Laura McFarlane, Project Director

Laura is extremely proud to be leading such an exciting and innovative programme that will make a difference to the lives of children. She hopes that all families in the LEAP area have an opportunity to become involved in and shape the direction of the programme. Laura is 

Some descriptionparticularly pleased to work alongside such a committed team who are working in the local community to ensure genuine participation and involvement in LEAP.

Prior to joining LEAP, Laura led the Multi-Agency Team in Lambeth Council, providing family support services for those below the social care threshold. In addition to strategic responsibility for early intervention services for children 0-11, Laura also had responsibility for coordination of evidence-based parenting programmes, family learning, and Parent Partnership Services for parents and children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

Laura has worked in Lambeth for the majority of her 30 years in children’s services, she is a qualified social worker and, among many other achievements, has been responsible for transforming local programmes to a borough-wide children’s centre delivery model.



Chris Wellings, Assistant Director

Chris Wellings is the Assistant Director of LEAP. He works across the project's four key strands of activity (diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, communication and language development, and systems change). He also oversees our work on community engagement, communications, service design, monitoring and reporting, and data. 


David Wood, Programme manager

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David has been part of the LEAP team since its inception, including the programme's various funding rounds and launch in April 2015. He oversees the planning and performance of the LEAP programme, reporting to funders and the various governance groups that provide accountability for the programme. 

Before LEAP, David primarily worked on a variety of programmes at the National Children’s Bureau, including the Centre for Excellence and Outcomes for Children and Young People's Services from 2008, and the Children’s Partnership (Strategic Partner to the Department for Education) from 2013, providing programme and financial management.  The former involved working within a consortium of partners, and providing the best evidence of 'what works' through a variety of media to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families.

Prior to joining NCB, David worked on a New Deal for Communities programme in Clapham Park for six years which has given him a broad understanding of the challenges for local people in Lambeth, especially the most vulnerable.



Sam Richards, Programme Development Officer

Sam has worked in the Public Sector for many years, with experience in working with multi agencies Some descriptionincluding health, councils and the voluntary sector, managing and establishing external relations with partners.

Service design is a large part of Sam’s role as development officer, championing and implementing service design principles across the organisation.

Sam helps to strengthen and refine existing services as part of ongoing programme development, using service design tools and techniques, looking at what is working well and what can be improved, with the community always at the heart.



Louise Harrington, Evaluation Manager

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Louise has spent many years working with children, families and communities in a research, evaluation and service delivery capacity. For more than three years she worked for the National Evaluation of Sure Start as an expert advisor on evaluation to Sure Start Local Programme partnerships in London and the South-East. In more recent years, she was Co-Director, a research and evaluation consultancy focused on supporting organisations to more effectively demonstrate the difference that they make to the lives of children and families.

Possessing an MSc in Applied Health Research, and a keen interest in supporting work to address the social and environmental determinants of health and well-being, Louise is very excited to be working on such an innovative and transformative programme as LEAP.    



Selina Mensah, Monitoring Officer

Selina has worked for over 10 years in the early years sector and as part of Some descriptionregeneration programmes for communities involving children, families and partner organisations - both statutory and voluntary.

Prior to joining LEAP, she was an information management officer and dealt with the design and development of monitoring and evaluation systems for Lambeth children’s centres and commissioned early years providers. 

Selina is delighted to join the LEAP team and be part of such an interesting and innovative programme that will have a positive impact on the lives of children, families and communities.



Sheena Carr, Public Health Specialist

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Sheena is an experienced public health professional. She joined the LEAP team in April 2016 after working for over 20 years in Haringey as a Senior Public Health Strategist and commissioner of 0-19 services including health visiting and school nursing.

Sheena has extensive knowledge of the evidence base around early years and hopes to bring her enthusiasm and passion to LEAP to help improve the lives of local children and their families.




Maria Schmidt, LEAP Workforce and Learning Manager

Maria joined the LEAP team in October 2016 after working as a Public Health Officer for Haringey Council,Some description North London. Maria leads on the implementation and delivery of the LEAP workforce transformation strategy, coordinating all workforce development activities to re-shape the wider workforce working with children and families in the LEAP area.

Maria has extensive knowledge of organisational change management and workforce transformation from overseeing the implementation of the Healthy Child Programme for 0-5 year olds in Haringey.

Maria also has a background in health research, evaluating health promotion strategies aimed at improving children’s health and holds a Master’s in Public Health. Maria is very passionate about improving the way services for children and families work together and aims to ensure all children reach their full potential in life.


Gemma Luck, Senior Data Analyst

Gemma is an experienced health data and intelligence analyst with an interest in visualisations and maximising the potential of routinely collected data to improve services.

Gemma leads on LEAP’s co-ordination and analysis of data to understand more about our community, measure LEAP’s success and track any changes and inequalities at a population level. She joined the LEAP team in January 2017 having spent a number of years in the non-profit sector.



Gareth Williams, Communications Stakeholder and Engagement Officer

Gareth has over ten years experience working in media and communications in a variety of different roles. 

As well as working for a number of different charities and non-profit organisations, Gareth has worked in television production and as a sports writer. 

Joining LEAP in November 2016, Gareth leads on running LEAP's various communication channels. 


Nicola Doal, Family Housing Advisor (Overcrowded Housing Service)

I work with families that are living in Overcrowded conditions in Lambeth. The service takes a holistic, family approach providing Housing Advice, supporting making changes in the home, providing storage solutions and furniture and building community connections. I work to empower people and to help them to think creatively for solutions and to create a home that is more suitable for their needs.

Before joining LEAP I have worked for third sector organisations supporting young people in hostel accommodation and managing floating support services. As well as this I am passionate about wellbeing for parents and children and promoting this through art, creativity and mindfulness.

Lauren Barnes, Parent Champions Manager

The Parent Champions programme supports families from pregnancy until their child is four. Lauren supports Parent Champions to talk to family, friends and contacts about services that are good for families. They are supported to carry out a range of activities within the community from running events around LEAP themes; working with health professionals like midwives, health visitors and the FNP to getting involved in developing LEAP services and promoting, children centre services

Lauren is new to LEAP but no less excited at working in a field of complete innovation.  Lauren has worked with volunteers to support children, young people and adults.  Working with volunteers who worked tirelessly to support people with mental issues, young people experiencing homelessness and families with children with autism, was an honour. Lauren believes passionately in the value of volunteering and its ability to change the lives of children, families and the communities in which they live.


Catherine Walsh, Parent Champions Coordinator

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Catherine Walsh joined LEAP as the new Parent Champions Coordinator in September 2016 and is excited to be working with parent champions in Lambeth.

Before joining LEAP Catherine worked as a teacher and outreach worker at Morley College where she also trained parent champions and taught making and selling crafts. Catherine has taught art, craft and English courses at children’s centres and other community venues in Lambeth over the last eight years. She has an MA in Education.

Catherine will deliver training and coordinate volunteering activities for parent champions in the local community to support LEAPs aims of giving children in Lambeth a better start.


Kira Montague, Parent champion coordinator

Kira has worked with children, families, and volunteers from the local area for the past 10 years in both voluntary and local authority settings. She is an Integrative Arts Psychotherapist, working at an NHS womens service once a week and at a local arts based charity. Kira will support LEAP to promote and deliver the parent champion programme, engaging, training and supporting local volunteers.

Dan Ellitts, Contracts and Finance Manager

Dan Joined the LEAP team in March 2017 and oversees the finance and contracts element of the programme. Dan also works across the National Children’s Bureau’s Independent Support programme, a national project providing support to children and young people with SEND.

Prior to joining NCB, Dan managed national grants programmes for the Heritage Lottery fund, focusing on engaging young people in heritage and before that, at Arts Council England, Dan managed a programme building access to the arts for young people.