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18 November 2020

WeCare Wales Week: Day three - Early Years and Childcare

There are many different opportunities and places where you can work in both early years and children’s social care.

Here, we share stories from some of the amazing people working with children across Wales.

Lisa, CEO First Steps Nurseries

2020 has been a difficult year for so many people, and particularly so for those working in childcare settings. So many childcare services have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic, including the staff at First Steps, a not-for-profit childcare organisation, who worked tirelessly alongside Rhondda Cynon Taff Council to provide emergency care for key workers and those who needed it most during lockdown.

Lisa Thomas, CEO of First Steps, reflects on the early stages of the pandemic and how they supported staff. “Understandably, one of the biggest worries for staff was the thought of contracting the virus and passing it onto their families,” she explains.  “So we did everything we could to mitigate that risk and alleviate those worries. From keeping staff involved in safeguarding discussions about PPE and risk assessments to ensuring they were informed of any policy and procedure changes, ensuring safety and peace of mind was our priority.”

As well as keeping staff up to date with relevant guidance and training, First Steps made it a priority to regularly checked in on staff’s wellbeing. “The senior team offered high levels of support, guidance and kept staff involved in all developments,” explains Lisa. “They invited all staff to join a COVID-19 health and safety discussion group where concerns were shared, problems were overcome, and solutions were offered. This has been integral to us creating a better and more positive working environment.”

In order to cope with all the changes, First Steps opted to minimise the amount of paperwork for staff to complete and instead focused on ensuring that staff had the time to truly engage with children and their families. They provided parents with regular video calls and got children involved in the new daily routines such as temperature checks on the doors and handwashing on arrival. Lisa tells us, “each member of staff played a key part in helping children to overcome what must have been a scary and strange time for them, especially for those children who had never met them before. The motivation of our workforce cannot be put into words.”

As well as providing care for the children of key workers, First Steps also supported other families as they tackled home schooling. Despite never really using social media previously, staff were quick to take it in their stride. Parents were kept updated and given opportunities to communicate with nurseries via private Facebook pages. On these pages, parents could also access online activities, games and storytelling videos as a way of staying in touch. Social media became an important resource and lifeline to many families. Staff even found a way for parents to enjoy the special moment of nursery graduations by uploading materials for children to make their own graduation hats and submit photographs for a digital graduation book.

In summary, Lisa said, “our team members are heroes without capes. They have provided valuable opportunities without compromising on children’s play experiences, all whilst ensuring that the robust cleaning and safety protocols were adhered to.”

Rachael, Nursery Manager at Bright Start Day Nursery

As a Therapeutic Foster Carer, it’s clear that Rachael is a naturally caring person. But on top of this, she’s also spent 30 years of her life working at Bright Start Day Nursery at Pembrokeshire College, where she now works as a Nursery Manager.

It’s my job to ensure the smooth day to day running of the nursery, from the introduction of parents and children when they begin, to managing the health and wellbeing of staff,” explains Rachael. “I am educated to degree level in Childhood Studies and am currently working towards my Level 5 Diploma in Leadership for Children’s Care, Learning and Development (Management).  As this is a work-based learning programme within our nursery, it’s given me time to reflect and review our practice, which has been inspiring.”

There’s a lot that Rachael loves about her job and picking just one highlight is a difficult task. “I am very passionate about the nursery and my role within it,” she says. “I feel that it’s helped me grow as a person and to understand other people’s situations. I love working with the children, parents and the team, but I particularly enjoy supporting students on placement. Working with the students means that I’m able to share my experience, as well as giving them the opportunity to have their own invaluable first-hand experiences in a busy working nursery.  It’s a joy to see their reactions as they witness the energy and fortitude of young children – and to help shape a new generation of nursery workers.”

Reflecting on her career, Rachael comments, “Even after thirty years in the profession, I can truly say that I love my job.  Watching the children grow and develop as they explore and embrace new challenges is what drives me. They are what inspires me to keep moving forward in this ever-changing environment.”

Cindy, Playworker at Snap Specialist Playgroup

Snap Specialist Playgroup is a registered charity that receives core funding from the Welsh Government initiatives of Flying Start and Families First. Children with additional needs are referred to the service to receive ‘Early Intervention Through Play’ therapy which is provided by specialist support staff. Cindy is the Playleader there and has managed the service since 2003.

Cindy, Service Manager

“I’ve worked in childcare for years, and I’ve completed numerous courses and have earned various qualifications over the years, including a BSc in Childhood Studies, which I worked towards during my time here at Snap,” explains Cindy. “All of the staff here are always working towards new qualifications and certificates. From safeguarding, communication and social skills, to sensory curriculum and health and safety – the list of skills we have here is endless.”

As Snap provides a unique service across health, education and social care, it can be a challenging role. “The job does come with its challenges, but each and every member of staff at Snap rises to these challenges every day because of their passion and dedication to making a difference to children’s lives,” says Cindy. “I feel privileged to be able to support the children and their families, but I also feel so fortunate to manage such a fantastic team.”

This year has been a particularly challenging year for those working in social care and education, but Cindy and her team have continued to go above and beyond whilst still smiling. “At the start of the pandemic, many childcare settings had to close, but we stayed open with staff providing our valuable sessions for parents and children online,” Cindy recalls. “For me, this highlighted the impact of our work, not just on the children, but on the parents’ wellbeing too. It showed the importance in our roles as practitioners to support these families through a particularly challenging time. And that’s the most amazing and rewarding feeling.”

Sandra, Foster Carer and WeCare Wales Award winner

Sandra and her husband have been foster carers since 2001. As the main carer, Sandra is faced with daily challenges as she ensures that she meets the physical and emotional needs of the child, attends medical appointments and meetings, as well as supports and promotes contact with the birth family…

Andrew, Care Support Worker and WeCare Wales Award finalist

Andrew is a dedicated, intuitive Care Support Worker who enriches and enhances the lives of every child and family he supports. He adapts his approach to every child, using communication tools to understand their thoughts, wishes, feelings and choices…

Kate, Residential Support Worker and WeCare Wales Award finalist

Kate is a Residential Support Worker and works with her key child to encourage and support her. From day one, Kate has been a consistent figure to her, and her most important role model/guardian…

Peter, Residential Childcare Worker

Peter is a Residential Childcare Worker. Here, he shares his career in care so far and how he joined the sector…

Here, Peter shares how to become a Residential Childcare Worker…

Here, Peter shares why people should consider working in Early Years and Childcare…

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