A caring  Blackwood couple have finally struck gold three years after being nominated for an award..

In 2019 Neil and Jillian Powell were nominated for a Wales Care Award, but before they could be interviewed Neil fell off a ladder and broke his arm, leading to two weeks in hospital.

They have continued with their good work since then, and as a result have won a gold award in the category for excellence in learning disability and mental health, sponsored by Amaya Care Homes.

The awards – dubbed the Oscars of social care – are organised by Care Forum Wales to recognize outstanding work in the care sector.

The ceremony was held in City Hall, Cardiff, and the host once again was the popular tenor and radio presented Wynne Evans, well-known as Gio Compario in the Go Compare TV adverts. The evening, was sponsored by Ontex UK.

“It was an absolutely fabulous evening,” said Jill. “ It was lovely to hear what was said about us and to know that what we do is appreciated by so many.

“The event also opened our eyes to what other people in the care sector are doing.”

For 29 years the Powells have dedicated their own lives to enriching the lives of vulnerable adults under South East Wales’s Shared Lives scheme.

For most of that time they have cared for three individuals, though at present there are only two.

The couple were nominated for the award by Shaun Nicholls, a Shared Lives worker who has long admired the care and support they have provided.

“It’s not a job for Neil and Jill but a vocation,” he said. “They provide ongoing emotional support, practical advice and guidance and offer countless opportunities to broaden experiences and enhance the quality of life on a daily basis.

“They are kind, positive and proactive carers, dedicated to enriching the lives of the three individuals they support in their home.

“It has been a privilege to work alongside them and be able to witness at first-hand the high quality care and support they provide on a daily basis. The phrase ‘above and beyond’ is the most appropriate to describe their work.”

Neil is now 67 and Jill 66 but they have no plans to give up their work with Shared Lives.

“We’ll carry on as long as we can, and we hope that those in our care get as much out of it as we do,” said Jill.

When the story about their nomination appeared in their local Press several weeks ago they were told about it by their son Rhys, who lives in Australia.

“A friend of his, who lives in Blackwood, read about it and told Rhys he’d read about us. Until then we didn’t know the article had appeared,” said Jill.

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.”