Meet the Team
The Participation Team are part of Devon County Council’s Children’s Services. Some of the team you might see lots, and others of the team you might see less of.
Your locality-based participation workers
Some of our Children in Care told us that they wanted more events and opportunities to get involved to take place closer to where they live. We thought that this was a great idea and we have re-organised some of our team so that there is now a Participation Worker who is based in each of the different localities (areas) of Devon.
Heather James – Exeter
Hello, my name is Heather, and I am the Exeter locality participation worker. I joined the team in February 2020 to develop links across Exeter with young people, their families and service providers – working to ensure the voices of care experienced young people are heard. I really enjoy my work and all the people I get to work with on a daily basis. Outside of work I fully enjoy everything Devon has to offer, everything from moor to shore! Walking, socialising with my friends, visiting my family, travelling, visiting National Trust and English Heritage properties.
Ellie Cooper – North Devon
Hi, my name is Ellie, and I am the North Devon Participation worker. My role is to work with children and young people who are in care or have left care to make sure they have the opportunity to talk about what is important to them. My favourite part of the job is when young people feel like something in Devon County Council needs to change and have the strength to challenge – this great because it means that the service changes for the better for future young people. Also, working with all the inspirational young people in Devon is fun! When I’m not working I enjoy going to the beach and looking after my rabbit Simba.
My name is Marnie, and I am the participation worker for South and West Devon. My role involves running monthly children in care and care leaver groups and facilitating regional events like Takeover Day 2019. I also undertake Youth Parliament with my local MYPs. My favourite part of the job is being able to meet young people all over South and West Devon and being able to do activities together like pizza making and pancake flipping! Outside of work, my favourite things to do are go to festivals, the beach and get involved in water sports.
Ella Baker – Mid & East Devon
Hey, I am Ella, the participation worker covering Mid and East Devon! As part of my role, I run monthly children in care and care leaver groups, and I also help organise countywide events like the Children in Care Awards and Takeover Day. My favourite part of the role is getting to know you guys and supporting you to get your voice heard! Away from work, I love to spend time with my family and friends, getting takeaways and shopping!
Some of the rest of the participation team
I’m Claire, the participation team leader, and I have the privilege of leading this amazing team of participation workers. Having worked as a grassroots youth worker for most of my life, I am passionate about breaking down the stereotypes and prejudices about young people that are often thrown around our society and media. This job offers a wonderful opportunity to do just that by empowering young people to find their voice and campaign for change! When not at work, I like to be outdoors in our Devon countryside or just chilling at home with a good book!
Hi everyone, I’m Rob, the participation team manager. I’ve been in this job for just over a year now, and the time has flown by! What a year it was too, with the Participation team more than doubling in size. It was great to work with some of you to recruit all these amazing people into the team and to increase the amount of opportunities to work with you all. When I’m not working hard, I love to travel and visit different parts of the world. My photo is from my honeymoon a few years ago to Costa Rica (I’m the one NOT in the tree) where I got to spend lots of time with all the different monkeys as well as experience different culture and to meet new people; it was brilliant and I felt very lucky 😊 I also enjoy the countryside and the beaches in Devon, and I have an adopted dog called Harper who keeps me very busy at home.
Hello! I’m Tom, the team’s new digital information and engagement officer. I started this role at the end of January 2020, and it’s my job to rebuild this website over the course of this year. I’m also responsible for the team’s social media and finding creative new ways to communicate. Away from work I love cooking, travelling and most sports (but especially football). I’ve only just moved to Devon, so I’m looking forward to getting out and about to explore the moors, towns and beaches.
And some of the other people who we work with…
I qualified as social worker in 1979, before any of you (and before most of your parents!) were born. I’ve worked in children’s services ever since, in lots of different jobs, as a foster carer, in childrens homes, as a social worker, team manager, senior manager and director, in council’s and in voluntary organisations. Mostly I’ve lived and worked in London so coming to Devon, which couldn’t be more different, is a fantastic opportunity to bring together the best of both worlds. If you want to get in touch with me and tell me what you are thinking or if you have any ideas you can email me directly at Jo.Olsson@devon.gov.uk
Hello, I’m James. I’m an elected member of Devon County Council, where I represent the people of Hatherleigh & Chagford in West Devon. I’m part of the Council’s cabinet – this is the group of people who make decisions about the day-to-day running of the Council – and within the cabinet I am the person responsible for Children, Schools and Skills. I see it a one of my key roles to listen to children and young people in Devon and to make sure that their views and opinions are heard when decisions that impact them are made. I’m a proud father and grandfather.