About the Board
Pam McConnell, CEO & Founder
Pam McConnell, CQSW, CTA, MSc., IGA and IFT trained, founded Five Rivers Child Care in 1989, having previously worked in social work with children and families where mental health and safeguarding were concerns. Trained as a Group Analyst, Family Therapist and Psychotherapist, these skills were used to create an integrated therapeutic service for looked after children. Pam is a member of The Leaders Council of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, a group that brings together some of the most influential figures from across the country.
David Howard, Chairman
David Howard has a Masters degree from Oxford University and qualified as a chartered accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants. David has spent over 20 years as chairman of a variety of healthcare companies specialising in elderly care, care for adults with learning difficulties as well as child care. Prior to that, he was an investment banker and then a partner of Big 4 accounting firm EY. David has been Chairman of the Board at Five Rivers since 2017.
Cliff Fry, Non-Executive Director
A qualified chartered accountant, founder of Clifford Fry & Co Chartered Accountants and a fellow of The Institute of Chartered Accountants, Cliff has been practising for over 45 years, working with international companies and extensively within the care and the medical sectors. Cliff has worked with Five Rivers Child Care as an advisor and auditor for the last 25 years and cares deeply about our mission to Turn Children’s Lives Around.
Kate Bradbury, Company Secretary
Kate’s association with Five Rivers Child Care spans over 20 years; initially practising commercial law as a partner in a leading regional legal firm. From 2012, Kate joined the Board and has overseen legal compliance, commercial risk and provided general legal support during a period of significant organic and acquisitive growth.
Ben Wallage, Chief Operating Officer
A qualified chartered accountant, and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (FCMA, CGMA). Prior to joining the Board of Five Rivers Child Care, Ben built up extensive international experience across public and private sectors, in a variety of board-level finance roles.
Ben joined Five Rivers Child Care in 2019 as Finance Director, and became the Chief Operating Officer in 2021. Ben is responsible for overseeing our Central Support Services (HR, Business Support, Communications, Finance, IT & Facilities). Ben relishes turning his skillset and experience to delivering the best outcomes for the Five Rivers family, and all the children it supports, on our mission to Turn Children’s Lives Around.
Nicci Willock, Children’s Services Director
BA (Hons) Sociology & Social Work, Level 5 Management & Leadership & Practice Educator
Since qualifying as a social worker over 30 years ago, Nicci had a wealth of experience working with children and families. Before joining Five Rivers Child Care in 2012, Nicci developed senior-level experience in both the public and independent sectors. As Children’s Services Director, Nicci is responsible for our Operational Service Delivery (Residential, Education and Integrated Services through Assessment and Therapy as well as Fostering Services) with children and young people. Nicci’s passion is to make a real difference in the lives of children and young people, supporting foster families and Five Rivers colleagues to provide a nurturing environment for children and young people in order that they feel secure, live fulfilled lives and achieve brighter futures.
Deirdre McDonagh, Managing Director of Five Rivers Fostering Ireland
BA (Hons) Social Work (Awarded by Trinity College Dublin 1996), MA Health Care Management (2012)
Deirdre has been at the forefront of developing Five Rivers Ireland since joining in 2002 and has been part of the Five Rivers Ireland Board since 2005. Her area of expertise as a social worker is in fostering and she joined the Five Rivers Child Care Board in 2018.
Richard Cross, Head of Assessment & Therapy
BSc Hons (Psychology)., DHP., Adv Dip SMT., PQD Counselling Children and Young People
Richard is a registered Psychotherapist and Child Psychotherapist. He has worked with children and young people impacted by trauma, abuse, and neglect since 1991, and has worked across the UK and Internationally developing and piloting effective intervention models. Richard joined Five Rivers Child Care in 2009, and he has been instrumental in developing our organisational culture and applying trauma-informed systemic thinking. He is a Fellow and Faculty member of ISSTD and seeks to improve understanding and practice through research, development, and innovation – joining the Five Rivers Child Care Board in 2023.
James Flanagan, Growth & Development Director
James (MSc, PgDip, Ba/Hons) has nearly 20 years’ experience working in the social care sector. Holding operational and strategic roles for small, medium and large private providers across large diverse portfolios of services. As a values led leader James has consistently helped services create high performance cultures, develop future leaders and managers, deliver multiple complex projects vertically and horizontally across large complex organisations and deliver on organic and M & A strategies in private equity backed and privately owned businesses. Extensive experience working directly with children ensures James balances commercial imperatives with a clear focus on quality. James joined the board in March 2023.