A former hotel worker who switched to a career in care after volunteering at a day centre for young people with disabilities has scooped a coveted industry award.
Noel Williams, 42, received a precious silver gong at this year’s Wales Care Awards, held at City Hall in Cardiff.
The national awards, run by Care Forum Wales and sponsored overall by Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs, acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the care sector.
The dad-of-two, who grew up in Llandudno, was shortlisted for the Leadership and Management in Supported Living or Small Group Community Living Award, sponsored by AA Health, Safety and HR Consultants.
He accepted the silver trophy at a glittering ceremony hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, best known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV adverts.
Noel worked for a range of care providers and charities before founding his own care agency, Calon Lan Community Care Ltd, based in Llandudno, at the age of just 30.
The care boss is determined to pull home care into a new direction with a focus on developing carers as professionals and recognising their talents and skills in an unprecedented way.
His company, which was founded in December 2005, has grown rapidly over the past 12 years and now has 400 service users while also employing 120 staff. It also recently achieved the coveted Investors in People Gold Award, recognising its success in people management.
Noel, who is married with two sons, Sebastian, five, and Maximilian, two, said: “I’m absolutely over the moon and chuffed to be nominated.
“It’s really nice for the team to get recognition. One of our biggest achievements to date was receiving the Investors in People Gold Award which is very difficult for an organisation to achieve. We did this for the staff and to ensure we are recognised as a person-centred organisation and I’m really proud.”
Noel, a former pupil of Ysgol John Bright in Llandudno, began his career in the hotel industry, initially working as a luggage carrier at the age of 10 where he’d regularly collect tips of £150 a week throughout the 1980s.
When he left school, he worked in hotel kitchens and bars before an operation on his back forced him to take two months off to recuperate. As a result, he lost his employment and decided to volunteer in a day care centre in Llandudno for young adults with a range of disabilities.
“I volunteered for four months and they offered me a job at a care home run by Conwy Borough Council Social Services. Some of the adults I’d been working with at the day care centre lived at the care home,” said Noel, who is currently studying for an MSc degree in Professional Studies at the University of Chester.
“The hotel industry gave me a good grounding in customer care and you’re basically doing the same thing, making sure people are looked after, that their environment is comfortable and making sure they have a good nutritious meal on the table. All that’s really different when you switch is maintaining people’s health and wellbeing and protecting the vulnerable of course.”
During a five-year period, Noel earned himself a senior position at the home with deputy management responsibilities before moving to Kingston upon Thames in London to work with the charity Scope in a care home for adults with cerebral palsy.
Over the next few years, Noel took on a number of professional care roles in London including a job at Richmond Adult Community College auditing NVQ portfolios and a registered manager’s position at Deer Lodge residential care home for the elderly in Teddington. It was while working in domiciliary care in 2005 that Noel found himself redundant and decided to set up Calon Lan Community Care in his hometown of Llandudno.
The company’s aim is to help people stay in their homes safely for independent living. Carers work with individuals with a range of diagnoses including; dementia, physical disabilities or terminal illness.
From the outset, Noel’s ambition has been to develop outstanding staff who understood the needs of the people who use the service and applied their skills compassionately and effectively.
“Richard Branson said “if you look after your staff they’ll look after your customers”, it’s that simple. As the leader of this organisation, that is my focus,” said Noel, who has a BTEC National Diploma in Leisure Management, Level 5 Diploma in Leadership for Health and Social Care Services and a Diploma in Welfare Studies.
“What the sector seems to lack is a sense of belonging. People feel they can go from care home to care home or agency to agency, depending on what suits them best. I want people to feel valued and give them a sense of belonging and then you’re on your way to building their self-esteem.”
One of the ways Noel, who has completed two London Marathons, is building the self-esteem of his staff is to hold his own internal awards scheme. Every quarter, staff are asked to nominate someone in the company for best practice and at the end of the year Noel hosts a party for all 20 finalists where staff jointly agree a shortlist of three. The winner is chosen to be nominated for a Wales Care Award.
The company has also recently drafted a new mission statement and has agreed a list of 15 competencies in order to attract the right candidates for recruitment.
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.”