Family Links

Who we are

We are a national charity dedicated to empower emotional health

Family Links is a national charity dedicated to empowering children, parents, families, schools and workplaces to be emotionally healthy.

Our vision is a world where adults and children live flourishing lives supported in their emotional health at home, at school and at work.

We deliver innovative, high quality training through the Nurturing Programme to health and social care services, third sector organisations, schools and universities and workplaces.

Our impact

In the last 20 years Family Links has:

  • Helped over 164,000 families achieve profound change – that’s 321,000 children reached by the Nurturing Programme
  • Trained over 10,000 family practitioners to use the 10-week Nurturing Programme in more than 50 Local Authorities
  • Sold over 157,000 copies of The Parenting Puzzle book – our guide for parents
  • Reached over 9,000 school staff and 198,000 children in schools

Download a copy of our 2015 Impact Report as a PDF

Download a copy of our 2016/17 Impact Report as a PDF

On average 8 out of 10 parents who take part in a Family Links course report significant improvements in their children’s behaviour and family life. Research shows improvements in parental mental health, and increased self-efficacy in emotion and affection, empathy and understanding, and discipline and boundary setting.

Family Links practitioners work in 9 out of 10 of the most deprived areas in the UK.

Find out why the Nurturing Programme works…

Awards and recognition

Children and Young People Now

Children and Young People Now finalist 2015 and Highly Commended for improving children’s life chances nationally and locally in 2013.


Two programmes awarded the CANparent quality mark 2014

Centre for Social Justice

Centre for Social Justice national award winner

Impetus PEF

Supported by Impetus PEF

Children and Young People Now Highly Commended 2013
Family Links - award from CSJ (Centre for Social Justice)
Family Links - award from CSJ (Centre for Social Justice)


Recent news

Read earlier news stories by visiting our News Archive.

Cover of the FEA report, collage of education related black and white images in circle shapes

Case Study of Family Links work with Pegasus School on the FEA Annual Report (Aug 2018)

Family Links and Emotional Health at School work with the Fair Education Alliance (FEA) to campaign for change in our Education System. Leading the work of ‘Impact Goal 3: Ensuring Social and emotional competencies, good mental health and wellbeing’ for children in schools, we have worked with over 100 other organisations to identify the key policy changes needed.

Read the 2018 Report Card launched today and look out for the case study of our work with Pegasus and the Blackbird Academy Trust on pages 16 and 17.

Read and Download the report here

Frontline Logo

Frontline: Parenting, Culture and Religion – Working with Muslim Families (Jun 2018)

We enjoyed working with Frontline to deliver training to help student social workers explore the differences between culture and religion, and the impact of culture on parenting as well as on our own practice and safeguarding.

The students were very engaged with the content which stimulated interesting and thought provoking discussion. These are some of the thoughts they shared with us after the training:

“I have worked extensively with other cultures and so it was great to have these discussions and be reminded about things that I’d forgotten. Rowen was really great, a great facilitator and he put the information across really well. Thank you.”

“Amazing session, thank you. We can take lots of new knowledge away with us and work on putting our own stamp on this when working with families.”

“Engaging session, enjoyed the activities to make you aware of your own thoughts and how these may impact your work.”

Frontline is a charity with a mission to transform the lives of vulnerable children by recruiting and developing outstanding individuals to be leaders in social work and broader society. Visit their website to find out more:

HRH Duchess of Cambridge speaking with school children at Pegasus Primary School, credit: Arthur Edwards

The Duchess of Cambridge visited Pegasus Primary School (Mar 2018)

We are very excited to announce that the Duchess of Cambridge visited Pegasus Primary School on 6th March to learn more about the work we do. Her Royal Highness saw how we work closely with schools nationwide to support both children and parents with their emotional health and wellbeing, with an emphasis on early intervention.

She told staff: “I was very impressed with the children I met. To have them speak so articulately is extraordinary really.”

At Pegasus Primary School, we have completely integrated emotional health support into children’s education, with the entire family supported through a range of workshops and activity sessions. Parents are offered the opportunity to attend our ten-week Nurturing Programme, and children have weekly circle times throughout the school year. This is all underpinned by a whole school approach where everyone from the caretaker to the Headteacher is trained in the Family Links approach. HRH praised this work:

“It is pretty unusual and absolutely fantastic to have this ingrained approach with the whole school involved.
“There is so much emphasis on academic success, it is nice to see the life skills you have built up.
“As a mum myself I think it is very important to share emotions.
“I have not seen this type of holistic approach working before.”

During the visit, The Duchess has:

  • Met parents to hear more about how their families have overcome challenges with the support of Family Links.
  • Observed a ‘Circle Time’, an activity session which encourages pupils to share their thoughts on a range of topics, including how to support a classmate if they are being bullied, or how to cope with a stressful situation at home or at school.
  • Attended a roundtable discussion with Family Links on the importance of supporting families during a child’s early years.

Our team

Senior Leadership Team

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Sarah Darton MA BSc (Hons) DipHV RGN CEO

Worked in the NHS for 30 years as a health visitor, child protection nurse & health and outreach manager of a Sure Start children’s centre.

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Anne Tester BCom CA(Z) Finance Director

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1998, and was responsible for the finances of a variety of organisations before joining Family Links in 2010.

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Sally Alden Director of Funding and External Relations

Trained in Decorative Arts at the Victoria and Albert Museum before leaving to work for Leslie Scott Associates, now Oxford Games, to help launch Jenga, which went on to become one of the bestselling games of all time. Worked for the Family Nurturing Network as a fundraiser before joining Family Links in 2009. Twitter: @sally_alden

Family Links Team

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Kitty Fong Office and Executive Administrator (maternity cover)

Donna Gardner's photo

Donna Gardner Warehouse Manager and Training Supplies Coordinator

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Kathy Peto Emotional Heath at School Lead (maternity cover)

Bea Stevenson's photo

Bea Stevenson (On Maternity Leave) Head of Emotional Health at School

Verity Watson's photo

Verity Watson (On Maternity Leave) Office and Executive Administrator

Our trustees

Our trustees

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Hilary Emery

Hilary began as a primary teacher, then working in teacher education and policy implementation before becoming CEO of the National Children’s Bureau. Her research interests have been in formative assessment. Policy implementation work included bringing together support for education, health and social care as part of the Every Child Matters policy. Recently she worked on developing a whole school approach to wellbeing. At NCB she established impact evaluation and increased involvement of children and young people. She is an Honorary Norham Fellow at Oxford University’s department of education and was awarded the CBE in 2018. She is a school governor and an academy director.

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Vanessa Emmett

Project Director for CSCLeaders – an exciting Commonwealth-wide leadership project run by Common Purpose. Vanessa previously worked for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, as National Programme Manager for the campaign ‘Debate of the Age’ and as Global Business Development Manager at FT Knowledge, and has extensive overseas experience.

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Sarah Hargreaves Chair

Sarah has many years’ experience in the media and communications industry, as a television executive, media consultant and executive coach. In that time she worked as a senior leader and manager at the BBC, for commercial television, and also founded and ran her own successful independent production company, winning many broadcast awards along the way. She now works with senior executives across a broad range of industries in both the public and private sectors. Sarah became involved with the charity sector and with Family Links via her work with the Impetus Trust and joined the board in 2014, becoming Chair in June 2015.

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Martin Havelock

Originally a practising barrister, most of Martin’s career has been in HR, working for companies in the electronics and pharmacuetical sectors, the NHS (where he was also chief executive of a hospital trust), Oxford University Press, and Phillips the Auctioneers during its time as a part of the LVMH Group. His last HR role was with Slaughter and May. He is now an independent commercial and workplace mediator is currently chair of Oxford Mediation. He also holds advisory positions with Metropolitan Thames Valiey Housing and the Chartered Insurance Institute, works as a volunteer with Calm Mediation, Thames Valley Restorative Justice and Oxfordshire Youth Justice Service, and is an elected public governor for Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

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Shaila Khan Leekha

Shaila brings almost 20 years of experience in global project finance and international development. Her most recent role was at the UK's Department for International Development as Director of International Finance where she led the UK's funding and policy decisions for multilateral and private sector spending. She previously worked for GE Capital investing in European energy projects and, prior to that, spent many years at the World Bank's International Finance Corporation. Shaila is married with three young children.

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Avril McIntyre

Avril is a community leader with a proven track. During her 13 year role as Chief Executive of LifeLine Community Projects, it grew from grassroots to a charity with an annual turnover of £5million equipping people for life and work through a range of services including employability programmes, family support and mentoring. Since then, Avril has developed Community Resources, a charity which mobilises people to find solutions to the problems faced in their community. Based in Barking & Dagenham, initiatives developed by volunteers seek to tackle the issues primarily caused by poverty and isolation. Avril created BanD Together Routemaster, an online tool that joins up information about local services across Barking and Dagenham.

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Rosalind Portman MBACP

One of the three co-founders of Family Links and actively involved in PR and fundraising. Rosalind’s background is in stress-management and counselling. Winner of the 2004 Beacon Award for New Initiatives.

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Wendy Rose



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Alexander & Hannah Armstrong

Alexander is originally from Rothbury, Northumberland. He attended Cambridge University where he joined the Footlights and went on to form a comedy double act with Ben Miller. In addition to The Armstrong & Miller Show, Alexander is a regular host on Have I Got News For You and also presents Pointless on BBC1. Since 2004 he has been married to Hannah who is full-time mother to their four boys.

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Dr Stephen J Bavolek

Dr Bavolek is a recognised leader in the treatment and prevention of child abuse and neglect and of parenting education and has been promoting non-violent parenting practices since 1983. He is the creator of the Nurturing Parenting Program upon which the Family Links Nurturing Programme is based.

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Countess of Inchcape

Director of the Glenapp Estate Company and a Trustee of the Inchcape Foundation. She teaches a deep relaxation technique called Help Yourself which is a synthesis of other techniques she has learnt. A mother and grandmother and involved in the activities of Family Links since its inception.

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Annette Mountford MBE

Annette introduced the Nurturing Programme to the UK in 1992 and was Chief Executive until March 2015. In 1997 she founded Family Links in order to reach children in schools as well as parents in the community. Her experiences in health visiting, education and parenthood were her core assets.

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Lord Northbourne

Deputy chair of Toynbee Hall and chair of the Parenting Support Forum. Since 1980 he has been sitting in the House of Lords as an independent, speaking and working on issues and problems of children and their families.

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Richard Pring PhL, BA, PhD

Retired after 14 years as Director of the Department of Educational Studies at Oxford University. He has since been Lead Director of the Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education and Training and continues to work with his Aga Khan University in Karachi. He is also President of Socialist Education Association and National Association of Pastoral Care, and a member of the executive committee at Philosophy of Education Society of GB.

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Philip Pullman CBE

Best known as a writer whose books appeal to both adults and children. He spent many years as a middle-school teacher, writing plays for school performances and inspiring pupils to be creative themselves. He is a patron and active supporter of the Pegasus Youth Theatre in Oxford, The Story Museum in Oxford and the pressure group Save Kids TV. (Photo by Chris Boland /



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Christine Anderson

Christine Anderson is Service Development Lead at Family Nurse Partnership National Unit. She is a former commissioner and programme manager of NHS Public Health Services for 0 – 5 year-olds across the Thames Valley area. Prior to this she was Children’s and Maternity services Commissioner for Buckinghamshire Primary Care Trust, which involved commissioning a broad portfolio of services, acute and community. Christine trained as a registered nurse in South Africa before emigrating to the UK and continuing her career in a range of nursing disciplines, eventually specialising in Health Visiting.

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Laura Barbour

Laura was the first Trust Administrator at the Sutton Trust; joining in 1997 and helping Sir Peter Lampl to establish the Trust which aims to promote social mobility equality of opportunity through education. Between 97 and 2015 she combined raising a family with a range of roles at the Trust, most recently taking the lead in Early years. Laura remains involved as a consultant for the Sutton Trust/Esmee Fairbairn Parental Engagement fund. Prior to joining the Sutton Trust she was part of the management team at the national youth work charity “UK Youth” and started her career in fundraising for Cancer Research UK and the Mental Health foundation

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John Coleman

Dr John Coleman is a clinical and developmental psychologist. He was for many years the Director of the Trust for the Study of Adolescence (TSA), and he has been a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Education at Oxford University (2006-2015). He is the author of many books, including “The nature of adolescence: 4th Edition” (Routledge, 2011) and “Why won’t my teenager talk to me?” (Routledge, 2014). He has served as a Policy Advisor in the Department of Health, and is currently Chair of the Association for Young People’s Health (AYPH). He is also a Trustee of Family Lives, and is a strong believer in parent education and support. It is for this reason he is pleased to act as an advisor to Family Links.

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Nigel Hamway

Nigel Hamway was born in 1956 and educated at Cambridge University (Natural Sciences and Physical Anthropology). He qualified as a Chartered Accountant and is currently Director of Charterhouse Development Capital, Chairman of TTP Ventures, Chairman of Quickheart, Director of Conygar Investment Company PLC, President of Kontron Medical SAS (France), Trustee of Oxfordshire Community Foundation, former Chair/Trustee of Family Links and Honorary Treasurer of The Society of Wood Engravers. Nigel is married with four children, and lives in Oxford.

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Geoff McDonald Advisor on mental and emotional health at work

Geoff’s background in teaching, HR, marketing, communications and sustainability is considerable. During his 25 years with Unilever his experience has been truly global. His HR experience has spanned leadership and talent development, organization change, capability development, with particular reference to marketing, and business transformation with purpose at its core. Under his leadership he developed Unilever’s global talent and leadership centre of expertise. Geoff is also a very active campaigner for breaking the stigma associated with Mental Health in the Corporate world. Geoff is married with two girls and loves the outdoors, he is a passionate cyclist and swimmer.

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Francis Murphy

Francis is Head Teacher at Gilbert Inglefield Academy, Bedfordshire. He has a passion for developing emotional health in schools and developing staff well-being. He has been the keynote speaker at conferences including, NHS Bradford, Hertfordshire Public Health and the Association of Educational Psychologists. Previously he has been the Chair of the Trust’s Head Teachers’ group for a small multi academy Trust in Oxford. He has chaired the South Oxford City School Partnership. Before university, Francis volunteered in Scotswood, Newcastle on a housing estate supporting the local community. He studied Art and Teaching Studies at Bishop Grosseteste University College, training in schools in Scunthorpe, Doncaster and Nottinghamshire. He has worked in schools in Manchester, Oxford and Bedfordshire. Francis and his partner have six children between them who keep their parenting toolkit open at all times!

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James Sainsbury

James is chair of trustees of the Resurgence Trust, which publishes “Resurgence and Ecologist” magazine. He is also President of Home-Start UK and a trustee of the Tedworth, Headley and Staples trusts, the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund and the Voices Foundation and a patron of Best Beginnings.