A dedicated support worker who helped family members cope with learning difficulties growing up has been shortlisted for a top national care award.

Barbara Sharland says there is nothing she wouldn’t do to enhance the lives of the six gentlemen in her care who live with a range of debilitating conditions including poor mobility, depression, learning difficulties and autism.

She once signed up to a six-month weight-loss regime – losing more than a stone in weight – to offer one supported individual moral support and encouragement in his bid to lose weight and ride a horse for the first time.

The 41-year-old, who works on behalf of Newport-based Consensus Support, has now been recognised by the judges of one of Wales’ most prestigious industry events – the Wales Care Awards 2018.

The national awards, which are celebrating their 15th anniversary, are organised by care industry champions Care Forum Wales which is also toasting 25 years of service in 2018. They acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the care sector.

Barbara, who lives on Caerleon Road, Newport, with husband Richard, 43, has been shortlisted for the Care Practitioner in Supported Living category, sponsored by A Baldwins & Company.

The mother-of-two will now attend a glittering awards ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday, October 19 where the winners will be announced.

“I’m really proud, it’s the first time I’ve ever been nominated for an award and it’s nice to know the work we do is being noticed,” said Barbara, whose sons are now aged 23 and 19.

“I’ve been here for 15 years now and I regard all of the men I support as family.

“I really feel like I was born to do this. There are learning difficulties in my family, with my aunt and uncle, and I always think about how I would like them to be supported and encouraged.

“We always helped as kids and looked after them. It encouraged us to be compassionate from an early age.”

Barbara, who attended Caerleon Comprehensive School, originally took on shop work after leaving school. When her children started school, she decided she needed a new challenge and care work was the obvious answer.

The men in her care range from 56 up to their late 70s and live in supported accommodation in Caerleon with round-the-clock care. Barbara helps them cope with daily life which includes organising social activities and advising them on diet and nutrition. She also helps them to achieve their goals.

“I’m very lucky to work with these people. They teach me every day how to get on with life and not to let anything stop me from living my life,” she said.

“They are as much an inspiration to me as I am to them. Life has dealt them with a number of challenges and difficulties. One particular gentleman is going blind and deaf and is confined to a wheelchair, but nothing stops him. He still loves to go to concerts. He has an amazing spirit for life.”

One of the highlights of Barbara’s career so far is the support she offered one of her clients to lose weight.

“He had a dream to go horse riding but unfortunately he was overweight and so I put him on the right programme and he achieved his ambition, losing a large amount of weight in the process.

“I joined the gym with him and I’d bring in all the weights and everybody would join in. I lost over a stone in six months myself and I’m still going to the gym!

“Then when the gentleman had lost weight, he wanted to go abroad too for the first time, so we arranged for him to have a holiday in Benidorm.”

Nominating Barbara for the award, Phil Mcfarlane, supported living manager, said: “Everything that Barbara does is through a person-centred approach that involves all people important to the individual, which helps ensure that choices made are appropriate for the person and have the best chance of success.”

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

He said: “This year’s ceremony is an even more special occasion because it marks the 15th anniversary of the Wales Care Awards and the 25th anniversary of Care Forum Wales and 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.”