A Barry woman who has worked in the care sector for two decades was “blown away” when she received two awards in one evening.
Claire O’Kelly did the “double” at a presentation ceremony in Cardiff City Hall for this year’s Wales Care Awards.
She not only won gold in the category for residential care practitioners, which was sponsored by SilverCrest Care, but also a “Dignity in Care Award”.
The award is sponsored by the Welsh Government and was presented to Claire by the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan MS.
The awards are organised by Care Forum Wales to recognize exceptional work in the care sector. The host for the evening, sponsored by Ontex UK, was popular tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, well-known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV advert.
Claire works at the Springbank Nursing Home in College Road, Barry, and in 22 years has taken just four days off with sickness.
She 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.
“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, 51.
She said she was shocked to receive two awards on what she described as “the best night ever”.
“It was an amazing event and I was just blown away,” she said. “It was lovely meeting and chatting to so many others working in other homes.
“Receiving the Dignity in Care award was extra special because that is the most important aspect of the job,” she said.
Mario Kreft, chairman of Care Forum Wales, said the ceremony was all the more poignant because of the Covid pandemic and what front line staff had endured.
He said: “I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to all the wonderful people who work in social care after the rose magnificently and courageously to meet the unprecedented challenges they have faced over the past couple of years.
“We have always recognised their true value and hopefully now the rest of Wales is also aware of how lucky we are as a nation to have them providing care and safeguarding our most vulnerable people.
“Our finalists are the best of the best and are here representing the whole social care workforce who all deserve a big pat on the back.
“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 and in the months and years to come.
“In the words of the powerful song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, let the Diolch last forever.
”We take our hats off to them.”