A senior carer from Bridgend who prides herself on building up a special rapport with the people she looks after during her regular night shifts has struck gold in major national awards.

Linda Kinsey, 54, who has worked at the Hafod Care Association’s Picton Court home in Nottage, Porthcawl for the past decade, says she loves working at night because of the special relationships she’s able to create with residents.

She likes to chat intimately to them or share a laugh in the early hours if they are have trouble sleeping and one said of her, “I always feel safe when Linda is around.”

It is this dedicated approach to her caring role that saw Linda, who lives in North Cornelly, take gold in the Residential Care Practitioner category of the 2017 Wales Care Awards, sponsored by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.

The event was sponsored by Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs, and the glittering presentation ceremony was held at City Hall in Cardiff. It was hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.

The awards are in association with Care Forum Wales, a not-for-profit organisation set up in 1993 to give independent care providers a single professional voice with which to speak on one of the most important issues of our time – how to provide better quality care for those who need it most.

Born and raised in Cornelly, Linda faced the tragedy of her mother’s death when she was just eight years old and went to live for a while with her older sister in Coventry.

Returning to her hometown in the early 1980s her first jobs after leaving school at the age of 16 were in local cafes and factories and included breaks for the birth of  her two daughters and a son, now aged from 27 to 35. She also has three grandsons and two granddaughters between the ages of 12 and five months.

Linda, who is single, first went into the caring profession in 1990 and recalled: “People used to say me I’d make a lovely carer, so I tried it and loved it straight away because it made me feel good about myself.

“I started as a care assistant at a home in Cornelly and stayed there seven years. I then worked at another home in Porthcawl for about a year and also had a short spell at Picton Court, under a previous owner.

“I went back there 10 years ago and six years later I was promoted to senior carer on nights.

“The home has a total of 76 beds, with 21 of these residential, 13 for people with dementia and the rest for nursing.

“I work nights all the time, which I really love because you have to do a bit of everything. During the day there are different staff for all the things you have to do but at night you have to be janitor, odd-jobman and security guard all rolled into one.

“I like it so much because it’s a more intimate sort of shift. At 3am, if someone can’t sleep, you can talk to them one-to-one in a different kind of way than you can during the day. Nights create a nice ambience and you can build up a rapport with people.”

This is borne out in her nomination for the Wales Care Awards, in which one resident said of Linda: “Following a fire at my home I had to spend a year at Picton Court. Linda is professional as well as being a friend. During the night I’d get fretful and she would spend time reassuring me. I always feel safe when Linda is around.”

Linda said of landing the gold award: “I had a marvellous night at Cardiff City Hall. I’ve never been to anything like that before where you have to dress up.

“It was nice to be nominated for the award but to actually win gold was the icing on the cake for me.

“I don’t see the award as just for me and I was accepting it on behalf of everyone else on the team at my home, especially all those on nights.

“I was there with my daughter, Chloe Jenkins, and quite a few of my colleagues from work and we all had a fantastic time.”

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair 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 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.”