A couple who opened up their family home and their hearts to people with dementia have been honoured with a gold award at the social care Oscars.

Kate and Trevor Badley provide long-term, respite and emergency care to vulnerable adults on their smallholding near Abertillery, as part of the South East Wales Shared Lives Scheme.

The couple won the Gold prize in Excellence in Dementia Care, a category sponsored by All Care and College Fields Nursing Home, at the prestigious Wales Care Awards, dubbed the social care Oscars.

Kate said she had borrowed an evening dress and Trevor a suit for the glittering event at City Hall in Cardiff and she confessed to feeling both “nervous and excited” beforehand.

“It felt so far removed from our day-to-day lives, to be attending this ‘Oscar’ style ceremony alongside First Minister Mark Drakeford, the singer Sir Bryn Terfel and the presenter Wynne Evans. It was quite surreal,” she said.

“But it was lovely to be sat with others involved with the Shared Lives Scheme and we all felt very proud to have won so many awards that night.

“It is an amazing scheme and I think there are two reasons for its success. The first is the joined-up thinking behind it with local councils working very closely with the health board and Shared Lives teams.

“The second reason it works so well is in the nature and values of the people in this part of Wales. We get great support from the locals who are welcoming, warm and very gracious,”

The couple were nominated for the award by scheme co-ordinator Lindsey Hurley, who said their efforts had received much positive feedback and sincere letters of thanks from families.

“Since working with Kate and Trevor, I have seen how they are unique carers withextremely valuable skills”, said Lindsey.

“They not only open up their home, but they allowed the scheme to make specific adaptations to their property for the purpose of accommodating Shared Lives arrangements.

“Their commitment to the scheme is commendable. They’ve made long-lasting changes in the lives of the individuals they support and it has been wonderful to see.”

Kate and Trevor became carers under the Shared Lives Scheme four years ago, after moving from Dorset to Wales.

“We knew when we moved here that we wanted to share this home,” explained Kate, a former speech therapist.

“Our children had grown and left home and we had this big space. We love hospitality and also my husband had grown up with his grandmother living in the family home and he felt it was a very positive experience. We wanted to replicate that feeling for others.”

Lindsey said Kate and Trevor had become very much sought after throughout the Shared Lives Scheme and were often requested by name by social workers and families involved in the programme.

“Kate and Trevor have such flexible skills,” she said. “They are always happy and approachable, but also honest and transparent. It is refreshing to work so closely with them as the role they undertake always gets done to such an incredible standard.”

Kate said she and Trevor were excited and thrilled to have won the award. Their aim is to contribute something to the local community.

“Our home is a smallholding really. We encourage our guests to get involved with the gardening. It helps build friendship and trust. Many of the people who stay with us also share our interest in music. But most of all it’s important for them to feel useful, safe and secure,” she added.

As an example of their innovative work, Lindsey described how the couple helped one lady settle into respite care after she struggled with the change of scene.

“The introduction process was quite difficult to begin with as the lady’s dementia was quite advanced and she was very disorientated at home with Kate and Trevor; continuously asking why she was there and when she was going home.

“Kate came up with an excellent idea of asking the lady’s daughter to write her mother a letter explaining where she was, why she was there and when she would be returning home.

“This was the turning point of the arrangement and as a result of this letter, the lady was at ease straight away and reassured.”

Lindsey said this approach was now used often within the scheme, with great success.

The Wales Care Awards has been dubbed the ‘Oscars’ of social care. 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.”