A social worker with a “unique gift” for helping children with disabilities has been praised for his “incredible strength,” “optimism” and “relentless energy.”

Testimonies put forward about the admirable work of Richard Bellingham have landed him in the running for a prestigious award.

The 47-year-old from Llanon has worked with Ceredigion County Council’s children’s disability team as a key worker and senior practitioner caring for children aged one to 18.

The service works with disabled children and young people to promote their wellbeing,  planning alongside parents and carers  to support development of independence and resilience, as well as offering support and signposting based on each child’s individual needs.

Richard has been hailed as providing “extraordinary care and support” by the parents of one child who described him as “very friendly and a good communicator.”

It is his passion for his caring role that has seen him make the final of the major national competition, the 2022 Wales Care Awards which are being sponsored this year by Ontex Healthcare.

The glittering presentation ceremony will be held at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday October 21, 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.

Richard has been shortlisted for The Peter Clarke Award for Promoting Excellence in Services for Children and Young People, with the category being sponsored by Morgan LaRoche Solicitors.

Liane Beckmann, who nominated him after years of offering support to her daughter said: “Richard is one of the greatest listeners with good ideas and advice.

“He is very competent in his job having had so many children on his case work helping children with disabilities with his incredible strength of professional knowledge and relentless energy…He really believes the world can be better.”

She said Richard “worked his socks off” during lockdown while juggling “huge priorities” in the “strangest of times” and that Ceredigion is “extremely fortunate” to have him.

“I think that’s what drives him in his life. And I also believe that’s why he is here. Richard never gives up,” she added.

Liane said: “I think it would be wonderful if his service of excellence, commitment, dedication, reliability and always going above and beyond got some recognition.

“Richard is very quiet, gentle and always smiling. Richard has a unique gift. He also has a lot of interest in people, he works with happiness.”

About being shortlisted, Richard, who started his social care career 21 years ago working with adults before doing a degree in social work, said: “It was a really nice surprise to find out I’d been nominated for an award by one of the families I’ve worked with over the years.

“It’s lovely to be held in such high regard.

“I love my job and find it very rewarding. I really enjoy working with children and their families and helping to support them as best as I can.

“I’m looking forward to the ceremony in Cardiff.”

Mario Kreft MBE, Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the aim of the Wales Care Awards was to recognise the unstinting and remarkable dedication of unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.

He said: “The social care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation – these are people who go the extra mile for others.

“During the Covid crisis, this fantastic workforce rose magnificently to the challenge, putting their own lives on the line to do everything they possibly could to safeguard the people for whom they provide care.

“Unfortunately, it has taken a global pandemic for many other people to realise how important and how significant our social care workforce is.

“Their incredible contribution was summed up best in the powerful and emotive words of the song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, which was set to the famous tune of Men of Harlech. The message that the diolch should last forever is one that we should never forget.

“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards people need and never recognise the value of people who need care in society.

“All the nominees deserve to be lauded and applauded and it’s a real pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists.

“I congratulate all the individuals who have shown outstanding dedication and professionalism. Every one of them should be proud of their achievement.

“They are Wales’s finest.”