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Frances was born in Co Galway in Ireland and grew up on a small farm. She attended the local national school and then St Raphael’s Convent of Mercy in Loughrea. She trained as a nurse at King’s College Hospital in Camberwell south east London and then did her health visitor training at the University of Brighton. She continued her studies and got a BSc (1st Class Hons) from the University of Greenwich in 1997. She completed her post graduate research and was awarded the degree of PhD at Canterbury Christ Church University. Her parents did not go to school beyond the age of fourteen and they were very keen that their children should do well in education and contribute to society. All her siblings except for her brother who went into farming went on to third level education. The need for peace and justice in Northern Ireland was very much part of family discussions and political debate during her formative years and this has influenced Frances in her professional as well as her political life.
Frances worked as a health visitor for many years in London. She became particularly interested in supporting families where there were child protection issues and she went on to manage health visiting practice and child protection for a north Kent NHS Trust. She worked with traveller families and asylum seekers and refugees in the London Borough of Greenwich and saw firsthand the challenges faced by those living at the margins of society and how these groups were further disadvantages by the policies of the Thatcher and Major governments.
Frances and her husband lived in the USA for a year in 1983/4 on a Fullbright teacher exchange programme and returned to the USA for two years in 1991 with their two children. There she experienced another system of healthcare and education. At this time 38million citizens in the USA had no access to healthcare. She worked as a teacher assistant in a programme for autistic children at the local secondary school and then as a nurse in a hospice in the home programme mainly for HIV/Aids patients.
In 1997 Frances won a travel scholarship to Russia to look at primary healthcare and spent time in Moscow and St. Petersburg where she visited hospitals and polyclinics. She also visited New Zealand and France to look at partnership working and early years provision. She has been able to use health visiting knowledge and her experiences to develop a very effective Sure Start Programme at Millmead in Thanet. The need to listen to and work with parents and local residents has been key to her success. In 2005 Frances steered the Sure Start Millmead programme through incorporation as a Community Mutual, the first stand alone children centre community mutual in the country. She attended 10 Downing St and presented the model to Ed Miliband and Tessa Jowell and this model was included in the 2010 Labour manifesto. She was awarded an MBE for services to children and families in 2009. She is also on the Labour List for outstanding contributions to the Party. Through Sure Start she was able to see the power of politics and importance of involving local parents and residents.
She has been a member of the Labour Party for over fifteen years. She is a school governor at 2 secondary schools and she is also a Parochial Parish Councillor at her local church.
She is interested in issues of power and powerlessness and how individuals and communities can change their circumstances through working together within modern models of governance. She studied this in her PhD research. She is interested in seeing how these principles can be used to engage individuals and communities in the political process. Frances has published on integrated working, leadership and the role of fathers. She presents at national conferences on early years and community mutual issues.