Helen was born in London, and brought up in Carlisle, Cumbria for much of her childhood. She attended the local comprehensive school and was captain of the school tennis and hockey teams, representing the County in Hockey, Tennis, Athletics, and Cross-Country.
She later became under-16 Judo Champion in North of England and Southern Scotland. She obtained a law degree at the University of Hull, undertook solicitors' finals at the College of Law in Guildford and qualified as a solicitor in 1988.
In 1996 Helen set up Grants Solicitors, a specialist firm focused on dealing with the problems of family breakdown. The practice has acted for over 14,000 clients since the outset and currently employs around 15 people. Perhaps uniquely the firm operates free weekly outreach and advice services in multiple locations across South London, Surrey and West Kent through its own dedicated unit called DVLAAN (Domestic Violence Legal Advice and Assistance Network www.dvlaan.com) which deals with the multiple issues relating to Domestic Violence.
Helen was a non-executive director of the Croydon NHS Primary Care Trust from January 2005 until retiring in March 2007 to concentrate on becoming an MP. Her role at the Trust involved supervising and overseeing the delivery of integrated healthcare for the community, holding to account the professionally lead executive and helping to ensure best use of financial resources to maximise benefits for patients.
Helen is married to Simon and has two teenage sons.