Claire Priddle from Southend-based Trinity YFC has said “safeguarding children is at the forefront of what I do” after winning the ‘Welfare Officer’ category of our #CelebrateEssex competition on Twitter.
#CelebrateEssex promotes inspirational volunteer stories, motivating new faces and growing the grassroots community. Once nominations closed in October, a select group of welfare officers were chosen for a Twitter poll to identify the monthly winner who’d receive a prize and extra public plaudits. Claire won the vote in front of many strong challengers.
A proficient welfare officer ensures their club or league operates a safe, child-friendly environment and promotes good practice in-line with their Child Protection Policy. They may also be responsible for ensuring any Adults at Risk within their club or league can enjoy secure football participation. The position is one which Claire relishes.
She played football throughout school and college, but it wasn’t until her eldest son, who is now aged 20, started playing twelve years ago that she got involved in the grassroots game. In 2006, his manager noticed Claire had a great relationship with the boys in her son’s team and also had plenty of football knowledge, so he asked her to do her FA Level 1 Course.
When her second son was six, he also wanted to start playing for a local club, so Claire took him along to Trinity in Southend, where he joined a team. Trinity needed someone to manage and coach the side, so Claire took over the squad she still runs today, known as the Under 11s Blues. Claire has since completed her Level 2 and is planning to enrol onto a UEFA ‘B’ course.
She runs an SSE Wildcats Centre on Saturdays to encourage new young female players to join and she’s affiliated two teams (Under 10s and 12s) into girls’ leagues using players who joined from previous Wildcats sessions. Claire manages the Under 10s Girls alongside her assistant, but it was in 2015 that she took over from the club’s previous long-term Welfare Officer.
“It was after a club team managers’ meeting,” Claire recalled. “They asked if anyone was interested in getting involved. At the time I was a registered childminder and had a lot of experience in safeguarding and child welfare and wanted to help support the club with my knowledge. I’m a visible member of the club and I’m at the training ground every Saturday and Sunday.”
“I deal with some aspects of my role up at the training ground but a lot of my work is done at home in the evenings, even on the train. I mostly work via E-Mail so I have a record of what I’ve done, but I’m always available on the phone and even go to people at home to do things such as DBS checks. I work closely with the Club Secretary, Jan Bushell, on welfare issues.”
“Both of our high levels of experience together are invaluable. Jan is always at the club and knows all of the staff and players, and also does DBS checks when I’m not available. It’s important to have more than one person dealing with child welfare issues.”
Claire says she enjoys what she does, and finds it rewarding. She continued: “If anyone is thinking of becoming a grassroots football volunteer, I’d say do it! It was the best decision I made. Make use of all the tutors and mentors you meet on your journey. They have all been part of my role as a volunteer and their experience and support has been so important to me along the way.”
“I absolutely love my job at the club and I have a really good relationship with the managers, and players, because of issues which I have helped them to resolve. I always learn something from every situation I deal with. It can be extremely tough, but it’s a challenge and helping the children keeps me so enthusiastic.”
“Nothing is too much trouble and I’ve always got time to spare for everybody. They all know that. I like to see children develop and do anything I can do to offer that support. I’m aware sometimes I have to give difficult messages, and sometimes that can make me unpopular, but safeguarding children is at the forefront of what I do.”
Find out more about the #CelebrateEssex Competition, or how to volunteer in Essex football, browse the 'Volunteers' menu above. You can also follow @EssexCountyFA on Twitter, whilst additional information is shared on Facebook by searching for ‘EssexFootball’.