A Barry woman who was unsure whether she would take to her new job is still doing it 22 years later.

In all that time Claire O’Kelly has taken just four days off with sickness and now she is in line for a social care “Oscar”.

Claire, who works at the Springbank Nursing Home in College Road, Barry, has been shortlisted in the category for residential care practitioners in this year’s Wales Care Awards.

The awards are organised by Care Forum Wales to recognize exceptional work in the care sector and Claire’s category is sponsored by SilverCrest Care.

She is looking forward to attending the awards ceremony which is being held at Cardiff City Hall on October 21 and will once again be hosted by the popular tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, well-known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV advert.

The evening, which is sponsored by Ontex UK, will be streamed live on the night.

Claire joined Springbank, a nursing home with 57 residents which is part of the Caron Group, in 2000, having previously worked in retail before having her three sons.

“I really didn’t know whether it would be for me or whether I would like it. I wasn’t planning to stay, but I love it,” she said.

She was nominated for the award by the home’s manager Navjit Kaur, who said: “Her positive attitude helps clients in their emotional wellbeing and she always goes above and beyond her job description.

“She makes sure she provides a high standard of care at all times and always welcomes visitors in a very positive way. She also takes on responsibility for training new care staff.”

Navjit said that Claire’s dedication was a huge asset during lockdown, when she worked overtime to cover for absent staff and helped keep her colleagues’ morale up.

“She has such a bubbly personality,” said Navjit, who praised the way in which she paid close attention to the residents’ likes and dislikes, and her particular relationship with one woman with OCD who has been at Springbank for 23 years.

“Lockdown was a difficult time and I worked long days. I was glad to be able to help out, partly out of a sense of pride,” said Claire, 50.

With her sons now all grown up she spends her spare time reading and has recently taken on a new project – renovating the interior of a campervan.

“I hope to have it finished by Christmas,” she said.

Mario Kreft MBE, Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the aim of the Wales Care Awards was to recognise the unstinting and remarkable dedication of unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.

He said: “The social care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation – these are people who go the extra mile for others.

“During the Covid crisis, this fantastic workforce rose magnificently to the challenge, putting their own lives on the line to do everything they possibly could to safeguard the people for whom they provide care.

“Unfortunately, it has taken a global pandemic for many other people to realise how important and how significant our social care workforce is.

“Their incredible contribution was summed up best in the powerful and emotive words of the song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, which was set to the famous tune of Men of Harlech. The message that the diolch should last forever is one that we should never forget.

“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards people need and never recognise the value of people who need care in society.

“All the nominees deserve to be lauded and applauded and it’s a real pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists.

“I congratulate all the individuals who have shown outstanding dedication and professionalism. Every one of them should be proud of their achievement.

“They are Wales’s finest.”