A former business student has struck gold after deciding on a change of career.

Max Cusack, a Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) worker at Ynystawe Lodge, Llangennech, near Llanelli, was among the main prizewinners at this year’s Wales Care Awards presentation ceremony.

The awards are organized by Care Forum Wales to recognize outstanding work in the care sector and the ceremony was held in City Hall, Cardiff.

The evening was sponsored by Ontex UK and the host once again was the popular tenor and radio presented Wynne Evans, well-known as Gio Compario in the Go Compare TV adverts.

Max, 26, who studied business management at university before deciding to enter the care sector, won a gold award in the category for Excellence in Learning Disability and Mental Health Services, sponsored by Amaya Care Homes.

He was nominated by Gemma Howells, marketing and communications manager for M and D, owners of Ynystawe Lodge, who said he had had a huge impact on the lives of those he supported during a particularly difficult period of lockdown.

Ynystawe Lodge, a purpose-built home owned by M and D Care, accommodates 10 residents with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.

Max, who joined the company in 2020, specializes in PBS and, after assessing individuals, is able to work alongside them to help develop their independence and enrich their lives.

It was his work with one of the residents, identified only as John, which particularly impressed his colleagues.

They were amazed when John agreed to have his first shave and a haircut in months, especially as it was only Max’s  second day there.

On the third day John – not his real name –  agreed to be taken for a McDonalds meal, his first outing into the community in 12 months, and much of the credit for his transformation went to Max.

“He is passionate about reducing restrictive and punitive practices and improving the quality of the lives of the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalized members of our society,”  said. Gemma “John is an amazing example of the remarkable outcomes Max has achieved.”

Before moving to South Wales Max, 26,  worked in pupil referral units and had an internship in America as a behaviour intervention specialist .

“I have always known that it was within the field of PBS and intellectual/developmental disabilities that I would like to work,” he said.

Max, who is originally from Lincolnshire, said he felt humbled by his nomination but felt it reflected the work of the whole team who worked together so well.

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.”