A Blackwood couple are in line for a prestigious award three years after an accident deprived them of the opportunity.

In 2019 Neil and Jillian Powell were nominated for a Wales Care Award, but before they could be interviewed Neil fell off a ladder and broke his arm, leading to two weeks in hospital.

They have continued with their good work since then, and as a result have now been shortlisted in the category for excellence in learning disability and mental health, which is sponsored by Amaya Care Homes.

The awards are organised by Care Forum Wales to recognize outstanding work in the care sector.

The ceremony will be held in City Hall, Cardiff, on October 21, when the host will once again be the popular tenor and radio presented Wynne Evans, well-known as Gio Compario in the Go Compare TV adverts. The evening, which is sponsored by Ontex UK, will be streamed live on the night.

For 29 years the Powells have dedicated their own lives to enriching the lives of vulnerable adults under South East Wales’s Shared Lives scheme.

For most of that time they have cared for three individuals, though at present there are only two.

The couple have been nominated for the award by Shaun Nicholls, a Shared Lives worker who has long admired the care and support they have provided.

“It’s not a job for Neil and Jill but a vocation,” he said. “They provide ongoing emotional support, practical advice and guidance and offer countless opportunities to broaden experiences and enhance the quality of life on a daily basis.

“They are kind, positive and proactive carers, dedicated to enriching the lives of the three individuals they support in their home.

“It has been a privilege to work alongside them and be able to witness at first-hand the high quality care and support they provide on a daily basis. The phrase ‘above and beyond’ is the most appropriate to describe their work.”

One of the residents, identified only as “D”, struggled with alcohol addiction and associated aggression, but Shaun was impressed by the way the Powells had managed his behaviour and sought the appropriate support, helping him to overcome his addiction.

Other plaudits have come from social workers who have been similarly impressed.

One of them, an off duty social worker, came across Jill and the woman in her care, and the relationship between them was so close and warm that she thought they were mother and daughter.

Neil is now 67 and Jill 66 but they have no plans to give up their work with Shared Lives.

“We’ll carry on as long as we can, and we hope that those in our care get as much out of it as we do,” said Jill.

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.”