A carer from Penygraig who likes to brighten the lives of people she looks after by belting out Tom Jones songs to them has struck silver in major national awards.
Apart from the impromptu singing sessions Melanie Walters, who is an assistant manager at the Caerphilly branch of community care group Radis, goes the extra mile for service users by waiting in their homes so they have a familiar face when returning from hospital.
On one occasion she even went to the trouble of climbing in through a window when the front door key to the home of a person at risk of falling went missing.
It is this dedicated approach to her caring role that saw 46-year-old Melanie take silver in the Supported Living Care Practitioner category of the 2017 Wales Care Awards, sponsored by Mayberry Pharmacy Ltd, CareGuard and Telbridge.
This was the 15th anniversary of the awards, sponsored by Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs, and the glittering presentation ceremony was held at City Hall in Cardiff 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.
Melanie, who has been married to husband Neil for 22 years and has a son and a daughter along with a two-year-old grandson, is originally from Penygraig in Rhondda Cynon Taff and her first job after leaving Cymmer Comprehensive School was as a production operator in a local electronics factory.
After taking a break to have her first son Joshua, now 26, she returned to work as a school kitchen assistant and was later as assembly worker at a telephone factory.
She and Neil then started a taxi and minibus business which they ran for five years.
“It was at this point I started thinking of having a career in caring and trying to make a difference,” she said.
“My first job was with a company based in Gilfach Goch providing personal care and after two years I promoted to supervisor.
“After a couple of years I moved to another company in Caerphilly and became assistant manager. I then briefly left the care sector to work with my husband in the Welsh cider business.
“Four years ago I was head-hunted by Radis and am now assistant manager in Caerphilly where we have a team of 150 staff providing home care for up to 300 people across Rhondda Cynon Taff who are elderly frail, disabled after a stroke or brain injury or suffer from conditions such as diabetes or Parkinson’s Disease.”
In nominating her for the Wales Care Awards, Radis Area Manager Danielle Jones said: “Melanie doesn’t sit behind a desk for long, she is actively in the community meeting with service users and other professionals and staff.
“People’s safety and well-being is at the heart of everything she does, such as on one occasion when a door to the home of a person at risk of falling was locked with no key available Melanie climbed through a window to gain access.
“She understands that little things mean a lot to those we care for, such as singing with them or waiting for a person to return home from hospital so there is a familiar face to greet them.”
Melanie said: “These sort of things just come naturally to me and I don’t think there’s anything special about them. I like to have a bit of banter with people and sometimes sing a bit of Tom Jones to cheer them up.
“I was overwhelmed to even be nominated for the award and when I heard I’d been shortlisted in my category I couldn’t believe it.”
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.”