Winning a gold award was a bittersweet moment for a recently widowed care home boss from Gwynedd.
Ceri Roberts, who soldiered on during the pandemic, was honoured at the prestigious Wales Care Awards, dubbed the Oscars of social care.
She won the Gold prize in the Outstanding Service category, sponsored by the Caron Group with Ontex Healthcare being the event’s main sponsor.
Judges were impressed with the way she overcame hurdles and her own heartbreak to keep her staff and residents protected and supported throughout.
Ceri, the director of Cariad Care Homes which has homes in Porthmadog and Criccieth in Gwynedd, was nominated for the award by colleagues and staff, who praised her dogged efforts to secure adequate PPE and for always considering their wellbeing, along with that of the residents.
“It was a huge privilege to be nominated and to attend the awards ceremony. I’m very grateful to have the support of such a great team,” said Ceri.
“But it was also a bittersweet moment for me, receiving the award. My husband was always so supportive and proud of my work. I know he would have loved to have been there at the ceremony, celebrating with me.”
Ceri’s husband, Huw, who was also Financial Director of the company, died very suddenly in August 2020, just at the country was coming out of the first lockdown.
Along with anticipating the impact covid would have on the business, Ceri had to find someone to fill her husbands’ role in the home.
Home Manager Jill Jones, who nominated Ceri along with another member of staff, said her boss managed the homes at a really demanding time while still grieving for her husband.
“She was set adrift without her anchor, but through all this heartache and sorrow, she rose and once again devoted every hour to her staff, the residents and their families,” said Jill.
“She ploughed all her energy into making sure her homes were well informed and staff were trained to deal with the situation.
“She would send cakes, chocolates and take away meals to the homes with messages of thanks. These little things count.
“She has been selfless throughout these unprecedented times and she continues to be our rock.”
Ceri took 10 members of her team to the awards evening at City Hall in Cardiff which was attended by First Minister Mark Drakeford. The singer, Sir Bryn Terfel performed and presented awards and the event was compared by BBC Radio Wales presenter Wynne Evans, who also famously plays the opera singer Gio Compario in the Go Compare TV adverts.
“I wish I could have taken them all. It really was a team effort to get through the pandemic and we have a great team at Cariad. They are so loyal and dedicated,” said Ceri.
For Ceri, the past two years have been particularly challenging. First came the pandemic, the loss of her husband, then over the past year Ceri has also had to deal with two major surgeries.
“It has been a very, very difficult time and hard work. At the beginning we didn’t know what we were facing, but I did anticipate there would be problems getting hold PPE and I was right,” Ceri said.
“We managed to source aprons from a company making carrier bags, who had adapted their machinery to make PPE instead.
“We also purchased virus killing snoods for all staff to wear, prior to mask being made mandatory.”
Ceri added that it would have been impossible for her to continue without the support of her loyal and devoted staff.
“You can’t run a good home without a good team behind you,” she said.
“They were putting their life and their families wellbeing on the line when they came into work.
“We recently organised a big family fun day for everyone involved during the pandemic. We wanted to recognise their effort and thank the team for the sacrifices they made. We had a great day with over 140 people attending”.
Mario Kreft, chairman 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 the 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.”