A chance to fill in for a colleague who was on maternity leave paid off for a Neath woman when she picked up a prestigious award.

Mother-of-two Lauren Davies was among the winners at this year’s Wales Care Awards which were presented at a ceremony in Cardiff City Hall.

The awards are organised by Care Forum Wales to recognise exception work in the care sector and Lauren, who is a team leader at the Plas Bryn Rhosyn Home in Heol Illtyd, Neath, won silver in the category for residential care practitioners, sponsored by Barchester Healthcare.

MC for the evening was tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ad.

Lauren, 35, who lives in Waunceirch, started work as a laundry assistant in a small care home 13 years ago after having her first daughter, but always fancied having a go at being a carer.

Her opportunity came when she provided respite care while a colleague was on maternity leave, and she took to the role immediately.

She has been at Plas Bryn Rhosyn, which is part of the Pobl Group, for 12 years, the last six as team leader. She works alongside occupational therapists and physiotherapists in a 12-bed unit in which stroke patients are assisted in their recovery to once again lead independent lives.

“I assess them in hospital before they come in and when they arrive they are often in a low mood, hardly able to walk, and it’s so rewarding to see them making progress,” she said. “We also work closely with their families.”

Lauren was nominated for the award by Plas Bryn Rhosyn’s general manager Stuart Davies, with the backing of other colleagues.

“Lauren is a very hands-on team leader who strives for perfection in her tasks, knowing that in achieving this the residents safely receive a high standard of care and support,” he said.

“She fully understands  the role of team leader and fulfils the role in a very empathetic and individualised way,  ensuring person-centred support is provided to each resident.”

During her time at the home Lauren has worked her way through NVQ levels 2 and 3, has taken a “Step up to Management” course and attended numerous training courses to improve her knowledge alongside her experience.

Stuart continued: “She has become a strong peer  and role model for the rest of the care team, which is evidenced by recent comments from her colleagues such as ‘Lauren is very helpful and you can always go to her for advice if needed’ and ‘she is very approachable and a great co-worker’.”

Lauren, who enjoys taking her dogs for walks in her spare time, attended the glittering awards ceremony with her partner Jason Bowley.

“He is always very supportive in what I do,” she commented.

Mario Kreft, chairman of Care Forum Wales, said the standard of entries was extremely high.

He added: “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.

“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.

”We take our hats off to them.”