We fund Ellie’s role as a Senior Playworker at the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice. Here’s what she has to say about her work and how it’s impacting her patients…

“I started my career working with nurseries and the early years, but I had a real passion for working with the whole family, so I moved to working in health visiting and social services. I was living in Sussex on the south coast where I grew up, and one day a family told me about a playworker they’d met at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). The parents said they could really see me doing that. So I went away, looked into it and applied for a job. That’s it! I then moved to London to work as a playworker at GOSH.

“I now work at Noah’s Ark Hospice in North London, funded by Starlight, as a senior playworker. When this job came up, I did a deep dive into what Starlight offered; it was just my dream job! It combines the community aspect and healthcare play that I’m so passionate about.

“We cover Tottenham, up to South of St Albans and down to Euston which is a huge area and the visits could be anywhere. In the homes of the families, I provide sessions for the children with my car full of toys. Back at the hospice, I offer play sessions for the children who are with us, giving them opportunities to play. Generally, play is opportunistic. You learn through play, through experiences that you come across as a child, and children in healthcare often don’t have those opportunities. Play supports children’s development and understanding, because play is how children learn.

“As a playworker, my role is less about medical interventions, which tend to sit with the play specialists. For me, it’s more about holistic care. In hospital the medical team are doing fantastic work, and it’s my job to engage with the child while that work is happening. Making these experiences more joyful for the child, before, after and in between. My job as a playworker is to give them some choice and control over a situation where they can feel helpless.

“Play is so varied that I need to adapt and apply my skills to so many different situations. It could be that the therapist doesn’t understand the form of communication that child’s using and I might be able to support with that in a very practical sense. Or it might be that the child isn’t engaging in therapy because it’s being called therapy and what they need is simply a safe space.

“I strongly believe that the best and most effective way to build and develop communication is through play. When children find things that are motivating and enjoyable for them, then they’re much more likely to engage. It’s hard work for them, but if it’s something that they are enjoying, they get so much more out of it.

“Children shouldn’t be put into boxes, we need to adapt to every child as they’re all different. We shouldn’t be expecting children to change their communication to suit us.

It should be known widely, without doubt, that play workers and specialists make a massive impact to a huge range of children.