Meet our champions

As part of our journey to gain UNICEF UK Child Friendly Borough accreditation, The Child Friendly Redbridge Partnership has identified Champions to act as powerful advocates for the rights and voice of children and young people in the borough.

The Child Friendly Champions are a diverse group comprised of committed individuals from across public services, the voluntary and community centre, frontline staff, educational institutions, and including young people themselves.

The role of the Child Friendly Redbridge Champions includes:

  • Use their influence to make sure that children’s voices are heard in decision-making
  • Raise the profile of the Child Friendly Redbridge programme
  • Create opportunities and platforms for children and young people to advocate for themselves where possible
  • Challenge the Child Friendly Redbridge Partnership on how well we are delivering the programme and advocating for the voice and rights of young people


Our Child Friendly Redbridge Champions


Councillor Jas Athwal, Leader of Redbridge Council

Cllr Athwal has been involved in the Child Friendly programme from the very beginning. He was at Redbridge’s pitch to UNICEF UK in which he set out why the borough should be accepted on to the programme.  He supports the programme and believes that achieving UNICEF Child Friendly Community status for Redbridge is a key milestone in Redbridge’s mission for local communities to be places in which children and young people, regardless of their background, thrive.



Elaine Norman, Community Champion

Elaine has had both professional and political commitment to children and young people. She has been involved with the Children’s Network, a partnership with the voluntary sector, which looked to improve the lives of children and young people in Redbridge. When she became Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, her vision was for all of the children in Redbridge to develop to their full potential, to have high aspirations and to achieve their dreams. In spite of the Council already having a strong engagement with young people in the Borough and services, she knew more could be done. She believed the UNICEF child friendly programme would help to achieve this. She has a strong motivation and commitment to work towards becoming a UNICEF child friendly borough and to embed an unequivocal commitment to children’s rights at the heart of every decision the Council makes.


Dr Keith J White, Director Mill Grove

Dr Keith J. White has lived alongside children nearly all his life in the residential community called Mill Grove. Whenever possible he engages with them in exploring the natural world through play, especially mountaineering, swimming and sailing. As a writer and lecturer he has spent much of the past 25 years learning about cross-cultural forms of education and childcare around the world. He was one of the first in Redbridge to call for the borough to seek to become child friendly. In November 2005 he identified ten stages on the way to achieving this. Among his books are, The Growth of Love; Children and Social Exclusion; and Let the Earth Hear Her Voice, The Life and Work of Pandita Ramabai, based on his PhD. He is a regular contributor to the Therapeutic Care Journal.

Lesley Perry, Redbridge Safeguarding Children Partnership Manager

Lesley has managed the Redbridge Safeguarding Children Partnership for the past 7 years and is committed to supporting agencies that work with children and young people in Redbridge to do the best they can to safeguard all that they come into contact with. Part of that though is ensuring that the voice of young people is heard clearly and that their rights are respected. That is where the UNICEF child friendly programme comes in! As someone that grew up in Redbridge, and has spent a considerable amount of her working life in the Borough, Lesley is keen to see the development progressing and will work to ensure that the key messages are communicated across a wide range of networks. Safeguarding and safety is the bottom line and raising the profile of the work of the child friendly programme will support this.

Irfan Shah, Chief Executive Officer and Lead Youth Worker Frenford Clubs

Irfan has resided in Redbridge for over 42 years and works for a charity youth club based in the Borough since 1928. Frenford Youth Club sees over 4000 young people annually and is one of the only youth clubs in the country open 7 days a week from 9am-10pm. As CEO, he oversees all aspects of the running of the charity from youth work, facility management, staffing, and income generation.

Irfan has a BA Hons in Youth and Community Education and has been working within youth work for
over 17 years. He is a co-founder of the Frenford & Mutual Aid Redbridge Foodbank as well being a Trustee of Wanstead Youth Club for children with disabilities and is part of other voluntary organisations in many capacities. Finally Irfan works closely with local partners including the police around knife crime and bringing young people out of the cusp of crime and deterring them from re-offending. Irfan's passion is to create opportunities, support in personal development and particularly focused on accessible and safe spaces for young people.