A young support worker who balances life as the primary carer for her mum with a fulltime job helping people with complex mental health needs has been shortlisted for a top award.

Ellie Jones, 20, joined the care industry just two years ago but has already been announced as a finalist in this year’s Wales Care Awards – the care sector equivalent to the Oscars.

Since joining Liberty Care Ltd in Blackwood, Caerphilly, as a support worker and being quickly promoted to senior support worker, the former Ystrad Mynach student has continually impressed her team – so much so they repeatedly nominate her for staff member of the month.

The care worker, who supports five women with mental health needs in a supported living home, now finds herself in the running for the Exceptional Newcomer Award, sponsored by Barchester Healthcare, at this year’s Wales Care Awards.

The annual event is hosted by social care champions Care Forum Wales which supports more than 450 care homes, nursing homes and other independent health and social care providers across Wales.

Ellie, from Blackwood, will now join dozens of care workers at a glittering ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday, October 21, hosted by popular tenor, Wynne Evans, best known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.

“I’m very surprised but proud to be shortlisted out of all the nominees,” she said.

“Being put forward for an award was more than enough for me but to find out I am shortlisted has been overwhelming. I’m very chuffed and proud.

“There’s nothing I regret about coming into this role. I love my job and just coming into work and making a difference is a massive achievement for me and seeing people progress is really rewarding.”

Ellie’s colleagues put her success down to her natural ability to empathise and put herself in the shoes of her service users – skills born by her experience as the main carer for her mother over the past five years.

“I was 14 or 15 when my mum had her first stroke,” she said.

“My mum had great difficulty with her physical abilities from that point including personal care so I would support my mum in that area and help her with her benefits. I also had to take on the role of being a young carer for younger three siblings and then my grandparents became quite unwell too.

“These experiences have helped me in different ways. It has helped me to recognise dignity as obviously with my mum it was quite deflating for her to be showered. I tried to find ways of helping her feel more comfortable and now I apply that to my role to ensure the dignity of the ladies I support.

“It has allowed me to be more compassionate and I think it has allowed me to adapt as a person and become more confident and push myself to limits I didn’t think were possible. I never thought I would be able to contact GPs for myself let alone for someone else.

“It can be difficult as I don’t get a lot of time to myself. On my days off I’m making up for the time I was in work and making sure I’m able to take my mum to appointments and cooking, cleaning and administering medicine.”

Ellie was nominated for her award by Sue Smith, Team Leader at Liberty Care Ltd.

She said: “When Ellie first came to us she had just turned 18 but was extremely natural in the way she interacted with service users.

“She made an instant impression but more so because that support was delivered during the pandemic when the impact on mental health was quite significant.

“For me this young girl of 18, having never worked in care before, was standing out as an individual who worked naturally with individuals in times of crisis and was making a difference to them.

“I’m absolutely chuffed to pieces for her. Ellie has worked hard and still does. She goes above and beyond to make sure the ladies she supports have good quality care.”

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.