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 is now the 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 17 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.
Head of Practice Lucy Hopkins, Head of Services Dave Wareham and Business Administrator Chloe Bach report into Sarah.
Head of Practice
As Head of Practice at WillisPalmer Lucy is responsible for overseeing the Quality Assurance department and practice of all contractors within the organisation, including ISWs, psychologists, forensic risk assessors, and psychiatrists. She manages the recruitment of all professionals, which is an ongoing process as the organisation continues to grow.
Lucy is involved in the management and delivery of the Child Abuse Litigation Service, which provides preliminary and expert reports, file preparation work and the preparation of expert chronologies. She is currently developing an education service at WillisPalmer, and is also involved in the development of new assessment models that she envisages will benefit the courts, local authorities, solicitors and, most importantly, children and their families.
Lucy has oversight for the Case Management Team and Case Managers Holly Green, and Julie Williams report to Lucy.
Prior to joining WillisPalmer as a Consultant Social Worker in 2020, Lucy worked as a Family Court Adviser and Children's Guardian at Cafcass for seven years, preparing over 350 reports in both public and private law proceedings.
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.
Head of Services
As Head of Services at WillisPalmer Dave is responsible for management of the referrals team, multi-disciplinary services, family support and new service development. Dave contributes to all professional and expert aspects of the business including operational services (independent social work, psychology, forensic risk, family support and psychiatry), service development and building and improving relationships with local authorities.
Dave works as Consultant Social Worker for Multi-disciplinary Family Assessments (MFA) and Systemic Family Assessments (SFA).
Dave has oversight for the Family Support Team and the referrals team. Family Support Manager Fay Roffe and Senior Referrals Manager Rachel Holt report to Dave.
Prior to joining WillisPalmer, Dave worked for local authority children’s social care departments for 13 years. He began as a social worker in children and family assessment and children in care teams, before specialising in systemic work with families, and assessments for court, as a family centre senior practitioner. Dave subsequently worked as a reviewing officer before managing a children in care and court work team.
Dave has a BA (Hons) Design degree from Loughborough University, MA in Social Work from Anglia Ruskin University, and MA Certificate in Advanced Social Work from the University of East Anglia. Dave is a NAAS accredited child and family practice supervisor and fellow of the Firstline social work leadership programme.
Family Support Manager
Following the growth in the Family Support Service in 2021-22, Fay has been promoted to Family Support Manager after spending a year co-ordinating the Family Support Service. Fay has oversight of family support provision, either as an integral part of Multi-disciplinary Family Assessments (MFA), or standalone family support work aimed at assisting parents to develop their parenting skills and abilities. Working closely with family support workers and case managing the MFA’s, Fay’s role involves the recruitment of Family Support Workers and overseeing their shift patterns and intervention with families.
Family support work may be taken on as a standalone service or as part of the MFA. Each family support worker must file a report after every shift detailing their observations, interventions made and reporting any safeguarding concerns in relation to the children. Fay ensures the reports are quality assured before being filed with the local authority, and the Independent Social Worker in the case of an MFA.
Working closely with Head of Services, Dave, Fay also meets local authority social workers, family support workers and families throughout the duration of the intervention to ensure WillisPalmer are providing the highest standard of service to vulnerable children and families.
Prior to her work on the Family Support Service, Fay was a Case Manager at WillisPalmer for 3.5 years. Before she joined WillisPalmer, 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.
Holly joined the WillisPalmer team 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.
Julie Williams is a Case Manager, alongside Holly Green.
Julie joined WillisPalmer following a 30-year career in the NHS, predominantly as a medical secretary, both in primary and secondary care. As a result, she brings organisational and communication skills to WillisPalmer.
Working alongside Holly Green, and also closely with Senior Referrals Manager Rachel Holt, Julie will be working across all cases from assessments to Child Abuse Litigation cases.
Senior Referrals Manager
Rachel Holt is WillisPalmer’s Senior Referrals Manager having joined the team in March 2021 as Referrals Manager. Following the restructuring of the referrals process at WillisPalmer, the Referrals Manager’s role grew considerably resulting in Rachel’s promotion to Senior Referrals Manager. Rachel oversees the referrals process, taking initial enquiries made to WillisPalmer for an assessment or multi-disciplinary intervention and ascertaining as much information as possible about the case. Rachel then successfully matches the enquiry to our most relevant and available experts who have the appropriate experience and specialism to ensure the assessment is carried out to the highest standard. Once the case has been matched to an expert and the instruction is given the go ahead, Rachel ensures a seamless transition of the case to the Case Management Team providing them with all the necessary information and paper-work. Being at the ‘front end’ of the business, Rachel is calm, organised, friendly and approachable with a passion for ensuring our customer’s needs are met to the best of our abilities. With a background in sales and e-commerce, Rachel’s customer service and organisational skills ensure that WillisPalmer’s cases are dealt with swiftly and professionally.
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.
Chloe’s highly organised, methodical approach and professionalism guarantee WillisPalmer maintains it’s very high standards.
Multi-disciplinary Service Case Manager
Melissa Cotton is WillisPalmer’s Multi-disciplinary Service Case Manager, responsible for managing the Multi-disciplinary Family Assessment cases. In Melissa’s role, she oversees the MFA cases, attends meetings, keeps all involved parties in the loop as to where the case is at, ensures reports are filed promptly and provides administrative support for the MFAs.
As there is a Family Support Work element to the MFA, Melissa works closely with Fay Roffe, the Family Support Manager and Business Administrator Sophie Bartholemew.
Prior to working at WillisPalmer, Melissa attended college before joining an opticians and then working within insurance for 13 years providing excellent customer service and liaising with brokers. Melissa also worked as a temp providing administrative support and project work for a variety of organisations before joining WillisPalmer in a temporary role supporting the Family Support Work team.
Melissa demonstrated excellent communication and organisational skills and started working permanently in the newly created role of Multi-disciplinary Service Case Manager – which has emerged following an increase in referrals for the MFA - in August 2022.
In her spare time, Melissa enjoys long walks, reading and spending time with her 18 month old ‘fluffy cloud’ of a dog, Betsy.
Eavan works for WillisPalmer in a part-time capacity as Business Administrator alongside studying for a childcare qualification, having realised at WillisPalmer that she loved working for a company where the focus is on children and their families. Eavan works alongide Dave, Fay and Melissa focusing on Family Support Work.
Sophie Bartholomew is undertaking an apprenticeship at WillisPalmer while studying for her Business Administrator Level 3, which is the equivalent of one A-level. The course is around 15 months long and during the year Sophie has to participate in four key workshops where she will learn about the essential components of Business Administration such as Health and Safety, E-Safety and setting up a business including engaging with stakeholders Sophie carries out her distance learning one day per week and spends the remaining four days in the office working on a variety of projects. This includes supporting Head of Services Dave Wareham, and Family Support Manager Fay Roffe with the Family Support Work service.
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 went on 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.
Quality Assurance Team
Head of Practice
Head of Practice at WillisPalmer Lucy is responsible for overseeing the Quality Assurance department and practice of all contractors within the organisation, including ISWs, psychologists, forensic risk assessors, and psychiatrists. She manages the recruitment of all professionals, which is an ongoing process as the organisation continues to grow.
Dr Anna Preston
Consultant Clinical Psychologist - Psychology
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 44 years post qualifying experience. 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 40 years’ post-qualifying 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 35 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
Experienced Independent Social Worker Lyn Knight provides a mentoring and quality assurance service for Independent Social Workers who have recently registered to work with WillisPalmer. ISWs have previously told WillisPalmer that they wanted to become independent sooner, but fear of working completely on their own without the back up of colleagues, line managers and a large local authority in many instances has held them back. Therefore, WillisPalmer responded by introducing the service whereby Lyn mentors ISWs who are new to working with WillisPalmer and provides feedback for their first two reports after quality assuring the reports. Lyn is ideally placed to carry out this role having previously mentored qualified social workers studying for the Child Care Award as well as being a practice educator. She also has experience of being an Independent Social Worker for many years herself as well as a stint as a magistrate in the criminal and family courts. Lyn has 26 years post-qualifying experience.
Consultant Social Worker
Independent Social Work Consultant Sue Lee, has 42 years post qualifying experience. After qualifying, Sue initially practiced as a generic social worker, before moving into various management roles, all in different London Boroughs, and specialising in child protection. During the 1990s and 2000s she worked primarily as an Independent Social Worker, carrying out training, acting as a chair of child protection conferences, Independent Reviewing Officer and undertaking parenting and risk assessments. Throughout this period, Sue has also worked as a Children’s Guardian for Cafcass and since 2013, she became a Practice Supervisor, with responsibility for 13 other FCA’s. Sue practices as a Quality Assurer and provides auditing, including case file audits, supervision and is the lead on training and development in her area. Sue has extensive experience of collaborative auditing. Sue recently completed a 10-month secondment with the Cafcass National Improvement Service (NIS), which included thematic auditing, domestic homicide reviews, serious case reviews, rapid reviews and preparation of chronologies.
Child Abuse Litigation
Consultant Social Worker
Independent Social Worker Sylvia McKenzie has 30 plus years post-qualifying experience working with children and families. Sylvia is skilled in the preparation of reports for proceedings in the family courts, including parenting assessments with adults with learning difficulties, direct work with children including Life Story work and Later Life letters and behavioural work with children and adults. Sylvia is also a Practice Teacher for student social workers. More recently Sylvia has undertaken preparation of reports relating to alleged negligence in relation to adults who were formerly in the care of local authorities, initially through ISWA and then when it merged with WillisPalmer, through WillisPalmer’s Child Abuse Litigation Service. Sylvia has now joined our quality assurance team to carry out the quality assurance of our CALS reports.
Forensic Risk Assessments
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.