Who we are
Here you can find out a bit more about our co-founders Kate and Emily, what they've done before, their approach and why they do what they do. We also introduce you to our wider associates team, people who are specialists in a range of fields.
I'm a co-founder of Amity and I know a thing or two about family relationships. I’ve made it my business (literally!) to understand how and why we struggle with the way we relate to one another and how to change that. Trained by the Institute of Family Therapy and Relate, I specialise in couple relationships, be that together or apart.
What I’ve done before
If you were to chop me in half you’d find I’m family-centred to the core (not yet a flavour to have made it into the Quality Street selection!). I’ve got a 30-year career of working with families, starting as the head of a Montessori nursery. There I discovered that the people I was really teaching weren’t the children, but the parents.
This really lit my fire – and it sparked a focus on supporting parents to become more effective and confident. From there, ‘Kidology’ was born, my parenting mentoring organisation. Not everyone has good family role models to learn from. So many people feel like they’re haphazardly feeling their way through their relationships and their role as a parent. But with Kidology, I found myself in the fascinating position of being able to learn what parents really needed to gain confidence and knowledge – and help them get what they needed to get there. This wasn’t theory or advice or patronising ‘let me help you’ moments, but compassionate, useful, practical information for transformation.
I was the master trainer for the Department for Work and Pensions’ Reducing Parental Conflict programme and have worked with lots of relationship charities, helping to pass on my expertise.
Nothing worth having comes easy
We all know that nothing worth having comes easy. Relationships are not easy, but they are worth having. So let’s have them. But, let’s make sure that as many people as possible know how to create healthy ones. Ones that are warm, supportive, fun, challenging, sexy, respectful and robust.
For me, the biggest reason to support parents to have well-functioning relationships are the children involved. When we get our relationships right, it’s the children who are the winners. Children are the future (sorry, couldn’t resist!) and their future is what matters most.
I’ve done an awful lot in my career, but the thing I’m most proud of in all my years of frontline work with families is the feedback I get from the people that really count: the people that come up to me after I’ve made a keynote speech and say how they are now inspired to support couples in a way they never were before; and the couples who say my gentle steer helped them find their way back to each other after such a painful time of drifting apart.
Seeing professionals work differently and seeing families function differently will always be the part of my professional story I value the most.
I’m Emily. I’m an award-winning relationship expert and one of Amity’s founders.
I’ve been working with adults, children and families for over 25 years – whether it’s been through teaching, life coaching, adult and young people offending, parenting, family mediation or working on the strategic side of children’s services. There’s always been a bit of a theme in my career: helping others to get the best out of their lives. It’s what I love doing.
What I’ve done before
Through my brilliant 18-year career in children’s services, I grew my expertise in things like family dynamics and parenting, child exploitation, youth justice, domestic abuse, child-to-parent abuse and parental conflict. It was part of my role to put strategies, systems and processes in place that supported families with multiple and complex needs to have a better quality of life.
I know what the challenges, needs and hopes of people working with families in public services are – I’ve been there myself – and I’m super passionate about making sure professionals have the chance to learn the skills that will help them support people the best they can.
Let’s fix relationships
I’ve seen families in some pretty tough places that, to them, seem almost impossible to come back from at first. But my experience of supporting families tells me that, as long as there’s a willingness to make things better and to compromise, with the right help for both the professionals and families involved, most relationship challenges can be overcome. It’s a big claim, but one I’m really confident about. I’m a big believer in the power of self-change. No matter what’s happened and whatever your lived experience might be, it’s possible to start again and write a new chapter in your book of life.
You could say I like to do things a little differently, and I’m pleased to say my fresh approach has reached and inspired lots of people over the years. So much so, I’ve been nominated for and won both local and national innovation awards for my work – including a Children and Young People Now Award in 2021.
Media and public speaking
Dull, flat keynote speeches won’t inspire system change. I’m told I make for quite a lively keynote speaker. I like to tell stories that motivate and will leave a lasting memory. I talk about hope and the possibilities for change.
Subjects I talk passionately about include:
family/parental conflict and the impact this has on children’s mental health and outcomes;
implementing relationship support models and system change in organisations and local authorities;
child-to-parent violence and abuse;
separated parents; and
Recent speaking events include:
Dept for Work and Pensions, Troubled Families Conference, keynote.
The Manifesto to Strengthen Families and Greater Manchester: Parental Conflict, Keynote.
Palace of Westminster, Family Hubs Network, how to start a relationship revolution. Keynote.
Meet our amazing associates
The work we do requires a team of real experts, people who understand their field like no other, and we've invited this group of topic experts to join the relationship revolution.
Jan Mitcheson RGN RHV MSc (Community and Public Health) PGCE
I am a health visitor by background and passionate about improving family relationships and early intervention and prevention. For over 15 years I have combined my work at the University of Suffolk as programme lead for Specialist Community Public Health Nursing – health visiting and school nursing with that of Deputy Director at the relationship research organisation OnePlusOne.
I have a wealth of experience in developing innovative and creative teaching and learning in the community. At One Plus One I led a number of national innovation programmes commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Education in the field of reducing parental conflict. Since 2019, I have worked in a consultancy role with numerous local authorities supporting the development of their relationship support strategies and train the trainer programmes for RPC.
My research interest and expertise are focused on the development of relationships in professional and community practice, as the evidence is convincing the right person with the right skills at the earliest opportunity makes a difference to outcomes for children and families.
Relationship Counselling Expert
I completed an MA in Relationship Therapy with the Relate Institute. This training integrated systemic and psychodynamic, particularly attachment, theories. However, I consider the main part of my training to be derived from the practical experience and privilege of working with couples, families, separated parents, blended families, individuals, and young people, from whom I have learned so much. Clients come to me when relationships become problematic in their lives. Issues can range from becoming stuck in poor communication patterns or trying to overcome the legacy of difficult family experiences in childhood, to managing change and transitions, the impact of divorce and separation, and many things in between. This underpins my passion for supporting people to ‘go wrong better’ when things become sticky in their relationships, for the sake of their own wellbeing, and for the sake of those who depend upon them.
I have been actively engaged in raising awareness of the impact of destructive conflict and poor communication between co-parents on children and young people. I was the Relationship Navigator in Dorset, which was one of the 12 LAs who engaged in the Local Family Offer pilot to explore ways to support co-parent relationships. In this role I provided direct support and training to families and to practitioners, extended the reach of awareness-raising, and planned for sustainability. You can find out more about this here.
I have worked with Relate and with One Plus One as a counsellor and associate trainer. I also delivered the DWP RPC training at various locations across the country. Additionally, I co-facilitated a behaviour change programme for perpetrators of domestic abuse. Currently I am supporting the development of ‘Relationship Champions’ in LAs to establish clear pathways to support for families and practitioners and to extend the reach of the message about the importance of addressing co-parental conflict to improve outcomes for children and young people.
Family Workforce Training Expert.
I have spent the last 20 years directly supporting children and their families, as well as managing and training frontline staff from a variety of disciplines including health, social care, youth justice and education. I am a qualified trainer, assessor and verifier who enjoys watching people’s confidence and delivery grow. I firmly believe that with the right support from well-trained, skilled and passionate practitioners, families can do well and better manage the extremely challenging situations they face. My specific training expertise includes adolescent mentoring, complex safeguarding, domestic abuse, self-harm, cared for children, family mediation, mental health, autism and child-to-parent abuse. I also specialise in relational therapeutic direct work with children and have trained social workers and family mediators to help them ensure that every connection they have with a child or young person matters.
I am proudly passionate about developing public servants so they have access to really good quality, solution focussed tools, which is why I am proud to be an Associate of Amity who understands ‘what works’. Having spent over two decades seeing the devastating impact poor quality relationships can have on family life, I am excited to support organisations across the country to confidently and competently restore relational balance within people’s homes and wider communities.
I understand the difficulties those working with families face daily. 2020/21 has tested us all in ways that have meant we have had to quickly adapt the way we work and find more flexible innovative ways of supporting people. This has accelerated models of change in local authorities and we now understand more than ever that organisations must work relationally with each other and the families they support to achieve sustainable positive outcomes.
Family Mediation Expert.
I have worked with families and children for most of my career both in the statutory and voluntary sector and also had a national role leading research and development with the Children and Family Advisory and Support Service(Cafcass).
My main role and focus for the past 12 years has been as a family mediator helping reduce conflict and improve communication between parents to prevent the children being caught in the middle. I also deliver courses for separated parents and directly work with children especially those where the relationship with one of their parents has broken down.
My expertise is in separated families and I am a national keynote speaker, having spoken at major conferences on families and conflict including contributing to the DWP Reducing Parental Conflict Programme. Most recently I have also delivered training for the National Association of Child Contact Centres.
I am passionate about couple/parental relationships and communication being key to understanding family situations, preventing children from growing up with a poor relationship with one or more of their parents and all the associated issues of low self-esteem, lack of confidence etc. This dates back to my original career as a probation officer when many young offenders struggled because of terrible family situations, through my work with Cafcass and my main family mediation work.
I have also worked with numerous local authorities particularly to secure kinship care and special guardianship situations and prevented many children from being in long-term care. Amity’s focus on making relationships central to all of our work makes it a great organisation to be part of and I look forward to delivering training and talking with lots of skilled practitioners about their work.
Strengths-based Practice Expert.
I strongly believe that if we can educate and enable healthy and positive relationships between couples and within families it will filter out and positively influence all parts of their lives and wider society.
For the past 20 years my career has been underpinned by strengths-based practice and relational work. I have developed and led a number of innovative projects for families experiencing structural disadvantage and complex difficulties, from domestic abuse to homelessness. I was Practice and Partnership Lead at Newcastle City Council and as part of this I developed and led a team of highly skilled multi-disciplinary practitioners who enabled partnerships, services and families to work together effectively by building positive relationships and resolving any difficulties or conflict using strengths-based techniques.
I developed my team to use models such as Solution Focussed Practice, Solihull, Family Group Conferencing, Appreciative Inquiry, Systemic Practice, Reflective Practice and Video Interactive Guidance.
Today I freelance and have supported and developed a range of projects to improve the quality of relationships by helping children, young people and families build trust and heal from trauma and neglect.
In 2020/21 I was commissioned by Northumbria Police, the Violence Reduction Unit and 6 Local Authorities to undertake research into Reducing Parental Conflict and Domestic Abuse. A fascinating piece of work I recently carried out was a community consultation with parents and carers in County Durham about their experience of parental conflict and their relationships before and during lockdown.
The findings have inspired and encouraged me to further educate and enable families and organisations to understand the importance of healthy relationships and how to develop them. I am excited to do this as part of the Amity team!
Dr Simon Retford,
Family Violence & Abuse Expert.
Hello, my name is Simon and I am an Associate here at Amity. I am proud to have completed a policing career dealing with serious crime, safeguarding, domestic abuse, internal investigations, intelligence, and covert policing. I served as a Police Officer with Greater Manchester Police for 30 years.
I currently also teach a number of courses within the School of Justice at the University of Central Lancashire where I not only teach but also supervise students at undergraduate, postgraduate, and aspirant PhD level.
I bring to Amity my 30 years of policing experience, having retired from the police as a Detective Superintendent. I proudly graduated with a Professional Doctorate in Criminal Justice in 2016, and have taught at several regional Universities over recent years across a range of subjects.
My subject matter expertise includes family violence and abuse. I look forward to meeting you.
Domestic Abuse Expert.
I have over 20 years of experience in working with young people, families and single people with support needs. I gained a bachelor's degree in Applied Community Studies and developed a passion for people and sociology. I was keen to understand the different factions of our society and how services and support could help people to live the lives they wanted to live. My career began with frontline support, including supporting people with physical disabilities, working within homeless accommodation and outreach services for people affected by drugs and alcohol, domestic abuse and mental health. Following this, I worked abroad as a teacher for several years and continued to develop my skills teaching children aged 6 – 18 to speak English.
On returning to the UK, I began specialising in domestic abuse, managing refuges, IDVA and outreach services across Rochdale, Wigan, Bury and Chester. This gave me a platform to trial new interventions within services and monitor the different models being developed and promoted nationally in terms of domestic abuse response. I have developed and delivered several training packages on domestic abuse, safeguarding, mental health and female genital mutilation. After managing services for over 10 years, I moved into a more strategic role, allowing me to influence and lead local domestic abuse needs assessments, strategies and commissioning. This enabled me to really understand the value of partnership working and sharing good practice, something I am still passionate about. I very much believe in a “whole family/holistic” approach to domestic abuse and relationships, feeling that we need to provide support to all members of the family affected, including those who harm. I’m excited by the ongoing research and new interventions in these subject areas so that nationally we can continue to understand the reasons and impact and best ways to offer support for change. Amity are at the forefront of some of this work and I’m proud to be part of this movement.
My subject matter expertise includes family violence and abuse. I look forward to meeting you.