Following the temporary closure of services, An Droichead partnered with LORAG Community Group to deliver a specialised service for the Belfast Trust. We opened two rooms catering for up to 14 children daily. Each room had a maximum of eight children with two staff members morning and afternoon. An additional staff member relieved staff for breaks and helped out in implementing an enhanced cleaning regime.

All our policies and procedures were reviewed and updated to add mitigating procedures for Coronavirus. A separate Covid-19 policy was developed and an updated information pack for parents new to our service. We conducted a full risk assessment review and updated this accordingly, as well as an enhanced cleaning regime.

The first few weeks were the most daunting as we found ourselves learning about our services from a different perspective and we had an ‘all in this together’ approach, ensuring we were delivering a quality service with the focus on safe practice. PPE was a concern for the staff as they were worried how this would impact on the children and also how they would manage in their new uniform.

Staff and children settled very quickly into this new way of working, with staff developing ideas daily as they put all the new procedures and way of working into practice. The partnership was a great way to learn from each other, and staff and managers worked closely and very well together, ensuring good communication and a strong partnership was established. Feedback from our families has been extremely positive with some of our families choosing to remain with us.

We had regular contact from PlayBoard asking what our worries and struggles were as they tried to support us through this time. Early Years and Altram also updated information regularly as they tried to support the sector on how to move through the unknown. We liaised daily with these groups and Social Services, and they worked together to take the childcare sector forward. This joined up approach became invaluable as the information, support and guidance began to flow. This put us on a much better footing as we moved forward, knowing there was financial support, understanding and acknowledgement of how it was to work on the ground and the determination to work together for the greater good. It was important to know that what we were doing and adapting was right, and equally as important to have a platform to share the difficulties faced. We have now been operating for three months and have delivered an important and successful service throughout the emergency period.

Despite the initial concerns about the unknown and the worries about the virus and how it would impact on our setting, the learning and experience we have gained through delivering a very successful service has been second to none. We have established new, and very good relationships with families that were never previously with us, with other staff members that would not normally work alongside each other, and established a strong partnership with a local community group that we hope to develop further in the future. Our relationships with all of the above organisations have strengthened and we look forward to working together in the future, whatever that may bring.

Tara Gibney
Childcare Services Manager
An Droichead Childcare Services