Two child care professionals who’ve both spent more than a quarter of a century helping to give young people a better life have won a top award.
Paul O’Donnell, 60, and Len Drane, 55, directors of Priority Childcare at Llandarcy, Neath, specialise in working with youngsters accommodated by the local authority who need a supported residential environment.
Fellow social care professionals have praised Priority Childcare for its high-quality services and described both directors as very child-focused.
Their years of dedication and expertise led to them being nominated, and being declared worthy winners of the gold Wales Care Award, in the category of the Peter Clarke Award for Promoting Excellence in Services for Children and Young People.
Mr O’Donnell said: “It’s nice to be awarded something by your peers, in acknowledgement of the work you try and do and achieve.
“Of course, it’s not us alone. It’s our staff we have to thank for the good work they do as well, what they do for the young people we care for.”
The annual Wales Care Awards, run by Care Forum Wales, showcase best practice in a variety of roles across the social care sector.
The winners were announced at a glittering presentation evening held recently in Cardiff’s City Hall.
Mr O’Donnell, a father-of-two, has more than 35 years child social care experience including in the US. British social workers were recruited across the Atlantic because of their training and skills.
Len Drane, who has three children, has more than a quarter of a century of residential care experience as a registered manager.
Together they run six homes across south Wales, four of them in the Swansea area. They look after 28 young people with a variety of needs, educating some of them, too.
Paul said: “There’s a growing need for quality provision and quality residential provision. It’s vital to have such services.
“Very rarely do we have to end the placement.
“We always say to kids we want to stick by them. We provide stability for the youngsters that they need, and care and attention.
“We were very excited to be nominated for an award. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and experience that Len and I have. It’s also a nomination for the care staff who achieve the good outcomes.”
The pair now have almost 100 staff.
Paul and Len met more than 20 years ago while working in Merthyr Tydfil and eventually decided to set up a residential care company.
Christopher Francis, a manager with Swansea Council’s child and family services, said the nomination was supported by those responsible for commissioning placements in children’s homes in the area.
“The directors have consistently taken the time to listen and develop their company in line with the needs of the council and our young people,” Mr Francis said.
“The directors have ensured Priority Childcare offers a high-quality service. They are very child-focussed and this is a virtue mirrored in the decision-making and practice of the staff they employ to manage and run their homes.
“Priority Childcare has worked with some of our most complex, risky and challenging young people.”
The Peter Clarke Award was sponsored by Citation and presented by the current Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Professor Sally Holland.
The main sponsors of the awards were Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs. The MC for the evening was opera singer Wynne Evans, aka Gio Compario from the televisions adverts for Go Compare.
Mario Kreft, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the standard of entries was extremely high.
He added: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.
“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.
“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.
“We take our hats off to them.”