Robert Dighton first started working at ELHAP in 1989 as a playworker. He then qualified in play therapy and worked at the Whipps Cross Hospital Psychological Support Service for over eight years where he specialised in childhood trauma, grief and loss. For over four years, Robert served as the programme convenor for the Postgraduate Diploma and MA in Play Therapy at Roehampton University.
Robert returned to work at ELHAP in 2005. In 2018, he completed his MSc in Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) at the Tizard Centre, University of Kent. Robert is now working on his PhD at the Tizard Centre, researching the implementation of PBS. His entire career has focussed on the importance of children’s play in promoting physical and mental well-being. Robert has been the CEO of ELHAP for over sixteen years and started job sharing with Johanna Merry in May 2018.
Johanna Merry first started work at ELHAP in 1987 as a volunteer and then a relief play worker. She went on to gain extensive experience across the social care sector in both children’s and adults services, developing a wide range of innovative projects with successful outcomes. Johanna established SeaChange Advocacy in 2009 to provide independent consultancy across London and Essex and has supported teams at every level to improve performance and transform services. She also worked for Barnardos for 29 years in various roles and has a background in Inclusive Theatre.
Johanna is a specialist trainer focusing on communication and empowering support for people with learning disabilities. As an advocacy consultant Johanna has supported families in adverse situations; including Family Court proceedings and has broad experience of complex safeguarding cases. Johanna was a trustee at ELHAP for 11 years before becoming ELHAP CEO in May 2018 – a role she job shares with Robert Dighton.
Cathy was employed in various administration positions throughout her working career. She was General Manager at a City conference centre for 21 years, with a staff pool of 15 employees. Before joining ELHAP in September 2017, Cathy worked at an independent school in a Facilities and Health & Safety capacity, and has extensive experience of policies and procedures within a child specific environment.
Cathy brings with her a wealth of organisational skills and staff welfare is high on her radar.
Flora is a BA (Hons) Accountancy graduate and a qualified accountant with over 10 years experience working as a Finance Manager in a charity that works with children. Flora trained with one of the big accounting firms and has also worked in practices for many years. Flora brings with her both practice experience as well as experience working in a charity where she has dealt with charity finances. Flora loves being around children and is so passionate to use her skills and experience in making a positive difference to young people’s lives.
Nirmol began his journey at ELHAP as a volunteer in March 2011 and then worked regularly was a playworker on the playground. Nirmol completed a BSc in Biomedical Sciences at Kings College, London. From 2016 Nirmol began working on the Orchard Project as an Activity Worker and since 2020 as a Team Leader helping coordinate the Orchard Project.
Over the years Nirmol has gained a vast knowledge and experience working with children, young people and adults both at ELHAP services and other projects across London.
Ellie joined ELHAP as a casual playworker in December 2018 and has worked regularly on playground since. Before this, Ellie worked with children and young people in another service in Redbridge and brought her knowledge and experience from this to her role at ELHAP. From March 2019 Ellie joined the Orchard Project as a playworker, and since 2021 has been working as a Team Leader, helping with the coordinating of the Orchard Project. Ellie completed a BSc in Psychology at the University of Southampton and is currently completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Play Therapy. Alongside working at ELHAP she is also completing a placement as a play therapist in a primary school in London.
Kris joined ELHAP July 2018 as the playground’s Development Playworker, initially for six months. This role was extended, after which Kris successful applied for ELHAP’s Wellbeing Playworker role. Throughout his time with ELHAP he has been a consistent feature of the playground during several projects – Adventure Play for All, Stay & Play, School Play Visits and Academic & Corporate Volunteering. Kris brings a wealth of over a quarter century experience, delivering projects across the United Kingdom. Working in the statutory, community and voluntary sectors supporting the many issues facing children, young people and their families. Kris’s passion is to empower children & young people’s ability to shape and lead the activities they aspire to achieve.
Caroline joined ELHAP in 2022 as Nature play worker. She has always been interested in finding creative ways to motivate people to be involved and connected with their lived environments, especially those people who experience social or practical barriers to their inclusion. This has guided her 20+ years of working life towards a variety of roles across education, health and social care, and in the charity and voluntary sectors from volunteering to coordinating local services with a national health charity to tutoring horticulture for employment skills. Having seen first-hand the tangible and evidenced benefits of nature for health and wellness as a support worker with a neurological rehabilitation team she gained a social and therapeutic horticultural practitioner (STH) qualification with Coventry University. She is a passionate believer that there is something in nature to benefit everyone and hopes to inspire the curiosity and confidence to explore and connect on ELHAPs wonderful site.