A businesswoman who is tasked with changing society’s view of disability

Mumpreneur, Rachel Hill

RAchel Hill founded Hillside Childcare in 2007, having previously built a career in childcare, education and SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities for Children, Young People.

When Rachel became a mother to her son Tommy in 2010, she didn’t know that her parenting journey might not be straightforward and that the same qualifications and experience in SEN and disability would be of such value to her family. day.

said Rachel; “I’ve worked in childcare since I was 18, but it wasn’t until I became a mother to Tommy that I felt motivated to support others, especially those with children with special needs and disabilities, because that was my new reality.”

When Rachel and her family realized that her son Tommy was not meeting his movement milestones as a baby, they set out on a journey. After many appointments, tests and evaluations, there were no diagnoses and they were told that Tommy had a developmental delay in his gross motor skills because he didn’t know what the future held, together they moved forward and took life one day at a time. Tommy is now 14 and uses a walking frame or wheelchair.

Rachel got back; “I think as a mum you know when you’re down, it’s that magical maternal instinct that you hear so much about and while other kids Tommy’s age were starting to hit certain milestones, especially in movement, we were told to wait. until he was 12-18 months old before any recommendations were made as it was too early to confirm if there were any problems.’

She continued: “By the time he was 18 months and 3 years old and once we found out more, I found it very difficult to process and was often upset and so very protective of him. There were days I could pack it up and run, other days I felt like superwoman, and others I didn’t. It’s been a rollercoaster, but really it’s all normal emotions as parents and I have had to become stronger for Tommy and for ourselves.”

In addition to caring for her family, Rachel built a successful care business, employing a team of 75 staff and running four thriving nurseries.

As Rachel juggled her business, supporting the children and their families and managing domestic responsibilities, Rachel often received questions about Tommy’s development and to gain some control over it, she created the Facebook group ‘Rock on Tommy’.

said Rachel; “When he was about to start Kindergarten, I felt I needed to be in control of the situation and his disability, and without being defeated by a lot of questions from other parents and even other children on the first day of school, I decided to share more online about our experience and the things he did. It became a little diary where we shared family days and special moments and some not-so-fun moments as well.’

“We got so much comfort from the reactions we got from our followers, but it was the community of other parents in a similar situation that really made me feel the most confident. It filled me and my husband with so much hope that without realizing it we built our own community and in a short time we had hundreds of followers too.”

The latest estimates from the Department for Work and Pensions suggest that 16.0 million people in the UK had a disability in the 2021/22 financial year. This represents 24% of the total population, of which 11% are children.

And while Rachel was her own boss and wasn’t personally discriminated against in the workplace, she was in contact with mothers who were.

Through the Rock on Tommy platform and the work she did online with their Facebook community, Rachel’s perspective changed when it came to business and ultimately the type of work she wanted to put her energy into.

In 2023, after sixteen years of extraordinary success, Rachel left her childcare business and took some much needed time off to take on her new chapter; raising awareness and making a difference for families in the UK who have children with disabilities and special needs.

Combining her career and her home life, Rachel is now using ‘her calling’ to campaign across the UK to ensure Tommy and others like him are seen and heard.

She said: “Tommy is now 14 and is my biggest motivator every day. I know if he can do it to me, he can do it to others.’

Rachel explained: “I started my childcare business scared and very nervous, with just two children on my books, and yes, it was a lot of hard work – as this will be – but we did it. I now know that it is my mission to combine my years of experience with supporting other children to offer online learning and a voice to families that look a lot like ours. It’s obvious now that the work I’ve done for over two decades has led to this, I just didn’t know it when I was eighteen and first entered the childcare environment.’

In 2024 Rachel, together with her family and of course her son Tommy, hopes to support families who may feel lost in the system and sometimes in a world that is not always ready for them and if the new year is not the right one. time to start, so when?

Rachel will be hosting one of six webinars at the ECELU 2024 E-Seminar on “Respecting the Child’s Right to Play”. Join her presentation at 21:00 GMT on Tuesday 30 January.

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