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Staff Story: Patsy Underwood, Residential Care and Environmental Support Worker

Residential Child Care worker at Five Rivers Child CarePatsy joined Five Rivers in 2011 as a Residential Child Care Worker at Ebble House in Wiltshire. She now works as a Residential Care and Environmental Support Worker, working with both Ebble House and Avon House, where amongst other responsibilities, makes things for the garden, and supports with the upkeep of the homes’ living environments. 

How long have you worked at Five Rivers, and what’s been your journey so far? 

I joined Five Rivers in September 2011 as a Residential Child Care Worker. I later became a Senior Residential Child Care Worker, which is now referred to as a Team Leader. Most recently, I became a Residential Care and Environmental Support Worker which allowed me to continue working with the children, whilst also looking after the home environment. 


Have you always worked in Residential Child Care? 

No, prior to joining Five Rivers I worked for Action for Children as an Outreach worker for 21 years. This role was very varied, from working in homes with families, to parenting groups, groups for children who have witnessed domestic violence and summer play schemes! There were a lot of different aspects to the role, which then changed when the Government wanted to change Family Centres to Children’s Centres which concentrated on the under 5’s. I decided that this was not what I wanted to do, and having worked in the sector for so long, I wanted to continue to work with children and young people. 

Describe your first weeks at Five Rivers. 

Once my recruitment checks were in place (an enhanced DBS certificate and my references were verified) I did a two-week induction period which included Therapeutic Crisis Intervention* (because then we were known as Therapeutic Practitioners). During the two weeks, we met the Senior Leadership Team, which gave you a feeling of being part of the wider family that is Five Rivers. 

My first day at Ebble House was interesting, when the reality of my new role and my two-weeks of training kicked in; I was asked to stand at the front door and encourage a young person not to leave. He hurtled towards me and jumped and said, “I could pick you up and throw you at the wall” to which I replied, “I’m sure you could, but I’d prefer it if you didn’t, thank you”. And so, my journey with Five Rivers began… 

*Therapeutic Crisis Intervention has now changed to ProActive Approaches training. 

How have Five Rivers supported your career and development? 

With support and encouragement, I completed my QCF 3 in Children and Young People with the inhouse trainers at the time. Being assessed in the home and receiving feedback was encouraging, and made me want to progress further. When I completed my QCF, I was successful in getting the role of Senior Residential Child Care Worker (now called a Team Leader) and was offered supervision training which enabled me to help others develop in their own roles. Supervision is key with this line of work, sharing and caring helps aid development; the more you give, the more you get back. It also helps support the home’s manager, and adults who support the children we care for. 

The training that Five Rivers provides is exceptional, and face-to-face training was always a good time to meet up with other care workers from other homes, and share all the great work we do, and pick up a few tips along the way. Five Rivers have selected exceptional training providers who have experience working in the field, and who can make really bring the training to life with real experiences and practice exercises. 

What’s the best thing about working in Residential Child Care? 

There’s so much about my role which I love! From taking the children on holiday, encouraging them to learn new skills, sports activities, cooking, and supporting them with education. It’s also the little things like birthday and Christmas celebrations, and sharing their successes. 

Just being able to support the young people that we work with to have a different experience of life, and giving them some alternative coping strategies is fantastic. Showing that we care supports us in helping them take the next steps to independence, foster care, or moving into their own homes. 

When Ofsted visit, or we have a Regulation 44 inspection there is a lot of work involved, but it’s very rewarding. I’ve seen a lot of changes in my time at Five Rivers and celebrated the organisation’s 25th and 30th anniversaries. No two days are the same, but I’ve worked with over 25 children in my ten years at Five Rivers, and I still hear from them from time-to-time. They share their stories of how they’re doing – it just shows the difference we can make by encouraging them and through promoting forming positive relationships. 

Tell me about your role. 

 When the opportunity came up in January 2020 to become a Residential Care and Environmental Support Worker, I jumped at the opportunity, but what a year it was! The added pressures of coronavirus created new challenges to overcome, so it’s hard to describe an average day. But I now work across two homes, Ebble House and Avon House, and environment in the homes is key.  

I make sure that bedrooms for children who are referred to Five Rivers are ready, and I find this so special and rewarding. I also enjoy making things for the garden – gardening is a real passion of mine, so it’s great to bring it into my day-to-day role. Part of my role also includes health and safety (making sure that the home is clean and that repairs are being reported and fixed). I also support adults in the home to keep on top of the environmental tasks, and I offer a listening ear too. I always celebrate with the adults as they develop and move up the career ladder and use my experience to help them where I can. At Avon, I’m known as ‘Nana Pat’, and that says it all really. Long may I continue in this role and be part of the family that is Five Rivers Child Care. 

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