Our staff and trustees

Our leadership team

Our leadership team is responsible for setting our strategic direction and the day to day running of Gingerbread. They make sure we do the best work possible to support single parent families. 

Victoria Benson, CEO

Victoria joined Gingerbread in February 2019, having served on the Board for four years before that. As a single mum to six children and the daughter of a single parent, Victoria is passionate about supporting single parent families and driving forward our ambitious strategy.

Prior to working at Gingerbread, Victoria was Director of Governance at Macmillan Cancer Support for 12 years and practised as a solicitor before that. Victoria has a PG Dip in Voluntary Sector Management from Cass Business School.

Jo Hardy, Head of Services

Jo is responsible for Gingerbread’s advice services, including the helpline and peer support activities, covering our network of single parent friendship groups across England and Wales. She is also the charity’s safeguarding lead.

Jo has spent almost three decades working in the charity sector, in organisations providing a range of information, advice and family support services, including Contact, Mencap and YoungMinds. She also spent five years on the London region grant-making committee at BBC Children in Need.

As a single parent with two grown-up sons, and having been raised in a single parent household, Jo is passionate about supporting single parent families, in particular challenging disadvantage, empowering parents and carers to thrive and getting the best outcomes for children, and innovation in the charity sector.

Vaila McClure, Head of Communications and Engagement

Vaila joined Gingerbread in April 2021 as the Comms and Digital Manager and led on the succesful delivery of a refreshed and rebranded website. In her acting up role, she will lead on Gingerbread’s digital, marketing and brand communications.

Vaila has over 12 years’ experience in the charity sector, having previously worked in the schools team and then digital team at ActionAid UK. Before that, she worked as a secondary school science teacher.

Vaila’s experience of being a bereaved single parent means she knows first-hand the challenges of parenting alone and the importance of single parents being able to get the support and advice they need, when they need it.

Teresa Forgione, Head of Income Generation

Teresa joined Gingerbread in January 2023. Following her parent’s separation and two of her aunts being bereaved with young families, she has seen first-hand how successful families can be when headed up by compassionate, determined, resourceful solo parents.

Before working at Gingerbread, Teresa was a fundraising consultant for around five years, coaching leadership and helping them develop sustainable fundraising strategies and collaborative working cultures at both large and small charities. Before that, she spent twenty years successfully growing and leading multimillion-pound income-generating teams at larger charities. She completed her MSc in Charity Marketing and Fundraising at Bayes (formerly Cass) Business School. She is thrilled to bring her personal and professional experience to a cause that means so much to her personally.

Sarah Lambert, Head of Policy and Campaigns

Sarah has over 15 years of working in policy and campaigns in the charity sector – mostly working on disability issues, but more recently as a freelancer working for a range of charities to support them to secure transformative policy and legislative changes for the people they represent. Key successes include playing a lead role in the passing of the Autism Act 2009 and changing the criteria for Blue Badge parking to better reflect the needs of autistic people while at the National Autistic Society, and leading the team to secure priority supermarket home delivery slots for blind and partially sighted people during the pandemic while at RNIB.

Sarah spent a significant proportion of her childhood in a single parent household and is passionate about ensuring that the voices of single parents and their families are at the heart of everything we do to campaign for change.

Cheryl Chan, Head of Finance and Resources

Cheryl joined Gingerbread in March 2024 as Head of Finance and Resources. Although a qualified accountant by background, Cheryl has held a variety of roles in the utility sector where she worked for 20 years and more recently was Head of Finance at Barts Charity.  Cheryl is also a Trustee of Kent Community Foundation, a professional grant maker working across Kent and Medway and previously was a Trustee in the creative arts sector.

As the mum of a young son, Cheryl believes that every parent and family should be able to thrive no matter what their circumstance and the work of Gingerbread is so critical to making that a reality.

Our trustees

Our board of trustees is responsible for making sure that we fulfil our charitable purposes and legal requirements, as well as shaping our long-term strategy. They bring a range of skills and experience from different fields and give their time freely to support single parent families. Many of our current trustees have experience of being a single parent or growing up in a single parent family. 

Dr Jo Casebourne, Interim Vice-Chair

I was brought up in a single parent family in the 1980s and 1990s, which led me to do my PhD on the impact of welfare reform in the US and the UK on work and poverty for lone-parent families. I have subsequently spent the last 20 years conducting research on public services, social innovation, disadvantaged groups in the labour market, welfare-to-work, employment and skills, work-life balance and childcare. I became Chief Executive of the Early Intervention Foundation in August 2017.

The biggest challenge facing single parents over the last 18 months has been the impact of Covid – from juggling work and home-schooling, to making ends meet for those who lost their jobs or couldn’t find work, whilst also supporting their children finding time to look after their own mental health. The work of Gingerbread is more important than ever and I am pleased to be a part of helping Gingerbread support lone parents.

I enjoy walking with my dog and am currently nearing completion of the 630 mile South West Coastal Path – being up on the cliffs is a great way to get perspective and to relax. I also love reading and I blog on the books I enjoy.

Diane Gault, Trustee

I’ve got a lot of admiration for single parents and I believe that single parent families should be better supported. Both my mum and my sister were single parents, so I know what a struggle it can be. Gingerbread has an impressive track record of supporting single parents, committed and passionate staff and volunteers, and the knowledge and expertise to make a real difference to the life’s of single parent families.

A lot of single parents struggle financially due to barriers around accessing work and child care, and trying to work whilst parenting alone, which is sometimes simply not possible. When it is possible, it’s demanding and exhausting. When it’s not possible to work due to caring responsibilities, or lack of work that fits in with parenting alone, single parents are often in poverty. Whatever the individual situation, it’s an uphill battle.

I hold a Joint Honours degree from Goldsmiths College, University of London and I’ve worked in the charity sector for over 20 years. I’m a fundraiser by background, and over the last 17 years I have held Director level roles working across fundraising, membership, digital, external communications, marketing and campaigns. I’m a full member of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising.

I’m mother to Allegra, who is eight going on 30, and I also have two dogs and five cats, so I’m pretty busy. Allegra is a budding athlete and has been invited to join an athletics academy, so we do that, and we run together as well as doing karate and lots of dog-walking. We read together too, although now she’s old enough she mostly likes reading to me, which is a nice change! When I get time outside of that, I try to keep up with karate and yoga, both of which I’ve been doing for nearly 20 years.

Henry Gregg, Trustee

As someone who grew up in a single parent family, I am aware of the day-to-day challenges they face, for example financial stability or finding safe, secure housing, and I really want to help Gingerbread get support for the people who need it the most – especially post-pandemic when the pressures on single parent families have become immense.

There is still stigma around single parent families but hopefully, the highlighting of inequalities during the pandemic has increased understanding of these challenges and the public desire for action to address and help to solve these issues.

I went to comprehensive school and Oxford University before a career working in politics and housing. I work for the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham as Director of Strategy and Culture, supporting and empowering residents through the recovery from the pandemic.

I have a long standing tradition of inventing stories for my children, aged five and seven, before they go to bed which has forced me to be very creative and imaginative as I have to come up with a new one every night – but is reflective of the fact that I really liked being read to as a child and I’m looking forward to reading them some great books in the future!

Mariam Kemple Hardy, Trustee

I’ve joined Gingerbread as a trustee to support the organisation in its mission to support single parents and their families to thrive because, as a feminist and a parent, I know this critical to achieving a more equal society. Furthermore, there has never been a more important time to support single parents after the impact of Covid-19 laid bare the stark inequalities suffered by those households, particularly the financial instability experienced by so many single parents.

I have almost 15 years’ experience working as a charity campaigner and since 2016 I have been Head of Campaigns at Refugee Action. I studied English Literature at Cambridge University followed by Human Rights Law at the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). I’ve previously been a Trustee for the Woman’s Trust.

I have two boys, a five-year-old and two-year-old, who keep me very busy. We enjoy splashing in muddy puddles, warming up by baking brownies and then eating them while watching Disney as part of our “Family Film Club”. If I do find any time outside of that, you’ll find me in a yoga position, at a climate protest or chatting with friends.

Ema Howling, Trustee

I’m a single parent and have been a Gingerbread meet-up co-ordinator for the last seven years. I have got great experience and knowledge and want to use both in my role as trustee to enhance and help others in the same situation. The biggest challenge faced by single parents is to not be forgotten but to be included.

My background has always involved children. I’m a qualified nanny of 20 years and a children’s party entertainer – I can do everything from balloon modelling to face painting to making crafts. I attend fairs and festivals as a face painter, glitter tattoos are a favourite! I am also a trained hairdresser and barber, although at present I only cut my son’s hair.

I love to travel and this hasn’t changed since my son was born. We’ve been to many countries together and we’ve volunteered in schools in Costa Rica, Nepal and Ghana and we even helped out at a turtle sanctuary. I definitely enjoy making memories, making every day mean something and to always to be kind – smiling at people is one of the easiest and quickest ways of getting great reactions. You never know how bad somebody’s day could’ve been.

I’ve been fundraising for Marie Curie for several years and I am actively involved in my local community. I help at my local food bank and I attend my local church weekly. I’m also part of the parents in participation at my son’s school and I have joined forces with the local theatre to help hold events for single parents. Last year, I was a surrogate for a family which was a great experience. I firmly believe that life is not what you can take out of it, it’s what you can give back.

Tom Madders, Interim Chair

Single parent families face enormous pressures but are consistently overlooked as a group that needs additional support. I joined Gingerbread because I want to be part of changing that by giving single parents a stronger voice in shaping the policies and practices that impact them.

I’m Communications and Campaigns Director at YoungMinds, where I am responsible for campaigns and influencing, digital, brand and our youth voice work. I’ve spent 16 years in the charity sector, mainly at disability charities. I’ve worked in a variety of roles, but the constant thread has been about giving power to the people we represent to create change and running campaigns with real impact.

I’m a new father, so my son, Vito, has my attention during most of my free time. You’ll also find me sitting at a piano or on a tennis court when Vito lets me! My son is really little still, but he mainly enjoys putting random objects into his mouth and making increasingly ridiculous noises. Hopefully his interests will develop over time

Naz Nowroozi, Trustee

I became a single mother shortly after my beautiful daughter turned a mere year old. What should have been the happiest moments of my life as a first time mum on maternity leave instead became one of the darkest and most traumatic times for both her and me. I struggled at first, but then I realised that human beings are built with an incredible reserve of strength and determination. As a trustee, I’d like to see all parents and wider members of any community know about Gingerbread and for all single parents to be proud to mention us.

I obtained my BA Hons in Film and Broadcasting, and after a couple of roles on a Children’s TV and a leading Formula 1 Magazine, I accidentally found my passion for finance. I became a qualified accountant in 2011. After senior leadership finance roles at a leading UK Housing Association and girls’ empowerment charity, I needed to make some changes to find my feet to take care of myself and my daughter. I am currently a finance manager for a local authority, and I love what I do. I hold FCCA status and am studying towards my APM – Association of Project Management.

As a child, I loved reading, roller-blading, going to the cinema, baking and just doing lovely activities at home with my family—something I model for my little one as she grows. Our family might just be the 2 of us, but I ensure small loving rituals are in place, so she also grows with warm, fond memories of her childhood. We go for nature walks and do lots of arts and crafts and imaginary play. Our best times are when I just sit with her in her room for hours on end and let her lead with her heart content with play and games. I do aspire to find some time to do yoga, meditation and to get through a pile of books I have on child development and psychology – I am passionate about children’s mental health and love the Montessori principles that help a child flourish and grow.

The biggest challenges for single parents are childcare costs and finding time for everything. Childcare costs prevent (mainly) mothers from finding space and sanity, from getting back to work and doing what they enjoy.

Every single parent and their child should be free from suffering and access a life that makes them smile- I will do all I can to contribute to the materialisation of this dream.

Tayyaba Siddiqui, Trustee

I have been a single parent for 10 years and I am blessed to be the parent of an 11-year-old boy. Domestic violence was all that I faced in the relationship with my son’s father, even after leaving him. One day, finally, I closed my door on him forever. Life was hard but I was hopeful that one day things would get better. Hearing my son call me ‘Mum’ and his smiles have kept me going. My life is a roller coaster as a single mother, however I learned one thing: I am worth it!

I am a volunteer for a few charitable organisations, including as a Gingerbread group co-ordinator. I didn’t get much support as a single parent early on and I realised that to have my voice heard I needed to have a platform. Being part of Gingerbread makes my voice a big roar of single parents and I as a trustee my plan is to have tailor-made support for single parents.

By profession, I am a physiotherapist from Pakistan and I now work in the NHS, I love my job. My hobbies are listening to music, cooking, arts and crafts, reading biographies and spending a lot of time in bookshops. My son and I have reading challenges and we enjoy pillow fights too!

Being a single parent is twice the work and twice the stress but twice the hugs, twice the love and twice the pride. As a single mother I discovered inner strengths and capabilities I never knew I had. By being there for my son and showing him that it is possible to live and thrive on your own, I am teaching him to love with respect and be a good human being.

The biggest challenge as a single mother has been childcare – childcare is needed so single parents can work and be able to take care of their physical and mental health. My advice to any other single parent is to not feel guilty about taking care of yourself and have your ‘me’ time when you can. You need to be emotionally and physically strong to take care of your kids. Remember that nobody has the right to judge you or put you on a hot seat.

Our President

JK Rowling has supported Gingerbread since 2000, when she became our first ambassador. She has challenged assumptions about one parent families, offering millions of people new ideas about who single parents are, and how they came to be parenting alone. She has also generated a sense of pride among single parents. This has helped us bring about a real change in public attitudes. 

Read JK Rowling’s story of being a single parent. 

New Report