A care boss who juggles a top management role with life as a weekend farmer is celebrating after winning one of the social care industry’s highest accolades.
Qualified social worker Linda Forrest-Owen, who manages more than 90 home carers in her role as Anglesey manager at Carelink Homeware Services Ltd, won a coveted Gold award at this year’s Wales Care Awards, held at City Hall in Cardiff.
The 53-year-old, who is very rarely off duty with the demands of her husband’s cattle farm interrupting the weekend lie-in, was nominated in the Leadership and Management category, sponsored by AA Health, Safety and HR Consultants.
The national awards, run by Care Forum Wales and sponsored overall by Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs, acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the care sector.
Linda accepted her award at a glittering ceremony hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, best known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV adverts.
The mother-of-two, from Bryngwran, Anglesey, said: “It was amazing and the icing on the cake of a 34-year social care career. I’ve got a really good team behind me. This award is for the whole of Carelink, not just me.
“The awards are a fantastic idea as it gives people a boost and raises confidence. It has inspired me and I’m looking forward to being able to nominate someone myself next year.
“There were three very good candidates. I had the opportunity of speaking to the other two and learning about their own career paths in social care and the winner could have been any one of us.”
Linda, who has two daughters, Lydia, 22, and Miriam, 20, is thrilled to be recognised following a successful career which has spanned both public and private sector work.
“Recognition for people like me who don’t like to praise themselves makes a huge difference,” said the former Ysgol David Hughes pupil.
“I feel very proud. It’s the icing on the cake of my career so far. It’s nice to be recognised and to know your colleagues think highly of you – enough to take the time to send through testimonials. A lot of past and present colleagues have supported me.”
Linda left school and embarked on a two-year health and social care course at Bangor Technical College before training to be a social worker with Isle of Anglesey County Council. This saw her complete further qualifications in social work at the former North East Wales Institute of Higher Education (NEWI), now known as Wrexham Glyndwr University.
After working her way up the ladder, Linda became a safeguarding coordinator for Anglesey County Council, overseeing care procedures, protocols and regulation compliance for vulnerable adults.
She joined Carelink, which provides homecare for individuals with a range of needs including dementia, in June 2014 as Anglesey Manager and brought a wealth of experience to the role to enhance care practices and ensure staff excelled under her strong leadership.
“Seeing the company grow as it has is very rewarding,” she said.
“It’s nice to be in the position to make decisions as I see fit without having to go through a panel process first. In the private sector, you can make decisions that improve things straight away.
“Care is a very demanding job but at the end of the day when you make a difference to someone’s life it’s well worth it.
“I really enjoy my job. I feel like I’m giving something back to the community. I still do hands on care every month where I’ll go out in the community for a shift. It keeps me up to date, especially with the complex cases.
“It’s very important as a manager not to see yourself in an ivory tower, you have to get out there and take a “hands on” approach.”
Life for Linda is always “hands on”.
Her husband of 25 years, Ian, 54, breeds beef stock for a living including the British Blue and Limousin varieties which they present at shows. The weekends are rarely about putting her feet up.
“I absolutely love it, it’s my time out and it clears my head,” she said.
“I never switch off. I sit in my tractor clearing muck but I’m always at the end of a phone if needed.
“It’s usually an early start on the weekends but my husband will be up before me.
“Both my daughters love farming too but we’ve encouraged them to get their education first so they can decide what they want to do in the future.
“I’ve been married for 25 years now and we’ve always farmed so it’s normality for us.”
Nominating Linda for the award, Carelink owner Michelle Phillips said: “Linda is unique, she encourages and supports all her staff to reach their full potential, sharing her knowledge and experience to ensure all our supported individuals reach their full potential and have a greater say in how they live their lives.”
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the standard of entries 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.”