A qualified barrister who’s swapped courtroom drama for a life caring for children amid the beauty of Snowdonia has won a top award.
Louise Irving, 57, faced “judges” again – but this time as a finalist at the prestigious Wales Care Awards, billed as the social care Oscars.
She was thrilled to win the Gold Award for Innovation in Care for Children and Young People, sponsored by Prospects. Louise collected her award at a glittering ceremony in Cardiff’s City Hall.
Louise said: “It was wonderful to see examples of so much inspiring dedication across the care sector in Wales. I’m honoured that someone in Afon Goch Children’s Homes Ltd has received an award for innovation for the second time. I couldn’t have done it without our fantastic team.”
At one time Louise worked for a local authority and her legal work would include child protection. But after her hearing deteriorated dramatically, she was forced to retire on health grounds.
After this she followed her then partner’s dream of sailing around the world – an adventure cut short after two years in 1995 when they were caught in the hugely destructive, and deadly, Hurricane Luis, a storm with winds of 140mph.
After limping back to Britain from the Caribbean they were forced to sell the boat to pay the repair bill.
Louise said: “Our agreement was that we would both look for jobs and move to wherever the first of us found a job. It ended up being my then partner employed as a manager for a start-up children’s home in the north west of England.
“With time on my hands I got involved in the design of the service, and the spark was reignited.”
Louise had experience as contracts’ manager for a national domiciliary care agency and as a side-line became a social care consultant, advising new and established children’s homes.
“I was involved in advising on quite a lot of start-ups but then faced the frustration of things not going quite to plan with owners cutting corners and putting profit before the quality of service and outcomes,” Louise recalled.
She then got involved with the registration of Afon Goch, a therapeutic children’s home for up to three children at a time, at Deiniolen in Gwynedd. Youngsters are given the opportunity to make the most of their life and prepared for a healthy and happy adulthood.
There is a sister home Caban Aur, and a school for up to four pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, in Anglesey.
Louise is now director and the “responsible individual” at Afon Goch.
She is trying to make a “real difference” for children in care. “We are prepared to listen and learn. Our priority is providing quality care and outcomes, not profit,” Louise said. “We truly want the children to have the chance of a contributing and happy life.”
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength. 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.”