A former supermarket assistant who was inspired to become a care worker after her grandad suffered a stroke has scooped the top prize at one of social care’s biggest awards events.

Louise Wall, from Barry, has worked for All Care South Wales Ltd for almost 20 years after joining the organisation when her son started school.

The 54-year-old care supervisor, who has an eight-year-old grandson, was motivated to help people after watching care workers support her grandfather, Reginald, in his home when he was left paralysed down one side following a stroke.

Over almost two decades, she has supported dozens of service users with complex needs to achieve their dreams and gain more independence.

The spotlight is now shining on her efforts after she won a coveted gold award in the final of this year’s Wales Care Awards, organised by care industry champions Care Forum Wales which supports more than 450 care homes, nursing homes and other independent health and social care providers across Wales.

Louise took the top prize in the Leadership and Management/Supported Living award, sponsored by Cartref Ni & Zenergi Ltd.

She received her award from Neil Ryder, chief executive of Cartref Ni, at a glittering ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff, hosted by popular tenor, Wynne Evans, best known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.

Reacting to her win, Louise said: “I couldn’t believe it – I was shaking like a leaf and didn’t know how I was going to get up on the stage.

“My team were all rooting for me and half of them were crying. They all know what I’m like and how I don’t like the limelight or any fuss.

“It was a really big achievement – you can’t get any bigger than a gold care award and be recognised for the job I do. It was a very proud moment.

“We’re all in this together and though we may be doing different jobs from living in care, mental health support and nursing, I’m so proud of everyone in the social care sector for the fantastic work they do.

“It’s a very rewarding job. What’s more rewarding than helping someone to remain in their own homes? It would be my preference to remain in my own home for as long as possible and if I can help them to do the same that’s what I’ll do.

“If you’ve never had care workers in your home before you don’t know what to expect. You have to put yourself in their shoes and if they were active before and have had that taken away from them, then that’s going to be frustrating.

“When you go in and take that person out for the day and they’re sitting there smiling, that’s what it’s all about. If I can make a difference, then that’s what I’ll do.”

Louise took on a number of jobs after leaving school including a job in the former Safeway supermarket before the business was sold and the betting shop William Hill.

“When my grandfather had a stroke I experienced first-hand care workers going into my nan’s house to support him. I thought ‘I’m going to give this a go’,” she said.

“I got myself a part-time job with All Care doing two mornings a week just to see if I liked it or not then it went from there.

“I don’t regret it for a minute. This is the longest I’ve stayed in one place. Care is very challenging but I’m still up for that challenge and as long as I’m still here doing what I’m doing, I will still make that difference.”

As a care supervisor, Louise oversees the care packages of her clients, undertaking risk assessments and implementing risk management plans to ensure the individuals in her care receive the best service possible.

Her clients span all age ranges and have complex needs such as dementia or mental/physical disabilities.

“Care can be very challenging,” she said.

“During the pandemic, I found it very difficult and upsetting. A lot of people live on their own. I could feel their pain because I also live on my own but I could still get out to the supermarket. They weren’t seeing anybody at all and it had an impact on their mental health and wellbeing to not have that social interaction.

“The people we support had lives prior to receiving care and we try to include a lot of the things they used to do. One lady simply wanted to visit her daughter instead of her daughter visiting her and we provided a package of care that enabled her to do that.”

Louise was nominated for the award by Wendy Harvey, care manager at All Care South Wales.

She said: “Louise is part of the furniture here as she’s she been with us for 20 years. When I nominated her she nearly had a heart attack. When she got through, I was more excited than her!

“She works really hard and is very dedicated to her job even during the hard times like the pandemic when she couldn’t visit her grandchild. She’s caring, knowledgeable and deserves this so much. I’m so glad I did it before she retired.”

Mario Kreft MBE, Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the ceremony was all the more poignant because of the Covid pandemic and what front line staff had endured.

He said: “I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to all the wonderful people who work in social care after they rose magnificently and courageously to meet the unprecedented challenges they have faced over the past couple of years.

“We have always recognised their true value and hopefully now the rest of Wales is also aware of how lucky we are as a nation to have them providing care and safeguarding our most vulnerable people.

“Our finalists are the best of the best and are here representing the whole social care workforce who all deserve a big pat on the back.

“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 and in the months and years to come.

“In the words of the powerful song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, let the Diolch last forever.

”We take our hats off to them.”