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What is the Role of the NYAS Executive Team?

The NYAS Executive Team is made up of different staff members across a variety of departments and locations. By providing a variety of viewpoints from different operational areas of NYAS, this team makes the most of our in-house expertise to make the best strucutural decisions for our charity. Our Executive Team oversee the running of NYAS, ensuring that we are delivering a high quality service whilst striving to continually improve our offering as we continue to support, safeguard and empower children, young people and vulnerable adults.

Meet the NYAS Executive Team

Rita Waters - Group Chief Executive 

Rita is trained in accountancy and holds an honours degree in Business and a post-grad in Management and Leadership. In her role, Rita leads 1200 people including staff, self-employed contractors and volunteers, all of whom make a difference to children’s lives on a daily basis. 

Rita has been a Chief Executive for 20 years in both the private and third sector, as well as holding senior leadership roles in the public sector. She is a highly skilled business leader, with extensive experience in leading successful teams in order to make a difference in the lives of the people NYAS support. In 2019 Rita was awarded Merseyside  ‘Business Leader of  the Year’ at the Merseyside Woman of the Year awards, awarded by the Chief Exec of the Institute of Directors

"I am proud to be the Group Chief Exec, leading the National Youth Advocacy Service to deliver improved outcomes and life chances for children in care and champions the rights of the child to have their voices heard when key decisions are being made about their future."

Sharon Lovell MBE - NYAS Cymru Chief Executive

Sharon has worked in the field of advocacy and children’s rights for over 20 years in Wales. Her background is in youth and community work. After graduating from Glyndwr University she started working in a homeless hostel for young people. This led her to become an advocate where her role was to develop advocacy services for children and young people.

Sharon also has experience of working as a CEO for Cardiff Youth Service and feels passionate about the participation of young people in decision making processes.  Sharon has been instrumental in ensuring that advocacy become a statutory entitlement for children and young people across Wales. Sharon was awarded an MBE in 2020 for services to children and young people.

“I love working for NYAS Cymru. I am privileged to work alongside excellent ambassadors for Children and Young People’s Rights; we are a charity that is always on the side of each and every child and young person.”

Michelle Carrison - Director of Finance and Corporate Services

Michelle spent her early career working for a 100 FTSE bank, where she first qualified as an accountant. 

She then went on to open her own successful business before dedicating her future career to the not-for-profit sector. This has been the area she has worked in for the last 15 years.

Prior to joining NYAS in 2022, Michelle partnered a second business dedicated to helping charities raise vital funds through cycling events across Europe. Cycling is Michelle's passion, as is sport in general.

"Working for NYAS is an absolute honour. Children really are our future, and I can’t think of anything more gratifying than being part of a dedicated team to help improve the young lives of those who need it most. I chose NYAS because they share my values, and whilst money is vital for any charity to survive, the services provided by NYAS take precedence. That is all due to the fantastic like-minded group of people that make it happen, of which I am immensely proud to be part of."

Gary Thomas - Director of Children and Family Services

Gary has over 20 years of experience working as a manager within the children, young people and family sectors. He is also a social work professional with maintained registration with Social Work England.

After working in both the public and third sector, Gary has extensive experience working with a range of stakeholders at local, regional and national levels. His experience spans across many areas, including children and young people, disability, social care, supported housing and health. Gary is passionate about young people's wellbeing and believe that children's rights should be a societal priority. 

“I feel privileged to be at NYAS, leading teams who work tirelessly to ensure the voices of care experienced children are represented and central to decision making processes. We listen to children to ensure we adapt and design services that are responsive to the challenges they're facing."

Diane Cogan - Solicitor, National Executive Director for Legal Services 

Diane is a specialist childcare solicitor and member of the  Law Society Children’s Panel. Since qualifying in 2010, Diane has developed an excellent reputation as a children's law solicitor, having worked with leading experts in the areas of public and private law proceedings. Prior to joining NYAS, she was Head of Childcare for a national firm of solicitors where she led the children's law team in their Manchester office.

As part of the Executive Team, Diane drives forward the national development and delivery of NYAS legal services, including the expansion of both the public and private law services.

"It is an enormous privilege to be part of NYAS, sharing the values that NYAS hold dear in championing children’s rights, and to be part of an organisation that truly makes a difference to the lives of young people and their families."

Megan Price - Director of People and Culture

Megan is a passionate people and organisational development professional with over 20 years experience of working across the international and national charity sectors, as well as in both the private and public sectors. Led by NYAS’ values, she is responsible for overseeing and managing the Human Resources, Learning and Development, Compliance, Health and Safety, Facilities and Volunteer Experience functions across NYAS.

Her previous experience includes over 10 years in the international development sector, working to support employees and volunteers to deliver amazing results with organisations such as Save the Children, Action Aid and the United Nations Development Programme. Since 2014 she has worked in the private sector and in Higher Education leading and delivering meaningful change around the employee experience, values-led leadership, culture change, and process improvement in order to help people thrive in their roles.

“People are the heart and soul of our organisation and I am so honoured to have the opportunity to support the amazing people who work and volunteer with NYAS. I am passionate about empowering everyone to ensure we have an inclusive and engaging environment for all of our workforce. Putting listening and values at the heart of what I do, I am excited to progress a positive people agenda at NYAS and enable our amazing people to create lasting impact and change for children, young people and vulnerable adults.”

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