A care manager has played a major role in pioneering a new approach to providing people in Caernarfon with learning disabilities with more fulfilling lives.
Andrew Guy’s dedication has been rewarded after he was named as a finalist at this year’s Wales Care Awards, the social care Oscars.
He has played a key role in putting in place a new system of active support which has broadened the horizons of people with complex needs and seen them taking on work placements and becoming involved in a range of leisure activities.
The methods adopted in Caernarfon have been so successful in the past three years that 42-year-old Andrew, has just taken on an important new job training fellow managers and staff at Gwynedd Council to adopt them in other areas of the county and has even helped spread the word abroad.
It is this dedicated approach to his caring role that has led to Andrew, who lives in Caernarfon, being shortlisted Leading Practice in Learning Disability and Mental Health category.
The glittering presentation ceremony organised by Care Forum Wales will be held at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday October 21.
Originally from Llanberis, Andrew’s first job after leaving school in Caernarfon was working in the café of the area’s famous mountain railway.
A couple of years later his career took a very different route when he joined the local authority as a care worker at the former Segontium day centre in Caernarfon looking after people with learning disabilities, some with complex needs.
He stayed with Gwynedd Council to become a support worker at another, similar day centre in Caernarfon which is part of the Arfon Community Link and eventually became its manager.
It was in this job that, with the strong support of his senior line manager Selwyn Lloyd Jones, Learning Disability County Manager, he began to modernise the way the service for people with learning disabilities is delivered.
Andrew said: “About three years ago we got to the stage where we saw that things had to change, so we set about campaigning to alter attitudes towards people on the more complex side of learning disability.
“From the British Institute of Learning Disabilities we’ve learned about all sorts of positive approaches and activities which help people to learn new skills.
“At Arfon Community Link we now focus on people’s competencies and abilities, such as arranging for them to have regular periods of work experience in places like local supermarkets, museums, charity shops and a food bank.
“This definitely helps to broaden their horizons and shows that no matter what the level of disability people can still contribute something to the community.
“Apart from work, there’s also the leisure side of things and we arrange for people to take part in activities ranging from swimming to gardening.
“But the important thing is that they only do what they actually feel like doing and always have our active support.
“We’ve seen that this new approach has led to a decline in people’s negative behaviour and that they have a better quality of life.
“A good example of this is a gentleman who left special needs school and was placed in a day centre out of town. This was deemed as a `failure’ but today he has one-to-one support and had the opportunity to have day work in a leisure centre.
“Because he wears a uniform he feels part of something and has no behaviours that cause concern. His grandmother had tears in her eyes when she saw a video of him cleaning and helping out at the centre because she was so proud.”
Active Support has up to now only been adopted for about 26 people in Caernarfon but Andrew was recently appointed as a senior training facilitator responsible for showing other managers and staff from across Gwynedd how it operates.
A film he produced about it has been shown at seminars in various areas of the UK and also in the Spanish city of Barcelona.
In nominating him for the Wales Care Award Andrew’s senior colleague, Selwyn Lloyd Jones, described him as “exceptional in his field” and “the mainstay and backbone of the whole service.”
Andrew said: “What I enjoy most about my job is watching people who were considered unable to do certain things in their own homes or out in the community actually doing them.
“We’ve been able to open up their social network, which shows that with the right kind of help everyone can achieve something.
“I feel very honoured to be shortlisted for an award, which I see as a great achievement, but it’s all been about partnership and if I’m lucky enough to win the award I’ll be accepting it on behalf of everyone in the team who’s helped me.
“I’m looking forward very much to attending the presentation evening in Cardiff.”
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.”