A dedicated Neath woman has struck gold at the social care Oscars.

Last week Jacqueline Orrells was among the winners at a ceremony in City Hall, Cardiff, organized by Care Forum Wales.

She won a gold award in the category for Leadership and Management in Residential Care in this year’s Wales Care Awards. The category was sponsored by Christie and Co.

The awards are organized to recognize outstanding work in the care sector, and compere for the evening, sponsored by Ontex UK, was popular radio presenter and tenor Wynne Evans, well-known as Gio Comparion in the Go Compare TV adverts.

It was a change of roles for Jacqueline, who has nominated several people for awards over the years and even presented some. Colleagues felt it was time her own work was acknowledged. colleagues decided it was time that her work in the sector was recognised.

Jacqueline is an Area Director for HC-One, one of the country’s largest care home owners, and is responsible for overseeing seven of the company’s homes in Wales.

Her career began in 1990 when she started her Nurse Training to be a Registered Nurse Learning Disability, and before joining HC-One she worked at Longford Court in Neath as a Home Manager and Service Coordinator and then in 2000 she moved to Maesteilo Care Homes in Llandeilo as Assistant Manager to Home Manager and Senior Manager.

Whilst working for Barchester Health Care she was promoted to Regional Director and gained a Leadership and Management whilst working full-time.

Jacqueline encouraged staff to develop their skills and when the company was taken over for a second time she played a key role in liaising between company bosses and the home managers.

She joined HC-One six years ago and has been nominated for the award by Area Quality Director Caroline Price, she said she “encompasses the spirit of care, a culture of support and the ethos of HC-One as the heart of kindness”.

“She is a role model to many of her colleagues and provides a person-centred approach to all of the residents within the care homes in Wales,” she said.

Jacqueline, 52. who lives in Tonna, near Neath, said that although she enjoyed her management role she still gained satisfaction from being able to influence the care received by residents.

“Part of my role is supporting people and I enjoy spending time with people in the homes,” she said.

Of the City Hall event, she said: “It was an absolutely lovely evening and a real honour to receive the gold award.”

Jacqueline, who has two daughters, Amelia, 24, and Elian,16, is a keen swimmer and spends two evenings a week as a Lifesaving Coach for Centurion Lifeguard Club at Penyrheol swimming pool in Gorseinon.

On November 5 she will travel to Leeds with six of the club’s youngsters to compete in the national lifesaving championships and, having won in her age-group twice in the past, is hoping to add another gold to her  trophy cabinet.

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.”