Meeting the need for specialist childcare
Helen Wynne’s passion, experience and qualifications have helped her create a successful business providing specialist childcare
01 October 2013
Helen Wynne’s son Dyfan was born with a disability so rare that he is one of just five people in the world affected. After having problems trying to find appropriate childcare for Dyfan, who has Chromosome 8 Deletion, Helen took matters into her own hands, combining her childminding expertise with personal experience to set up her own business, Blythswood Childminding.
Blythswood specialises in caring for children with disabilities and additional needs. Her qualifications and how she used them won Helen the City & Guilds Small Business Learner Award, a Medal for Excellence and the Overall Outstanding Achievement Award at the Lion Awards in June.
'Dyfan was very poorly for the first year of his life and had to be fed by a nasal gastric tube, so looking after him was quite a daunting prospect,’ says Helen. ‘There was lots of specialised training that me and my husband had to do, and no childminders were prepared to take him on.’
Helen had a circle of friends in her hometown of Wrexham who were in similar situations: ‘There was nothing for parents with disabled children under five.’
Motivated by the lack of provision in her local area, Helen and her husband enrolled on the City & Guilds Children’s Care Learning and Development course in 2009. Immediately after, she went on to do her Level 5, completing it in just six months.
‘I love doing courses and getting qualifications, I think I’m a bit of an addict!’ says Helen. ‘I was able to fit the learning around caring for Dyfan and work at my own pace – quickly.’
Helen has completed courses in autism and behaviour management, a Level 5 in Leadership and Management in Children’s Care, Learning and Development, and a Preparation for Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) qualification in childcare and development. As well as running the childcare business from her home, Helen runs training workshops for her local authority one night a week, specialising in special needs and inclusion.
On opening Blythswood Childminding, Helen was inundated. ‘We just don’t have enough spaces to provide for all the requests we have from parents,’ she says. Helen and her husband look after 12 children at any one time, have 30 children on their books and keep a constantly-expanding waiting list as they receive enquiries from parents on a daily basis.
‘We offer dedicated care for children with disabilities and additional needs. Other childminders are happy to take certain children but turn away from those with severe or multiple disabilities that they are not confident enough to deal with. But we don’t say no to anybody if we have a space available.’
The business offers round-the-clock care, including evening, early morning and overnight respite for parents. ‘We’ve learnt to be resourceful and confident and to provide the love, care and encouragement a child needs,’ Helen says.
Helen has taken on two new members of staff: ‘We have taken work experience students from local colleges and schools for the last four years, but two were outstanding so I employed them,’ she says. Both are now starting their City & Guilds QCF Level 3 in Childcare, Learning and Development under Helen’s tutoring, and they will be assessed on-site at Blysthwood over their courses.
If she can fit it in to her busy schedule, Helen is considering becoming a City & Guilds assessor herself – but only if she can find time around her many commitments, which include running a Zumba class five nights a week. ‘A lot of the parents come to my classes and we all use it to de-stress and relax.’