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 decade, Essex Carers Network has supported many family carers throughout Essex and empowered them, so 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. Professionals now 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

Jane is originally from London but has now settled into village life in Newport in Essex. She has two grown up children, a son and a daughter . Jessie has additional complex support needs which include educational, physical and medical. Jess 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’

Jane has experienced the process of becoming Jessie’s deputy, and oversees Jessie’s personal health budget.

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

In 2004 Jane formed the Essex Carers Network, which supports parents/carers of a person with a learning disability within Essex She has also been chair of the Uttlesford Local Action Group. Jane has 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. Jane firmly believes that knowledge is definitely power and one of the most effective ways to empower parents is by training parents of young people with SEN in Special Educational Needs law. Courses support parents to understand how the education system works and to navigate their way through the statutory assessment process, which ultimately ensures that their child receives the right educational provision. Jane now works for …..

Should there be any spare time left over, Jane enjoys 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.


Staff Team

Wendy (2)

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 find 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 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. In addition I am part of the regional valuing carers forum and the national valuing families forum (NVFF) thus making sure our carers voices are heard at a regional and national level and that our views and experiences have an impact.

In a voluntary capacity I have been part of the Essex Family Forum which is the parent participation forum in Essex for parents of disabled children. The Essex Family Forum and ECN work closely together to ensure families are heard.

I am also 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.

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