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 Waters

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


Sharon Lovell MBE

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.”

Chris Whitfield

Finance Director

Chris Whitfield

Chris is the Finance Director for NYAS and has been with our charity for over a decade. He first joined the NYAS team in 2011.

Within his role, Chris is responsible for overseeing and managing all of the financial operations across our charity.

His previous experience includes a long career at the Co-operative Group. During this time, he undertook a multitide of different roles within the financial departments.

Chris then moved into the construction industry. Within this organisation, he spent over two years as a Finance Director.

"Working for NYAS is both rewarding and gratifying. I love that, unlike a commercial organisation, we don't exist to make money... and yet healthy finances are essential for the Charity's longevity. I also really enjoy working with so many like-minded people who share my values... and humour!"

Diane Cogan

National Executive Director, Legal Services

Diane Cogan

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."

Ben Twomey

Director of Policy and Research

Ben Twomey

Within his role, Ben leads our national campaigning efforts across England and Wales. He has a Masters of Law from the University of Warwick, where he specialised in human rights, and a History and Politics degree from the University of York.

In England, Ben co-chairs the Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers.  Ben has previously worked for three Police and Crime Commissioners, developing sector-leading policies on a diverse range of topics including youth engagement.

Ben is proud to be supported by the Campaigns Advisory Group, which he set up when he joined NYAS in 2019.

“At NYAS we are always pushing for the active involvement of children and young people when it comes to policy-making. Working for NYAS is an enormous privilege, campaigning side by side with care-experienced young people to change lives.”

Want to Know More?

If you want to know more about our NYAS Executive Team, or want to discuss opportunities or our support services, get in touch.

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