KEY workers have played a crucial role in keeping Warrington moving during the coronavirus pandemic.

Frontline staff across the borough have pulled out all the stops over the past year.

Warrington Borough Council social worker Jay Halliwell, who supports children in need, says social workers have had to adapt quickly to new ways of working to meet the needs of families.

“Working as a social worker within child protection is challenging at the best of times, however, the pandemic has brought about new challenges to overcome,” said Jay.

“Before the very first lockdown, my caseload was averaging around 16 children, however throughout the course of the pandemic, this has significantly increased, and reached to having 27 children under my care.

“All of the children and families I support have complex needs and require different levels of support, and it’s vital that we continue to provide the same high-quality standard of care and maintain effective relationships during these difficult times.

“Unfortunately, we have also seen an increase in domestic abuse cases and sometimes child neglect.

“This may be linked to families spending more time together at home due to school closures and some people being made unemployed or being placed on furlough.”

Council social worker Luke Britton, who covers hospital discharges, says Warrington’s adult social care services have supported more than 2,000 people to be discharged from hospital safely since the start of the pandemic.

Warrington Guardian:

Luke Britton

He said: “Being a social worker in the hospital discharge team during this time has been extremely challenging, with what was an already fast-paced environment becoming even more focused on timely discharges.

“My role has been to support people to be discharged safely to back into the community and return to their own homes, or to a different setting if needed, for further assessment and support.

“I started as a newly qualified social worker at the height of the pandemic in summer 2020 and with the nature of the role in a hospital I have had gained so much experience and keep learning every day.

“Being able to work on the frontline helping others during a global pandemic has been very inspiring, especially working with the incredible staff at the council and in the NHS.”

Schools across the town have also played a key role during the pandemic.

Lisa Littler, head teacher at Callands Community Primary School, said: “All schools in Warrington have been working incredibly hard throughout the pandemic, and during this most recent lockdown, to support their communities.

“At Callands, not only did we support the children of 150 key workers on site, but also those who became vulnerable, with up to 200 children coming into school regularly by the end of February.

Warrington Guardian:

Pupils at Callands Community Primary School

“We have also provided places for children if parents were struggling to manage home schooling alongside their own work as we recognised the strain this put on family relationships.

“Our teachers have worked incredibly hard to balance supporting children in classrooms with those at home via live online lessons to ensure an equivalent offer was delivered at all times.

“Our teaching assistants have adapted to be able to deliver live sessions to support children in a bespoke manner, catering to their individual needs while at home.

“We have also taken advantage of the Department for Education’s offer of laptops for children at home and have been amazed at the generosity of local residents who have donated equipment to us, which really shows the true community spirit we have in Callands.”

Marcia Atherton, acting head teacher at Sandy Lane Nursery and Forest School, also reflected on life during the pandemic.

Warrington Guardian:

Staff and children at Sandy Lane Nursery and Forest School

She said: “Sandy Lane is Warrington’s only maintained nursery school providing care and education for children aged two to four years old.

“From the very start of the pandemic, our intention was to ensure that we minimised the impact of Covid-19 on children’s learning and development as much as possible and so we began to think creatively.

“We have remained fully open throughout the last year, with staff working in the building and also remotely from home.

“We welcomed our most vulnerable children and children of key workers to continue to attend school, ensuring rigorous risk assessments and hygiene measures were in place.

“We engaged with our parents in new and inventive ways via conference calls and doorstep visits, with the aim of offering welfare support and reassurance, and identifying appropriate services that we could refer to if required.

“We have provided a range of targeted learning activities for children to do at home and staff have kept in daily contact with families.

“In recent months, we have provided learning ‘goody bags’ to children who have continued to stay at home to help with the transition back to nursery. We are delighted to say that as a result of these positive measures, and parents’ trust in us, we have now achieved an attendance rate of 96 per cent.”

Julie Herbert, Woolston Play and Sensory Centre Manager, added: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve worked hard to continue to run an essential short breaks holiday scheme for disabled children.

“The ASPIRE programme has supported 200 children with complex needs and disabilities, who cannot access universal services.

“The service has been imperative in supporting families and children, giving them sense of normality during these challenging circumstances. The scheme is based at Foxwood and Green Lane School and is managed by the council’s early help team, in partnership with Warrington Youth Club, and provides an opportunity for children to make friends and engage in activities, while giving families essential breaks from caring.

“I am so proud to be a part of a service that offers such vital opportunities for our children with disabilities, enabling them to develop friendships outside of school and learn valuable life skills during a time when they could have become socially isolated and put families at the point of crisis.

“Watching this service develop and thrive has been an honour and to support children and families in Warrington during these difficult times has been a privilege.”