Ask the Experts: Post-retirement work options

Peter Lewis, Jeanie Lynch, June O’Sullivan and Tracie Trimmer-Platman
Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Our panel offers advice on working with children after retiring, joint commissioning, internet safety and the role of key workers.

Q: I am nearing retirement age but feel I’m not quite ready to give up working with children yet. I am keen to continue in a voluntary capacity and wonder what options are open to a professional of “older years”. Any suggestions?

Jeanie Lynch: Many voluntary organisations depend on volunteers to extend their reach and boost capacity so would jump at such an offer. There is likely to be a wide range of volunteering opportunities that suit your skills. But you may fancy a change. If you have been working with under-fives you may want to work with teenagers or vice versa – the possibilities are endless.

Roles can include being an advocate for children in care or mentoring young people with low self-esteem. Most organisations provide full training alongside regular supervision and the chance to take part in team events.

As a volunteer you are able to decide what you want to do and when. You need to find something that is right for you. Contact your local voluntary services to explore the options.

Jeanie Lynch has more than 20 years’ experience working as a senior manager developing support for vulnerable children and young people

Q: Can joint commissioning of children’s and adult services really make a difference?

Peter Lewis: The answer is “yes” but it is vital to ensure such arrangements make a positive difference. You need to be clear about what you want joint commissioning to do. That in turn is heavily dependent on good-quality data about the numbers of children and their needs, complemented by similar high-quality information about adults.

Adults and children may separately meet thresholds for support services. But real “crossover gains” come when support is provided for the whole family in areas like mental health, domestic abuse and a whole range of other issues where the needs of the adults have an impact on the needs of the children.

Joint commissioning is not easy and calls for exceptional leadership and for the work to be understood and owned by both corporate management and political leaders. Look to someone who has done this well and learn from them. Gateshead has attracted praise from Ofsted on this very issue and their approach is well worth checking out.

Peter Lewis is a freelance providing interim local authority children’s services leadership, and a former DCS in Haringey

Q: We’ve been talking to young people at our youth club about internet safety and many felt they could never be taken in by someone trying to groom them. We’re concerned they may be dismissing genuine risks to their safety. Any advice?

Tracie Trimmer-Platman: It is good your young members feel confident about this topic and they may well be more tech savvy than you. However, it is important to remember that those who set out to groom children are very manipulative and can seem highly plausible.

They almost always target vulnerable young people who are in need of support or friendship and play on their desire to be valued and fit in. It is essential to ensure young people have ongoing access to information, support and advice and are aware of helplines and other resources.

Display information about websites such as and new charity The Breck Foundation, which promotes safe internet use, as well as other organisations that support young people with online problems.

Tracie Trimmer-Platman is senior lecturer in youth and community work at the University of East London

Q: How do I increase staff understanding of the role of key workers at our nursery?

June O’Sullivan: The key worker or “key person” in your setting can be the crucial lynchpin in making the experience work for children and their families. The Early Years Foundation Stage outlines the role of the key person. Use this as the basis for discussion with staff.

The role is all about developing good relationships with both children and parents. Such relationships are built on trust so explore how to build and nurture trust.

Developing sensitive relationships with children is particularly important when it comes to very young children who may be unable to talk or express their fears. It might be worth revisiting the theories of attachment and transition and recent studies on expressing “love” in a professional setting.

Being a key person can be a demanding role so do consider how you support your staff including supervision, reflective journals, team meetings and training opportunities.

June O’Sullivan is chief executive of the childcare charity and social enterprise, the London Early Years Foundation

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