The top training officer with a major south Wales care group who hit the right note by starting a smash-hit choir for some of the supported people it looks after has been shortlisted for a prestigious award.
In her job as learning and development officer for Swansea-based Accomplish Sarah Jones always stays in tune with latest developments.
And last year that meant starting the Accomplish Choir, whose 25 members include people with mental health needs, autism, learning disabilities and acquired brain injuries.
An early success came when they opened last year’s National Learning Disabilities and Autism Awards in Cardiff and prompted a standing ovation with a moving rendition of ‘This Is Me’ from The Greatest Showman.
It is this dedication to her caring role that has landed 33-year-old Sarah, who lives in Upper Tumble, Llanelli with her husband Dwayne and two children Logan, 10, and Olivia, seven, a place in the final of major national competition, the 2019 Wales Care Awards.
This is the 16th anniversary of the awards and the glittering presentation ceremony will be held at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday October 18, hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.
The awards are in association with Care Forum Wales, a not-for-profit organisation which is celebrating its own 26th anniversary this year after being set up in 1993 to give independent care providers a single professional voice with which to speak on one of the most important issues of our time – how to provide better quality care for those who need it most.
Sarah is shortlisted for the Commitment to Training and Workforce Development Award sponsored by the City & Guilds and WJEC Consortium.
Born and raised in Carmarthen, Sarah completed some Primary School Training at Trinity St David’s University and then spent two years at a school in Carmarthen.
Leaving teaching and following a spell working as a learning support assistant she became a support worker for Accomplish.
Taking on her present role two years ago she is responsible for providing training in everything from First Aid to medication handling for over 200 members of staff at over 86 residential homes across the region.
Last year she found time in a hectic schedule to start the choir and explained: “It’s been proven that singing is very therapeutic, especially for some of the people we support, and is also good on a social level in that getting together as a group enables people to make friends, meet and greet each other and have a chat.
“It was a great honour to for the choir to be asked to open the Learning Disabilities and Autism Awards and for it to receive a standing ovation for its performance. We’ve now got other gigs in the pipeline and it’s going from strength to strength.
“I sing along myself and although I’ve always been singing I’d never had the confidence do it in public until I was part of the choir.”
Further evidence of the effectiveness of Sarah’s training came recently when shortly after a staff member had attended one of her First Aid sessions she was at home looking after her young grandson when he started to choke.
Using the lessons she had just learned from Sarah she was luckily able to stop him choking and possibly saved his life.
“Everyone was so proud of what she was able to do because what she learned was obviously still fresh in her mind and it’s lovely to know that what I’m doing might have helped saved a life,” Sarah said.
She added: “I absolutely love every minute of my job and working with people. I believe that the better training you can provide for them the higher level of support they can give to those in our care.
“I was over the moon to be nominated for the Wales Care Awards and ecstatic about being shortlisted – it’s lovely recognition of the work we do but I see it as a team effort.
“I’m looking forward to attending the awards ceremony in Cardiff and hearing stories about the work others have been doing.”
In nominating Sarah for the award, a senior manager at Accomplish says of her: “She is committed to improving the service provided to both staff and the people we support.
“She enjoys a challenge as well as contributing to a culture of continuous improvement. Her training sessions have achieved tangible, positive improvements in our services.”
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.
He said: “The event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in the Welsh social care calendar.
“The aim is to recognise the unstinting and often remarkable dedication of our unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.
“The care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.
“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards that people need and never recognise the value of the people who need the care in society.
“We need to do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce – they deserve to be lauded and applauded.
“It is a pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists. Each and every one of them should be very proud of their achievement.”