Contact us:

Keystone Innovation Centre
Croxton Road
Norfolk IP24 1JD
T: 01953 885215 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm)

Lesley Ward – Group Director

Lesley Ward is the daughter of the founders of Next Step Fostering and has been involved with the company since 1988 – holding the position of Registered Manager for Next Step from 2002 to 2013. A qualified Social Worker who holds the Executive Diploma in Business Management, Lesley continues to lead and direct the Next Step Fostering Group along with the Senior Management Team, overseeing Next Step Fostering, Ryancare Fostering and Safehouses Fostering.

Joy O’Brien Miller – Registered Manager

Joy O’Brien-Miller is the Registered Manager of Safehouses and started her career in social work in 1990, working with children in a residential setting, helping to prepare them for long term fostering and adoption. After a variety of other experiences in social care including management positions in the Residential sector, Joy then moved into fostering in 2007 and has worked for two other independent fostering providers before coming to Safehouses in 2010 as a Senior Supervising Social Worker. She took up her role as Registered Manager for Safehouses in October 2014.
Joy completed the Diploma in Social Work in 1995 followed by the NVQ 4 in management in 1996. She later completed a Diploma in Therapeutic Child Care which enhanced her understanding of the complexities of children who have endured trauma.

Michelle Batchelor – Children’s Champion

Unlike other Foster agencies, the Next Step Group has a dedicated Children’s Champion, who advocates for all our children making sure that their views, wishes and feelings are heard. Michelle, a qualified Social Worker in her own right, works with both looked after and birth children gathering a range of feedback and views to help us improve our service for all our children. She also arranges fun activities during the school holidays and co-ordinates our involvement in the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme. Find out more in her hello from our Children’s Champion. Michelle is currently on maternity leave, but if you have a question about the Children’s Champion role or any of the activities of events that we run, please contact

Our Social Worker and Administrator Team

We have a dedicated staff team of Social Workers and Administrators across East Anglia and Essex to work along side our Foster carers, to support them in helping children and young people – ensuring all our carers are supported by the best people in your area. Our Team are always on hand to ensure that you get the very best training, support and advice OR just for a cuppa and a chat.

Social Workers

Jennifer Faherty, Katharina Carter and Liz Mack (part-time) are our Supervising Social Workers, who have a vast amount of Fostering experience between them, make up our Social Worker Team.


Julie Warner, Asa Seljestad-Payne and Grace Cook are our Administrators, and complete the team.