A WOMAN who wanted to care for people since she was a schoolgirl has won national recognition at Wales’ top care awards.

Sharon Burke won silver at a glittering Oscars-style awards night in Cardiff City Hall, hosted by BBC presenter Lucy Owen, and organised by Care Forum Wales, to acknowledge and reward excellence in the social care sector.

She achieved success in the category excellence in leadership and management in supported living or small group community living, sponsored by Radis Community Care, at the 2014 Wales Care Awards.

Sharon showed the kind of dedication which got her nominated when she rushed to help after being alerted to a burglary in a house for special need clients in a remote area near Caernarfon.

As head of service and assistant chief executive officer at Anheddau Cyf, a Bangor-based non-profit, charitable organisation, she helps provide care and support to adults across North Wales enabling them to remain in their own homes.

She has been nominated for a prestigious award in the 2014 Wales Care Awards  – the ‘Oscars’ of the industry – in Cardiff City Hall on October 24, organised by Care Forum Wales, to acknowledge and reward excellence in the care sector.

She was supporting a team who were caring for a terminally ill service user for some time. While working in Conwy she had been alerted about the burglary.

“Three service users lived in shared accommodation and it would have been very traumatic for them to have come home to their home being in such a mess,” she said.

“The staff on duty stayed out for dinner with the service users whilst others including myself cleaned up the mess.

“I remember the kitchen floor was covered in washing up liquid. At first I was furious, raging about why someone would do such a thing.

“But then I was told burglars sometimes do that to try and cover up any footprints!  It took us hours to get the kitchen clean but we managed it and the service users came back, unaware of what had gone on,” said Sharon, who lives in High Street, Llanerchymedd on Anglesey.

“Supporting people is something I have always wanted to do,” said Sharon. “In Llanerchymedd as a young girl there were quite a lot of people with special needs coming to the community centre and from 15 it was always something I aspired to.”

A family move took her away from Wales to Weymouth in Dorset where she went to college and studied for a City and Guilds in family and community care and then to Swindon where a spell helping out in a semi secure unit proved an “eye opener” for the 18-year-old.

But she longed to return to North Wales and succeeded when she secured a job with Anheddau Cyf, working her way up to her present position.

“It’s given me an understanding of a support worker’s role and need when they are faced with very difficult situations with service users at all hours of the day and night.”

Sharon who is studying for her Master’s degree in leadership, health and social care from Bangor University, lives with partner Lee Thrasher, and they have a 17-year-old daughter Emily.

Susan Hart who nominated Sharon, said: “Sharon has the credibility and insight from having ‘walked in the shoes’ of everyone under her leadership.

“She is currently steering the organisation, its staff and service users through the turbulent and unsettling process of cuts to local authority funding and the increased pressure of legislative compliance.”

Mario Kreft, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said there was a record number of nominations and the standard 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.”