Chair – Dr Cathy Hamer Hughes

Dr Cathy Hamer is a long standing member of Connect and has been Chair since 2016. She is an early years teacher, HCPC registered Practitioner Psychologist and BPS Chartered Educational and Health Psychologist. Cathy has led the development of Sure Start, Children’s Centres, Early Support, early years, special educational needs and disability services across Wales, London and the North West. Cathy is the independent chair of the Best Start Partnership in the States of Jersey and coordinates the NW SEND regional network. She is an Associate for National Children’s Bureau, Council for Disabled Children and National Literacy Trust. She has a particular interest in working with parents of children and young people with special needs and disabilities, has conducted original research in this area, and delivers the Expert Parent Carer programme.

Trustee – Karen Byrne

I am Karen Byrne, I am a Trustee for Connect. I am the mum of a, now 20 year old son with ASD, and a full time civil servant. I have been involved as a parent volunteer with the Asperger’s Social Group since October 2014, and became a trustee in May 2015. I got involved when I decided that I wasn’t going to let my son leave school, without any friends of his own age, in his own town. Social communication in autistic children is extremely challenging. I contacted existing coordinators, which have now passed the group to myself to manage. I run the Asperger’s Social Group, and coordinate all the fortnightly meetings with other parents to allow the meetings to run smoothly, and as key holder open the PERTH centre, arrange refreshments and organise outings and trips as and when calendared with the teenagers who meet.
The group is set up as a youth club, for teenagers aged 11+ who have ASD and live in St Helens Borough and go to a mainstream school. It has been successfully building friendships since 2014, and now with the involvement of the Youth Service can build upon that success, and hopefully grow in numbers.

Trustee – Tracy Woods

I am a Trustee of Connect. I am mum to a 12 year old boy who has a diagnosis of ASD. I am a solicitor . When my son received his diagnosis it was important to me to become more knowledgeable about ASD. I also wanted to volunteer to assist other parents who have children with disabilities. If we help each other and share information and support it makes each of our own experiences easier. I joined Connect as a committee member in 2018 and became a Trustee in 2019. I hope that we can continue to build upon our existing schemes and establishing new activities for disabled children and their families in St Helens.

Mission Statement.

To empower parents to enable better communication between parents and professionals and to offer constructive help and support to disabled children, young people and their families in St Helens.

Wonderful Support


We have a whole team of people who support Connect and ensure that those children with an additional need or disability and their families have access to our services. We could not continue to offer the service without their support. We also have fantastic support from our other Trustees, committee members and volunteers, Shirley Gibson, Julie Doyle and Ruth Card.

We are very proud to have been awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in recognition for our work. We also work with the Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Service which provides support, advice, training, networking and representation for individuals and charitable organisations across the Liverpool City Region.

The charity is also funded by People’s Health Trust using money raised through The Health Lottery in the North West

People’s Health Trust is an independent charity investing in local neighbourhoods to help create a society without health inequalities. It works closely with each of the regional and country lotteries raising money through The Health Lottery, and distributes grants.

If you would like to help to support Connect by volunteering with us, please get in touch below.


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