A teacher turned social worker who helped transform residential and home care for the elderly in North Wales has been recommended for a top award.
At the age of 71, Cathy Ann Robinson’s skills are still in big demand after a career spanning more than 40 years during which she penned a specialist Welsh language cook book.
Today as part time training manager with Gofal Bro home care organisation, Caernarfon, Catherine’s expertise has so impressed her employers that they nominated her for a place in the final of the 2015 Wales Care Awards. She is shortlisted in the Commitment to Training and Workforce Development catergory, sponsored by Harlech Foods.
This year is the 13th anniversary of the prestigious awards and the winners will be revealed at a glittering presentation ceremony at City Hall, Cardiff on Friday, November 6.
The awards are in association with Care Forum Wales, a not-for-profit organisation set up in 1993 to give independent care providers a single professional voice with which to speak on one of the most important issues of our time – how to provide better quality care for those who need it most.
Cathy Ann is passionate about mentoring care workers to offer the highest standards of service.
“I have no plans to retire yet. I have never been a person who can sit back and stay still. I always have to be doing something. I did take early retirement at age 58 but after a few weeks I was back at the job, I love it so much,” said the married mum of two daughters who followed her footsteps into care sector careers. Gwen is an occupational therapist and Non works assisting people with learning disabilities.
Margaret Jones, manager of Gofal Bro, which employs 50 carers offering personal care to the elderly and vulnerable across North Wales, said: “Cathy Ann has been there for me for advice and guidance at any time. She is responsible for staff training and induction and during the last seven years she has developed specific training courses that have been so valuable in the development of knowledge and skills for my staff.
“She is dedicated in her quest for training and strives to impress on staff the need for them to maintain the trust and confidence of service users. She instills on them the importance of ‘helping them to help themselves’ promoting independence and choices.”
As part of this ethos Cathy Ann wrote a Welsh language cook book including easy recipes for one and two people, which are nutritious and easily digestible for the elderly and can be prepared in 30 minutes.
She said: “Home carers can struggle when it comes to cooking meals quickly so the book offers hints on things like slicing potatoes and vegetables very thinly so they cook quicker, preparing soups and quick nutritious meals.
“We also put together baskets of handy utensils for staff to keep at hand, as many people don’t have certain items in their own homes. This way our carers can show the people they care for how much easier it would be to prepare things themselves using a certain utensil or simple ingredient. We did the same for cleaning staff, who were given a basket of essential cleaning equipment to carry with them.”
Anglesey-born Cathy Ann of Oniddelo, Pentre Berw, Gaerwen, started as a domestic science schoolteacher in 1971. When she couldn’t find a permanent position she applied for a job in social services.
“I got it, even though I’d no social work experience,” said Cathy Ann, who soon showed a natural aptitude for the role. She went on to pass social work qualifications and work her way through the ranks to take charge of the home help service across Gwynedd.
She eventually became principal officer responsible for residential homes and day care centers, including meals on wheels kitchens. She created training courses for residential home staff and full time carers visiting people in their own homes.
“With my teaching background I felt it important all our carers be full trained to the same high standards,” said Cathy Ann.
Her Welsh language fluency proved a boon, as many carers were initially reluctant to sign up for courses, afraid they may have to complete them in English.
Cathy Ann explained: “The majority were first language Welsh, so studying English would have been difficult. As a Welsh speaker I was able to train them in their own tongue and develop Welsh language course notes and instructions.”
When not at work she spends time with her husband, retired architect John, enjoys gardening and cooking.
“At this time of the year you’ll often find me making jams, with freshly picked plums. We’ve currently got a glut of them,” she laughed.
She also loves to travel, and fondly recalls her 30th wedding anniversary when she and John flew across the Atlantic on Concorde.
“We went on the Orient Express train to Southampton, from there sailed to New York on QE2 and came home on Concorde. It was the trip of a lifetime,” she said.
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.
He said: “The event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in the Welsh social care calendar and are seen as the Oscars of social care.
“The aim is to recognise the unstinting and often remarkable dedication of our unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.
“The care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.
“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards that people need and never recognise the value of the people who need the care in society.
“We need to do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce – they deserve to be lauded and applauded.
“It is a pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists. Each and every one of them should be very proud of their achievement.”