. After a lengthy career as an independent social worker including three years at WillisPalmer specialising in chronologies for the Child Abuse Litigation Service alongside parenting and kinship assessments, Mike has taken on the role of quality assuring expert social work reports at WillisPalmer.
Consultant Social Worker
Initially trained in probation studies, Consultant Social Worker Diane Wills has an extensive history working in social work and criminology. Specialising in working with adult perpetrators of sexual harm, much of Diane’s work centres around working with adults who have been sexually harmful towards children and she delivers the Healthy Sexual Programme on behalf of HMPPS. Diane has academic experience in research, as a practice educator for social work students and an associate lecturer in criminology. Diane has been an independent social worker since 2014 and worked with WillisPalmer since then. Since January, Diane has become a Consultant Social Worker at WillisPalmer, quality assuring the forensic risk assessment reports.
Employed Consultant Social Workers Dave Wareham and Lucy Hopkins also carry out quality assurance of independent social worker reports.