Meet The Team

Paul O'Rourke
Managing Director

Paul O'Rourke

Paul is the founder of the Next Stage Group which he started 15 years ago and now consists of four separate businesses.

The first is a specialist provider of care, support and accommodation for vulnerable adults, particularly those with severe and enduring mental health.  Following the success of this business Paul and his team have gone on to create a children’s home service for 8-17 years old; a support and accommodation service for young people 16-18 years old and more recently the inception of a fostering service.  Cumulatively the Next Stage Group now employs in excess of 200 people.

Prior to establishing the Next Stage Group, Paul gained a wealth of experience working for various Local Authorities in a number of different health and social care settings, as well as within the legal sector working with and for a number of prominent solicitors in the North West of England. 

Paul believes the quality of staff drives the quality of our services. Paul is proud to be a ‘Living Wage Employer’ who values staff and aims to be an employer of choice. Paul’s goal is that he wants the Next Stage Group to keep on being the best.

Jeremy Alston
Senior Service Manager

Jeremy Alston

Jeremy is a Social Worker registered with the Health & Care Professions Council and has been involved with the care industry for over 26 years working with children, young people and adults with complex and challenging behaviour.

His experiences have included being a director of a company that designed and built a school for young people and adults with varying complex needs. Jeremy has also previously held a number of Registered Manager and Responsible Individual posts.

Jeremey is currently the Nominated Individual with the Care Quality Commission for Next Stage A Way Forward and the Responsible Individual for Next Stage for Fostering with Ofsted. His role is overseeing and ensuring a high standard of service delivery and compliance within regulatory frameworks.

Jeremy has a vast amount of experience working within the independent sector and in positive partnership with Local Authorities, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.

Lynda Hardman
Registered Manager

Lynda Hardman

Lynda is a Social Worker registered with the Health & Care Professions Council and has worked within child care for almost 30 years working in a variety of roles.

Lynda has worked within the Independent Fostering Sector for 12 years and has brought a vast amount of fostering experience and knowledge to the Agency.

Lynda is passionate about the importance of building the self-esteem and aspirations of ‘looked after’ children and young people.  She firmly believes the key to this is ensuring children and young people live with well supported, caring, understanding, nurturing and resilient Foster Carers.

Paula Carroll
Business Operations Manager

Paula Grounds

Paula has worked in a diverse range of administration roles and has gained a vast amount of experience in identifying business needs and determining solutions to business problems. Paula has seven years’ experience of working in Independent Fostering Agencies and excellent knowledge and awareness of Fostering Regulations and Legislation.

Paula’s role is to ensure a continuous, high quality service is delivered to staff, Foster Carers, Local Authorities, children and young people, whilst maintaining the smooth running of the business.


Lucy Ivory
Supervising Social Worker

Lucy Ivory

Lucy is a qualified, registered Social Worker who has previously worked in frontline child protection services.

She has a degree in Psychology from Glasgow University and is also studying to become a cognitive behavioural therapist.

Described as having a “Lancashire can-do attitude” *, Lucy is determined to bring a creative flare to her work with children and families and enjoys conjuring up innovative solutions to difficult problems, and hopes to encourage foster families to do the same.

Times Article – Social Work Revolution

Celina Shallard
Supervising Social Worker

Celina has 12 years’ experience as a qualified social worker and this incorporates work within the statutory, voluntary and private sectors in the UK in the spheres of Youth Justice, child protection, fostering, adoption, child sexual exploitation, family group conferencing as well as international social work. Celina worked in the Family Courts between 2012 and 2017 to represent children as the independent voice of the child in Court in both private and public law proceedings to ensure that the decisions made about children were in their best interests.

Celina regularly visits Uganda and has worked alongside Calm Africa to promote Community based Foster Care, to enhance Foster care systems, to develop the early stages of a Fostering Network, she also commenced initial discussions with different stake holders to advise how Children’s representation in Family Courts could be initiated.

A particular area of interest to Celina is the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child which states that children should live with their families and if this is not possible the state should provide them with an alternative family such as a foster family. Celina believes that children should be afforded the highest standard of care, which includes the option of Foster Care. Celina is passionate about working alongside Foster Carers to develop solutions-focused and creative approaches to improving the outcomes of looked after children.

Sandra Aspinall
Family Support Worker

Sandra joined the Next Stage for Fostering team April 2016 as a Family Support Worker. Sandra's experience includes a parent to twin boys and following her career as a Foster Carer now has Special Guardianship for three siblings. Sandra offers support to our Foster Carers, their families and Children & Young People.