A former barber is proud has been honoured at the social care Oscars after putting his skills to good use during the pandemic.

Craig Jones, from Wrexham, who now works at Pant Glas Uchaf care home near Ruthin, helped the young residents stay looking sharp after Wales and the rest of the UK was plunged into lockdown.

As a result he was given bronze award after being shortlisted for the prestigious Peter Clarke Award for Promoting Excellence in Services, sponsored by Morgan LaRoche Solicitors, at the Wales Care Awards.

Hosted by popular tenor Wynne Evans and sponsored by healthcare products company Ontex UK, the glittering ceremony took place at City Hall in Cardiff.

Craig has worked at Pant Glas Uchaf, which accommodates about six youngsters with complex behavioural problems, for the past seven years.

He was nominated by co-workers after putting his skills as a qualified barber to good use after the pandemic plunged the UK into lockdown.

Once permission was gained from the boys’ parents and social workers Craig began cutting the hair of the boys who reside at Pant Glas if they requested it, helping to raise their self-esteem.

Craig said he was delighted to be put forward for an award initially and excited by being named as a finalist.

He said: “But it’s as much for the team at Pant Glas Uchaf than just me. The work they do with the young people is outstanding and it’s a shame we can’t all be nominated. This nomination means a lot to us as our work is being recognised.”

Craig said the team at Pant Glas Uchaf, which is part of the Caretech company, numbers around 25 and are shared among the six units on site which look after youngsters aged between 12 and 17.

He said the boys passionately care about their looks and being unable to get their haircut was having a profound effect on them.

As a qualified barber Craig thought he could give them a cut in Pant Glas Uchaf which they really appreciated.

Craig added the regular haircuts also gave him the opportunity to get to know the boys better and to have informal chats with them.

“People often open up to their barbers and hair stylists in a way they don’t with other people and I was able to get an insight into their feelings at a particular time, what they were worried about and so on. It’s always good to get things off your chest and I could just talk with them and try and help,” he said.

Claire Howard, Deputy Manager at Pant Glas Uchaf, who nominated Craig, said his haircuts proved to be just what the boys wanted.

“This has been a very trying time for staff and Craig’s good humour has helped lift spirits, which should not be underestimated in a profession such as residential care, where the mental health of the staff needs to be strong to aid that of the young people we care for,” she said.

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.”