A Gwynedd woman who devotes her life to caring for vulnerable people in her own home has struck gold in major national awards.

Teresa Francis, 55, who lives in Llanbedr, started her career in caring 20 years ago as part of Gwynedd Council’s child protection team and later moved into fostering children.

Five years ago she became an Enabler for the council’s Shared Lives scheme which means vulnerable adults being given the chance to stay, on either a long or short term basis, within a loving home environment.

The high level of care and attention she provides for them, such as taking them out on day trips and arranging their birthday parties, saw Teresa take gold in the Community Living Care Practitioner category of the 2017 Wales Care Awards sponsored by Mayberry Pharmacy Ltd, CareGuard and Telbridge.

The event was sponsored by Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs, and the glittering presentation ceremony was held at City Hall in Cardiff. It was 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.

Originally from the village of Mynytho on the Llyn Peninsula, Teresa attended the local Ysgol Botwnnog and her first job after leaving school was as a counter assistant at the Post Office in Abersoch.

She then had a variety of jobs in cafes and shops in the Abersoch area before moving into a career in care and becoming a support worker for the council’s child protection team.

Teresa said: “That was 1997 and I’ve been working in care ever since. At one stage I was in home care, dealing with children who were sick and suffering from things like cystic fibrosis. I then looked after youngsters with learning disabilities supporting them at home and in the community.

“About 16 years ago, almost by accident, I started fostering children. It happened after a placement for two boys fell through and social services asked me if I’d care for them in my home.

“I fostered children for a number of years before I became an Enabler for Shared Lives in 2012.

“That means enabling vulnerable adults to live in a home environment, which I currently provide for a lady in her sixties on a long-term basis. I also provide short-term respite care for two young men in their thirties and an elderly lady.”

All of the people Teresa supports have their own comfortable room at her home and she also arranges outings and other special treats for them.

“I accompany the young men on trips to rugby matches, which is no problem as I’m a big fan of the Ospreys, and sometimes I go with the lady who is with me long-term on outings to places like Harlech. I also arranged her 60th birthday party,” she said.

“My partner, Charlie, has a good relationship with all the people who stay with me and they also get on well with my grandchildren – of which I have four – when they come to visit.

“I love what I do and I suppose I’ve always been quite a helpful and caring person. I believe the people who stay with me are just in need of a break away from things.”

Teresa said of landing the coveted gold award: “It was unbelievable and just like a dream.

“I’m the sort of person who likes to stay in the background and I believe that if you don’t want something too much it often comes to you. But I must admit I really enjoyed winning the gold award on what was a fantastic and very enjoyable night.

“I see the award as not just for myself but everyone who has helped me, especially my family.

“I’m glad to say my partner Charlie and my son Terry, who is a sergeant in the Royal Welsh Regiment and has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, were with me on the night along with Terry’s partner, Zoe, who is the mother of my two grand-daughters and two grandsons.”

Mario Kreft, 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.”