A grandmother with a heart of gold is in the running for a major award for her work at a hospice helping children and young people cope with bereavement.
Ann Atkin, 61, is the family support officer at the St Kentigern Hospice in St Asaph where she has worked since 2005.
She has been shortlisted for the Peter Clarke Award for Promoting Excellence in Services for Children and Young People at the social care Oscars, Wales Care Awards.
The event, arranged by Care Forum Wales, will be held at City Hall, Cardiff, on November 17,which will be hosted by top tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.
Mrs Atkin said: “I know that I have been nominated for an award but for me the reward is doing the job I love. I feel very blessed to have the job I have, there is so much satisfaction from it.”
Her previous work was in teaching, working at a local high school with children who were under-achieving.
“It became clear that many of them had a bereavement not far beneath the surface,” she explained.
“We did a pilot study and it was through that that I re-trained as a counsellor. I continued working in the school and then the hospice job came up. For a time I did both but then opted for the hospice full time.”
She had taught a variety of subjects for several years, including 10 years at Deeside College which is now part of Coleg Cambria, and was also involved in a mission at Rhyl to teach English as a foreign language to students from throughout the world who wished to be missionaries.
Mrs Atkin, who lives in Meliden, near Prestatyn, has two grown up daughters and a granddaughter.
She added: “I was looking for a more permanent post because that at school was only term by term.
“I was invited to apply for the post at the hospice and it was the perfect job. It was a new role they were creating and I was able to combine my teaching skills with qualified counselling skills.
“I also do a lot of training, visiting universities and schools, helping those who work with children and young people about the impact of bereavement. I also do regular sessions training foster carers.”
St Kentigern offers specialist palliative care for adults in Conwy, Denbighshire and Flintshire.
It was the manager, Joyce Bellingham, who nominated her for an award.
She said Mrs Atkin had striven to ensure that children and young adults got the support they needed, both before and after bereavement. She had set up an open access Children’s Support Service up to the age of 18 in North Wales.
For six years Mrs Atkin has represented Wales on the Children’s Bereavement Network Advisory Board in London.
In 2015 she wrote a book called “Everything is Changing” to support teenagers coping with grief which is being used by bereavement services and schools nationwide.
Mrs Bellingham said: “Myself and Dinah Hickish, the consultant nurse, feel quite passionately that Ann should receive recognition for the fantastic work she has done in North Wales.
“Ann is working closely with the NHS, local GPs, schools and councils to ensure that we have a seamless system to be able to support children and young people to enable them to fulfill their lives in the way in which they should.
“It enhances the work that the hospice does to ensure that the whole family is taken care before and after post bereavement, ensuring that the people that we are caring for are able to cope so much better with what is an extremely difficult time.”
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.”