A teenager who became a care worker in her local community during the pandemic has won one of the sector’s top awards.
Megan Haskell, from Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan, was honoured at the Wales Care Awards, dubbed the ‘Oscars’ of social care, after impressing colleagues and clients with her people skills.
She took the unusual step of becoming a home carer with All Care (South Wales) when she was just 18 and still studying for her A levels.
During the pandemic, when many of her elderly clients were confined mostly to their homes, she organised morale boosting events, including garden visits from a gift bearing ‘bunny’ to tempt them outside over Easter.
Her imaginative efforts to bring cheer earned her the nomination for the Supported Living and Care Practitioner category of the Wales Care Awards.
She took the Silver prize at the glittering ceremony held recently at the City Hall in Cardiff, attended by the First Minister Mark Drakeford and singer Sir Bryn Terfel.
The host at the event was popular tenor and BBC Radio Wales presenter Wynne Evans, who also famously plays the opera singer Gio Compario in the Go Compare TV adverts.
Nominating her for the award, her manager Jane Davies described Megan as “remarkable with a cheery personality and great determination.
“She works permanent shifts for us on a weekly basis and is passionate in her delivery of care across the community. The genuine enthusiasm that she shows when caring for individuals in their own homes is very evident as soon as you encounter her as a person,” said Jane.
“During Lockdown people did not leave their houses, but one sunny Easter morning during this period Megan and a colleague managed to encourage one of our housebound individuals into her wheelchair and out into the garden to receive Easter gifts from the ‘bunny’.
“This was the first time this lady had been outside in her own garden for a very long time and the look on her face said it all.”
Thrilled with the nomination, Megan said her decision to become a care giver was inspired by her ambition to become a paramedic.
“I thought it would give me valuable experience and it did. It was stressful at times, especially during the pandemic when I had to manage with PPE and masks, but you just have to push yourself out of your comfort zone sometimes,” said Megan, who is now 19 years old.
“It was rewarding though, to know that I had made a difference”.
Megan has achieved her dream of training to be a paramedic and has been accepted by Bournemouth University to study Paramedic Science. But its not the end of her career as a care giver. She remains on All Care’s bank team and helps out during holiday periods.
“I can’t bear to leave this work that I so love,” she said.
Jane her manager hopes Megan’s story will inspire others of her generation to try a career in care giving.
“Despite her age, which on occasions can be judged by the older generation as not suitable for their needs, Megan persevered within her role, gaining great trust and respect from all those that she visited. Over time Megan established herself as a leader who was able to help and nurture newer colleagues joining our team.”
Megan received her award at the ceremony from Jonathan Griffiths, President of the Association of Directors of Social Services in a category sponsored by Educ8.
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.”