About Us

The History of Essex Carers Network

The Essex Carers Network held its inaugural meeting in 2004. Several family carers attended the meeting with two staff members from Essex County Council. The family carers came from various areas of Essex. Within a year the numbers grew and many of the younger family carers had completed the ‘Partners in Policy Making Course’. Several of these carers are still part of the Management Team. Essex Carers Network is now a Community Interest Company.

Over the years, Essex Carers Network has supported many family carers throughout Essex and worked hard to try and ensure that people with a learning disability can lead full and meaningful lives. Family carers have been kept up to date with information and encouraged to attend meetings. Practitioners also seek information from the group and members of Essex Carers Network represent family carers’ views on many Boards and at a variety of meetings locally and regionally.

Management Team

Janet (2)

Janet Brown

During my working life I was a primary school teacher. I taught in several different types of primary school with very different types of children. After several years of teaching I was offered a year’s secondment to study for an Advanced Diploma in Education in Cambridge. Then I became a headteacher of a small village primary school and later the headteacher of a larger and very different school with many social problems.

Throughout this time I had always been an active member of my local Mencap group. After my retirement I worked for them part time as their general manager and their Play and Activity Respite Scheme leader. These two jobs gave me great insight into the lives of people with a learning disability and their families.

I served as the Chair of Mid Essex Community Health Council. I was also appointed by the Essex Health Authority as a lay monitor to oversee the move of people from the former long stay institutions into community residential settings.

Later I was to become the Chair of my local group and a trustee of Royal Mencap and Golden Lane Housing.

Whilst my sister-in-law, who was born with Down’s syndrome was alive, I was her joint carer for several years. She lived in a variety of homes from a residential local authority hostel to her own home in the community. In her later years she lived in supported living accommodation and I was and am still closely involved with the management team. Whilst she was in a residential care home in the later part of her life I made regular visits to her. These experiences made me aware of the necessity of purpose built housing and quality care and support.

Jane (2)

Jane Hawkins

I am originally from London but have now settled into village life in Newport in Essex. I have two grown up children, a son and a daughter . Jessie has additional complex support needs which include educational, physical and medical needs. Jessie has lots of labels, but a few favourites are :- beautiful, gorgeous, giggly, life changer, pathfinder, mood lightener and best of all ‘the light of my life’ Jessie attended a local mainstream secondary school attended the schools sixth form she is now being supported to set up her own enterprise ‘Jessability’

I have experienced the process of becoming Jessie’s deputy, and I oversee Jessie’s personal health budget.

I have been supporting parents of disabled children and adults since 2004 when I brought Partners in Policymaking to the Eastern Region. I have always been a huge advocate for inclusion and believe that every child should be educated together regardless of their disability.

In 2004 I formed the Essex Carers Network, I have also been chair of the Uttlesford Local Action Group. I have worked for IPSEA organising training in Special Educational Needs Law for new volunteers for IPSEA’s advice lines, local authorities, schools, parent support groups and individual parents across the country. I have also worked as a volunteer coordinator for 2 other charities and I bring those skills to the team.

I firmly believe that knowledge is definitely power and I am always looking to increase my own knowledge and that of other families in Essex.

Should there be any spare time left over, I enjoy good food, fine wines and outdoor theatre.

Mary (2)

Mary Capon

I have lived in Essex all my life and been a carer for most of my life. I started my caring journey with grandparents, progressed through parents to our son Charles who has Down’s syndrome . I have always been involved in voluntary work and the last 16 years of my working life I was Chief Executive of a London disability organisation. Here I brought in over two million pounds to provide services for disabled people and carers. I gained funding for a new building and set up specialist transport services, into-employment training and free training in a wide range of subjects including computer training in a specially adapted and staffed computer training room.

I sat on a wide range of Partnership Boards and working parties to make sure that carers and disabled peoples’ views were put at the forefront of statutory services and with the support of my local MP’s set up a Disability Awareness Award where the Award winners were presented with the Awards in the House of Commons. I consider that Essex Carers Network is a vital link between carers and statutory services and look forward to supporting them in such important work.


Sally-Anne Lanyon MSc

I was involved in the conception of Essex Carers Network back in 2004.

My daughter Becky was born in 1990 and pre-school was diagnosed with severe and complex learning disabilities, large and fine motor difficulties and on the autistic spectrum. Becky now lives independently in her home with 24hr support, in her local village where she grew up and has a community presence,. Becky’s PA support is funded via her Personal Budget and she lives an inclusive, full and busy life with a good mix of activities including volunteer work. I am my daughter’s Appointed Deputy for Finances and also Health and Welfare. Becky’s team are employed directly and I am the Responsible Employer.

I left school with a handful of O’Levels but took the plunge in my early fifties to study The Applied Psychology of Intellectual Disabilities, I graduated in 2013 from the University of Portsmouth with my MSc.

My career was originally in the Corporate sector, however over 20 years ago I started working for the Third sector. Firstly working for Royal Mencap as a Family Information Officer, then became the Manager of the Older Carers Support Project in Essex, combining this role as a member of the Closer to Home project where I learnt my skills as a Support Planner. Having worked for Royal Mencap for many years I then went to work for Purple (at the time it was known as ecdp) as a Senior Support Planner where I set up the support planning department. In 2015 I started working as an Expert by Experience on Care and Treatment Review Panels (for adults with a learning disability who had been sectioned) and lately as an Expert by Experience on Care, Education and Treatment Review panels (to try and prevent children with a learning disability from being sectioned).

Staff Team

Wendy Burt

Apart from 2 years in London I have always lived in Essex moving from the south to the north of the county in 1985. I have lived in Harwich since 1986 with my husband and then later on we added our 2 wonderful sons to our family. Both George and Harry have additional support needs.

They are now adults and working towards gaining greater independence and finding their way in life. George loves football and has a season ticket to watch his favourite team and Harry is a black belt in mixed martial arts.

I undertook the Partners in Policymaking course in 2005, which is a family leadership course, this changed my life and that of my family. I have been coordinating the Essex Carers Network (ECN) since November 2007, I relish my role in making sure that family carers have the information they need to support their family member to have a good life. I work to ensure the voice of our carers is heard at boards and meetings, thus influencing policy and service development in Essex. 

I am part of the regional valuing carers forum and I am an elected family carer rep on the representative body of Learning Disability England which brings together self advocates, families and organisations to work together on common issues around learning disability. By being in these arenas I am able to make sure our families voices  are heard both regionally and nationally and that our views and experiences have an impact.

In my very limited spare time I enjoy spending time with family and friends with good food and a little gin! When time allows I also enjoy various crafts including textiles and art journaling.