A children’s home manager who has devoted her life to helping young people overcome challenging emotional and behavioural problems has been shortlisted for a national award.

Leanne Bennett had her heart set on a career as a primary school teacher until taking on a work placement at a children’s home during her degree studies.

The 30-year-old, realised in that moment she wanted to make a difference to young people’s lives and hasn’t looked back ever since.

Leanne, who has been the registered manager of a specialist therapeutic children’s home in Ruthin, since January 2015, is now in the running for one of the care industry’s highest accolades.

Leanne, who is employed by Branas Isaf, has been nominated for the Peter Clarke Award for promoting excellence in services for children and young people after impressing the judges with her leadership and management skills.

The prestigious national awards, run by Care Forum Wales, acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the care sector and are widely regarded as the ‘Oscars’ of the care industry.

As a finalist, Leanne will now attend a glittering awards ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday, October 21.

Leanne was studying for a degree in Early Childhood Studies at Glyndwr University in Wrexham in 2008 when she secured a work placement at a children’s home in Shrewsbury.

She quickly found that helping to transform the lives of young people who’d had a difficult start in life was a path she wanted to take.

“I live and breathe my job,” she said.

“I like to think that if you can do a little bit to help them in the future then it’s all worth it.

“It can be very challenging and it’s a busy job. I’m constantly needed by the staff or our young people. Since I’ve come here I’ve implemented a lot of structure and have seen young people get GCSEs who have been out of school for four years. It’s amazing to see them succeed.

“It’s a very rewarding part of the job.”

Leanne has worked in children’s homes since completing her degree in 2008. She currently runs a six-bed children’s home for boys aged 11 to 18 who come to the centre for a 16-week period where they are assessed before moving on to permanent residential accommodation.

“I’ve no regrets. I don’t think being a school teacher would’ve been a big enough challenge for me,” she admitted.

“I love working with young children but working with them from a care perspective rather than an educational perspective has been very rewarding and a lot more challenging.

“We have our successes where children have been able to build the skills they need to go out into the community which they haven’t been able to do before.”

Leanne and her team recently organised for one of the residents to attend the Fusion Festival in Birmingham which involved significant planning and risk assessment.

“It was about planning ahead and including the individual in the risk process which built his confidence,” she explained.

“He was absolutely ecstatic when he came back and had such a good time. It’s those small things that make it worth it.”

Leanne regards one of her biggest achievements as the publication of the recent Care Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) report which praised the home’s leadership and management practices.

“When I first walked through the door there was a lot of work that needed to be done. After recruiting and putting in structures and long hours we managed to ensure it became fully occupied,” she said.

“It’s really rewarding seeing the staff team develop. I’m very passionate about my job but you’re only as good as your support team.”

Leanne is looking forward to the awards ceremony on October 21 and would love to bring the title back to the home.

“I’ve been quite overwhelmed. It’s really flattering and lovely to be recognised for the work I’ve put in,” she said.

“I put 100% into my work and it means a lot to me to be recognised for that. It’s not a job you can do half-heartedly it’s either all or nothing.”

Nominating Leanne for the award, Kate Jones, head of service for Branas Isaf, said she was always prepared to go the “extra mile”.

“Leanne has proven herself as an exceptional leader and there are a multitude of examples of how her dedication, enthusiasm, drive and commitment to achieve high standards of care practice and positive outcomes for service users and staff are implemented,” she added.

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.

He said: “The event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in the Welsh social care calendar.

“The aim is to recognise the unstinting and often remarkable dedication of our unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.

“The care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.

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

“We need to do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce – they deserve to be lauded and applauded.”