Contact Us


Lesley Ward

Group Director
Lesley Ward, Director of Next Step, is a qualified Social Worker who holds the Executive Diploma in Business Management. She is the daughter of the founders of Next Step. Lesley has been involved with the company since 1988 and held the position of Registered Manager from 2002 to 2013. Lesley continues to lead and direct the company with the Senior Management Team overseeing Ryancare Fostering and Safehouses Fostering.

Neil McCarthy and Mary Cattell

Registered Manager
The Registered Manager is Neil McCarthy, a qualified Social Worker with a level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management. Neil now leads the social work practice across the company and has management responsibility for Ryancare Fostering and Safehouses Fostering. Neil also leads the company on all safeguarding matters. Neil has been involved with Next Step since 2006, initially as an Independent Social Worker Chairing the Panel and undertaking Form F Assessments

Senior Manager
Mary Cattell is the Senior Manager of Next Step managing two offices and assisting Neil in overseeing the social work team. Mary has worked for Next Step since 2001 and has worked as a Link Worker, NVQ Assessor, Complaints Officer and Trainer. Prior to working for Next Step Mary was a foster carer herself for 15 years. Mary comes with a wealth of experience and knowledge working with carers and children across the company.

Daniel Lansley and Gay Williams

Group Quality Assurance Manager
Daniel Lansley is the Quality Assurance Manager whose role is varied. Daniel works with the Senior Management Team overseeing contracts, business relations with Local Authorities, policies and procedures and finance. Daniel has worked for Next Step since 2003 and has worked in the Link Work role, day time support to children, recruitment and referrals. Daniel has built his knowledge and experience within the company having undertaken many roles within it.

Group HR Manager
Gay Williams is the HR Manager and works with the Senior Management Team across the group. Gay is responsible for safer recruitment of all staff and oversees all personnel issues. Gay comes from an HR background and has a wealth of knowledge in working with people. Gay has worked for Next Step since 2010 joining as Office Manager and then taking on the senior position within the company. Gay has 30 years experience  and holds a Masters Degree in Business and Management.

Michelle Batchelor

Children’s Champion
Unlike other Foster agencies, the Next Step Group has a dedicated Children’s Champion, who advocates for all our children making sure that their views, wishes and feelings are heard. Michelle, a qualified Social Worker in her own right, works with both looked after and birth children gathering a range of feedback and views to help us improve our service for all our children. She also arranges fun activities during the school holidays and co-ordinates our involvement in the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme. Find out more  about our Children’s Champion.

The Social Worker and Administrator Team

We have a dedicated staff team of Social Workers and Administrators across the South East of England to work along side our Foster carers to support them in helping children and young people. In fact, our Social Worker team has a combined knowledge of hundreds of years ensuring all our carers are supported by the best people in your area. Our Team are always on hand to ensure you get the very best training, support, advice and sometimes just for a cuppa and a chat!

Senior Practitioner
Elizabeth Davies, Senior Practitioner for Wrens Hill and Suicide & Mental Health Awareness Champion, has a passion for understanding and supporting mental and emotional health. Liz has years of experience supporting Carers looking after children with issues around self-harm and suicide and has spent much of her professional career development focusing on child psychology, youth counselling, self-harm awareness and suicide prevention; and has most recently become a youth mental health first aider. Foster Carers who need advice or support around these issues please contact the Faversham office on 01795 521739.