A Cardiff man who discovered a whole new career as a carer following a double redundancy blow is now in line for a top national award.
After 20 years working in retail, Simon James, 46, was left wondering what his future held when he lost his job with Woolworths and then high street video retailer Blockbusters, both within the space of four years.
But he was given hope after spotting an advert for a care giver with Cardiff-based care agency, Home Instead, which supports elderly people in their own homes across Cardiff, Penarth, Barry and Dinas Powys.
Four years on and Simon, who lives in Thornhill, has just been shortlisted as a finalist at the prestigious 2018 Wales Care Awards, which aims to reward outstanding work in the social care sector.
He has been nominated in the category for Promoting Fulfilling Lives sponsored by Boots Healthcare for his work as a care giver for elderly people in and around Cardiff and on October 19 will attend the glittering ceremony at the City Hall in Cardiff
It is set to be extra special event as it also marks the Wales Care Awards’ 15th anniversary, and the 25th anniversary of organisers, Care Forum Wales.
Simon hopes his success story will inspire others facing redundancy.
He explained: “When I was made redundant, it was hard but then I saw some adverts for care and decided I should just give it a go. I did it on a whim and as a chance to do something totally different, not realising I would find my vocation.
“It’s also shown me that after 20 years in retail, I could do other things. I simply love my job and I honestly have never been able to say that before. Redundancy doesn’t have to be the end of everything, it can be the start of something special.”
Cardiff-born Simon was nominated by his care manager, Gemma Williams, who said it was a collective office decision to put Simon forward, due to his ‘kind but determined nature to help his clients make the most out of life’.
“Since the first week Simon came to work for Home Instead, it was obvious that he truly cares for the people he visits and treats his clients in the way he would like his own loved ones to be cared for,” Gemma added.
Simon works to help his clients to stay independent in their own home and with most in their 80s and 90s, he believes that quality time spent with his clients is as important as the physical support he provides.
“One of the best gifts you can give is time – even if it’s just sitting and talking with someone who is lonely. It’s about getting to know them and treating them like anyone else, not differently because of their needs. My clients do become like friends or family.”
So popular is Simon with his colleagues, he has now been asked to mentor new caregivers joining Home Instead.
“I was made redundant twice but what has come out of it is a vocation and this is a very positive message, as you can go on to do other things. And to now support others to do the job I love is really rewarding.
“I think I get more out of being a care worker than I give, because the feeling that you have made a difference to someone’s day just overrides everything else.”
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.
He said: “This year’s ceremony is an even more special occasion because it marks the 15th anniversary of the Wales Care Awards and the 25th anniversary of Care Forum Wales and 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.”