Rosie Canning

Hello! My name is Rosie Canning.


I was born in the fiction section of a Muswell Hill Library and spent the first 16 years of my life in the care system in North London. I am a campaigner for care leavers and helped set up the Every Child Leaving Care Matters campaign. I’m also the co-coordinator for the Your Life Your Story event that happens as part of #CareExperienceWeek.


As Creative Director of Greenacre Writers I run writing groups, workshops and festivals. I’m doing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Southampton. The focus of my research is the representations of care experience in fiction. The creative piece will explore my own experiences of leaving care as well as considering the positive aspect that reading fiction has had on my life.


I’m very excited to be involved in co-organising the art exhibition for the Care Experienced Conference - the first of its kind. I believe in the healing power of art in all its forms to be a transformational tool that can help those with trauma-based lives.

Cat Hugman

Hi, my name is Cat Hugman. I got involved with the Care-Experienced Conference by connecting with the group through social media.


I am honoured and humbled to be able to play a part in making the conference happen and to provide an opportunity for people of all ages with experience of care to to come together. For years care-leavers have had very little voice and I believe, despite our varied life experiences, that coming together is a massive opportunity to develop our community and showcase the range of expertise and talents of each and every one of us.


I hope the Care-Experienced Conference can positively effect change, whether that is about improving service provision, developing campaigns or leading to more research. What really excites me about the conference is how its developed from the grassroots- so often things have been done for us. This conference is different as it is led, developed and supported by people of all ages with care-experience and their allies.


I currently live in a very pretty town in Northumberland in a home I share with my two dogs and partner. I grew up in lots of different places in the UK and Zimbabwe as my dad’s job made sure we moved every three years- so I’m a bit nomadic. Life at home was never easy as my mum wasn’t very well, that all came to a head when I was a teenager and just couldn’t cope with the chaos everyday. For me ‘care’ wasn’t very caring and it was just a roof over my head, so I left foster care happily at 16, moved into supported lodgings for 18 months before moving into a wee council flat. I had severe mental health difficulties as a result of the trauma, and it took me years to get back to functioning well.


After doing access courses I managed to secure a place at a Northumbria University on their sociology programme, the ideas, theories and approaches transformed the way I saw the world. Thanks to very supportive tutors I went on to do my Masters in Social Research and then secured funding to do a PhD. This was such an opportunity and not something I’d ever really thought of pursing. Since then I’ve gone onto teach and research at Universities in the North East, and now I’m teaching on the social work programme at the University of Cumbria.


I’m not just a person with care–experienced, I’m also a roller skater, crafter, dog carer, passionate lecturer, researcher, social justice purser, comic book reader, adventurer and guitar player (OK that last one is debatable!) 


Read Cat's research

Alison O'Sullivan

I began my career as a social worker assistant in inner-city Derby in 1973, trained at Bradford University qualifying in 1978 and then worked in Bradford for many years.

I became director of social services for Bradford, director for children and young people and director for adults in Kirklees. I retired in April 2016.​​​Alison was active in the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) from its inception and was elected vice president in 2014, becoming president from April 2015. This was a huge privilege and enabled her to engage in national policy shaping and give advice on behalf of directors of children's services to government departments and others. I have a long track record of engagement in national policy work from the Marmot Review in 2008 to Future in Mind in 2016.


Following retirement I have taken a number of roles including: co-chair of the Expert Working Group for improving mental health support for children in care, advisory board member for the Children’s Commissioner and from January 2019 Chair of the board of trustees for the National Children’s Bureau, a leading children’s charity.


I have acted as a champion for children at a local and national level with particular emphasis on empowering children to directly influence policy and practice. I pressed for better support for care leavers and mental health of young people as specific issues during her Presidential year.


Giving behind the scenes support and encouragement to help with the Care Experienced Conference is a continuation of my passion for getting the voice of children who have been in care heard and helping them to make a difference!

Jamie Crabb

Hello, #careexperienced community! I'm Jamie. It amazing to connect with you here on our journey towards @careexpconf. 


I'm care experienced. I was placed in foster care at one week old. There were aspects of my care experienced that were positive. These included being placed with one foster family throughout my life alongside one of my siblings, and the relationships I developed with members of my foster family that continue today. There were aspects of my care experience with which I struggle. My birth mother had experienced significant developmental and systemic trauma that impacted her mental health. She was poorly supported by social and mental health services experiencing prejudice and stigma when what she needed was genuine relationships and love. Furthermore, social services failed to support my mother, my siblings and I in developing and maintaining kinship relationships. I deeply regret this as I never had the opportunity to meet her or my brother.


I learnt about the Care Experienced Conference having met Ian Dickson and other members of the organising team through Twitter. I was inspired by the grassroots energy in challenging the system that leaves the voices of care experienced people out in decision making, and the aims of the conference to ensure care experienced people of all ages are forefront participants in a full review of the care system.


From the start of my career I have worked in roles that have focused upon enabling growth, change, and self-empowerment for individuals and communities. I studied theatre in educational, community or therapeutic contexts. This led me to work in schools and community settings supporting young people experiencing social and emotional challenges. I worked in higher education as a lecturer/tutor in applied theatre and subsequently in disability support which led me to train as an counsellor. In my training and personal therapy, I was supported to speak about my care experience for the first time recognising my lived experience and empathy enabled me to support others who have experienced trauma.


I've previously worked as a counsellor for my local Mind, a University, a GP Medical Practice Counselling Service and the charity Crisis offering free and low-cost counselling and groups to individuals who would otherwise struggle to access NHS mental health services. A couple of years ago I co-edited a book called Study Skills for Students with Dyslexia (Support for Specific Learning Differences).


As well as working as a counsellor in my private practice I am writing my MA Psychotherapy thesis on the experience of foster care, and it's implications for counselling and psychotherapy. I am part of the Aashna Counselling and Psychotherapy team organising training considering issues of diversity in therapeutic practice. In time I hope to create a space for a local care experienced group and raise awareness of care experience in the counselling and psychotherapy community. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my partner and cat, reading, theatre, yoga, cooking and growing veggies.


It's been a real privilege to work alongside the brilliant and inspiring Care Experienced Conference team. I'm looking forward to meeting you on our journey for change at the Care Experienced Conference next year. Jamie @jamie_crabb

Denise Smalley

Hello, I’m Denise (Aka Dee).


I have been working in social care for over twenty years; initially I began supporting adults with learning and physical difficulties at home and in the community then supporting older adults at home and in rehabilitation residential care. From this I went on to join a social work team as a family support worker with children and families. My role was to offer practical and emotional support to families helping to keep them together safely, to avoid family breakdown. These experiences led me back to social work training, I had begun a degree course previously but my father died unexpectedly which changed the course of my life for a few years.


After qualifying as a social worker in 2004, I continued to work with children and families, and with young people in care. Quickly I became more aware of the vital role well trained and well supported foster carers play in ensuring caring, stable homes for children in care, and in maintaining and supporting relationships with birth family members. This led me to move into a fostering team in 2007, becoming a supervising social worker. I stayed in this role for ten years helping to recruit, train and support foster carers and family members looking after children. With growing awareness of the unmet mental health and emotional needs of the young people (and adults) I was supporting, I began learning more about the impact of trauma and ways of helping and supporting carers’ development. I helped to deliver training to carers alongside professionals from the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Involvement in this led me to study a BSc (Hons) in Health and social Care Practice (Child and Adolescent Mental Health), from which I graduated in 2014. I was working alongside studying my degree (a busy few years!) 


In 2016 I began working with adults affected by adoption and permanency, supporting adults adopted as children in a variety of situations; accessing files, discussing the impact of adoption and helping with searches and reunions with family members separated through adoption and foster care. My role also includes supporting birth and first family members following the court-ordered removal and loss of a child to adoption.


I support The Care Experienced Conference as a long overdue opportunity for care experienced people of all ages to come together to discuss their pasts, present and future; to celebrate achievements and to help create improvements in support. I am involved in a few areas of the conference and very happy to help where I can. It’s a privilege to be involved.


Thanks for reading. Dee

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