Meet some of the incredible frontline workers who will be giving up their Christmas day this year to look after those who need support and friendship.

At Ashwood in Oswestry, an extra care scheme for over 55s operated by the Wrekin Housing Group, a team of key workers, including carers will be putting their own plans aside to ensure others have all the support they need this Christmas day.

Julie Williams has been a Support Worker at Ashwood for nearly two years and will be working on Christmas day for the second year in a row. Although she would normally be spending the day at home with her husband and son, she will be joined at Ashwood by her parents who moved in last year.

Julie said: “I go home knowing they’re safe. It’s about being together and being with your family so as long as I get to see them some part of the day that’s all that matters. If being here brings someone who lives on their own a smile then it makes their day a bit better.”

Christmas day as a Support Worker starts with getting residents up and ready for the day, managing medications, responding to any emergencies and, in many cases, being the only friend some people will see that day.

Julie added: “It’s not a care home, its independent living but during Covid many people struggled. We have noticed many are now starting to mix more but some people do need encouragement and that’s why we’re here. I say use it or lose it, don’t give up.

Karen Garmston has been a Team Leader at Ashwood for 5 years and will be on duty from Christmas day to New Year’s Eve. If that wasn’t enough she will also be on call over the festive period, supporting Extra Care schemes across Shropshire.

Karen will be having an early Christmas this year and spending it with her husband and family:

She said: “We sadly lost our mum twelve months ago so this is our first proper Christmas without her but my dad and brother and I, we get together. I also have a farm so when I’m not working, I’m working. I tend to work Christmas evening so anyone who has small children and wants to get off can do.”

Karen describes how the team like to dress up in festive outfits, jumpers, hats and glasses to make sure everyone is happy and having a good time.

Karen added: “The ones that stay know we go out of our way and say we’re mad as a box of frogs. It’s about having time for the people on their own and making them feel part of a bigger family here. Christmas can be sad for some people but we try to make it happy and make it something for everyone. Christmas isn’t the same for everyone.”

Kirsty Rowley is also a Support Worker, starting in 2019, and will be working from Christmas eve to Boxing day. Her Christmas day would normally be spent with her husband and her 14-year-old daughter:

Kirsty said: “We’ve moved house this year so this is our first Christmas in our new home. We’ve made it all Christmassy. My husband will have dinner ready for when I finish work.”

Kirsty talks about how special the atmosphere is at Christmas time, even for those who will be spending it without family.

She added: “They have a really nice dinner here and some have visits from family. The Christmas spirit is here, you can feel it. They do appreciate the fact that we’re here with them rather than at home with our families. I’ve done other jobs that haven’t been in care and it’s not as rewarding. Something so small means a lot to that person.”

Julie Williams.

Karen Garmston.

Kirsty Rowley.