A care worker from Cardiff struck gold at the social care Oscars.

Paula Manfield, who lives in Fairwater,  was among winners in this year’s Wales Care Awards, organised by Care Forum Wales to recognize outstanding work in the care sector.

Paula’s award was in the category for excellence in palliative and end-of-life care, which was sponsored by Hallmark Care Homes.

Host for the ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff was the popular tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, well-known as Gio Compario in the Go Compare TV adverts and the evening was sponsored by Ontex UK.

Paula, an operations manager with the Cardiff-based Innovate Trust, which provides supported living, has worked in the care sector for 25 years.

She was nominated by her line manager Mark Phillips, with additional plaudits from colleagues and staff from Cardiff Council who have been impressed by her work.

“She has dealt with extremely challenging circumstances but has remained a constant source of inspiration and support to all that work with her and alongside her,” said Mark.

She was paid the ultimate compliment when the family of a man who had been under her care asked her to deliver the eulogy at his funeral.

That demonstrated the special close relationship that Paula had developed with the man, for whom she had provided end-of-life care for over four years.

Thanks to her, the man, identified only as S, had been able to remain at home, which meant that he was able to enjoy a life full of smiles, care and love until the end.

He cited the case of S as typical of the care and support she provides to ensure the best outcome for them..

Paula, who has oversight of four homes in North Cardiff, said she saw a key part of her role was in speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

“I try to make their voices heard and that can mean having to read their facial expressions or body language,” she said.

Before starting work in the care sector Paula worked for Tesco but had some personal experience in the field as “babysitter” for two uncles and nephew with learning difficulties.

She said she was thrilled to receive the gold award, but stressed: “It’s a lovely recognition not only for myself but for the team I work with.”

She is equally pleased that her work has in recent months led to a group being established within Innovate to formulate a policy to cover issues arising from deaths of service-users, including the effects on staff, relatives and other service-users with learning difficulties.

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.”