A former factory worker who has fulfilled her dream of working with children is in line for a national award just a year into her role caring for young people with autism and learning disabilities.

Amy Thomas, 30, has been hailed as “exceptional” by Ty Bronllys Children’s Home in Brecon where she began working as a residential educational worker in February 2017.

Having had a number of unfulfilling jobs in the past, Amy says she has finally found a career she loves and sees a long-term future in.

Her rapid progress at Ty Bronllys has led to her being nominated for the Exceptional Newcomer Award, sponsored by Coleg Cambria, in the 15th annual Wales Care Awards which takes place at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday, October 19.

The prestigious national awards, run by Care Forum Wales which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, has been dubbed the “Oscars” of the care industry as it acknowledges the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the sector.

Amy, who lives in Pant, Merthyr Tydfil, said: “I was really shocked to be nominated. I love helping people and to know that you’re doing a good job means a lot. It’s nice to get recognition.”

The former Pen y Dre High School pupil was previously employed as a factory worker and had a spell in retail before entering the care sector as a domiciliary care worker for the elderly two years ago.

But Amy had always held hopes of finding a job working with children and that dream became a reality last year.

She said: “I fell into care work by accident as I needed a job. As soon as I started I loved it.

“But after 12 months I found it was repetitive. I didn’t feel personally that I was getting anything out of it anymore.

“I saw a job advertised here and went for it. I’d always wanted to work with children as one of my friend’s boy is autistic and I’d spent a lot of time with him.

“No two days are the same here and it is challenging but that’s what I enjoy. You feel you’ve achieved yourself when you help the children.

“It a a job I love. I’m learning every day which is what I like about it. I want to stay here and hopefully progress.”

Amy added: “We’ve got children aged from ten to 19 and have a school on site which they attend Monday to Friday. I provide support in the school and in the home.

“On a day to day basis I provide personal care although we help them to live independently as much as possible.

“During school the teachers will have things for us to do with the children and when it’s the holidays we’ll take them on days out.

“After school they all have activity plans so some will go out for food and some will go shopping. They all have set days and always have something to do.”

As part of her role Amy is also keyworker for a 15 year-old boy who stays at Ty Bronllys on a part time basis to give his family respite.

She said: “I am responsible for keeping his care file up to date. He has epilepsy and his seizures are changing so everyone has to be on the same page so the care is consistent between us.

“I’ve built up a real rapport with him, we’ve clicked really well.

“I get on with his mum really well and they’ve written letters of recognition about us. We have a brilliant relationship.”

In nominating Amy, Ty Bronllys manager Elena Evstafieva said: “Amy works with young people who have been diagnosed with ASD (Autism spectrum disorder) and learning disabilities. She provides daily support for young people in the home and in school.

“Since she started at Ty Bronllys Amy has built positive working relationships with all children and young people.

“She is very enthusiastic, always wants to learn more, supports young people by promoting their independence and education, supporting them to learn life skills in preparation for adulthood.

“Her working practices are exceptional. Amy’s progress is absolutely amazing.”

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.

He said: “This year’s ceremony is an even more special  occasion because it marks the 15th anniversary of the Wales Care Awards and the 25th anniversary of Care Forum Wales and the event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in the Welsh social care calendar.

“The aim is to recognise the unstinting and often remarkable dedication of our unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.

“The care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.

“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards that people need and never recognise the value of the people who need the care in society.

“We need to do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce – they deserve to be lauded and applauded.”