A Cwmbran woman who has dedicated over 20 years to helping people with learning difficulties has been hailed as role model by her colleagues.
Now Leigh Miller, who delights in making a difference to the lives of those she supports, is in line for a prestigious award at the social care Oscars.
She has been shortlisted in the category for excellence in leadership and supported living in this year’s Wales Care Awards. The awards are organised by Care Forum Wales to recognise exceptional service in the care sector.
The presentation ceremony will be held at City Hall, Cardiff, on November 17, and will be hosted by singer and presenter Wynne Evans, popularly known as Gio Compario in the Go Compare TV adverts.
Leigh, 58, Pontnewydd, Cwmbran, has been employed by Consensus for the past 13 years, having begun as a support worker at the West End Opportunities Centre in Magor. She progressed to become Senior Team Lead and Acting Deputy Manager, and four years ago was appointed manager of the West End and New Horizons Centre.
The West End Centre supports those with learning difficulties whilst people supported at the New Horizons Centre have multiple profound learning difficulties. Leigh heads a team of 15 and also works on-shift herself.
She was nominated for the award by Simon Kezic-Williams, Consensus’s head of strategy and operations for Wales, who spoke highly of her inspirational leadership in providing training, organising activities and ensuring that the support given is person-centred.
“She describes the two services as her extended family, and prides herself on broadening horizons, opening up opportunities for individuals and being the guiding force behind her team,” he said.
“She makes a positive difference everyday to the lives of those her team support.”
“A typical success story is that of one young woman whose parents are involved in amateur dramatics. The woman took an interest in their activities but was unable to join them because of anxieties around dark places and crowded spaces.
“The woman enjoyed watching films and Leigh’s team began working in a person centered manner to enable the lady to visit the cinema by walking with her to the cinema, initially entering only the reception area and later having a tea.
“Eventually after getting accustomed to the building she was able to enter the cinema itself and, six months later, began enjoying going to the theatre with her parents.
“Both she and her parents are delighted with her progress so far,” said Simon.
Leigh, whose daughter Zoe is also a support worker and person centred champion with Consensus, said every possible effort was made to ensure that individuals they support could participate in activities which others took for granted.
“I love going home with the feeling I have made a difference to their lives,” she said.
She is looking forward to attending the awards ceremony but is saddened that her mother, Marlene Haywood, who died a few weeks ago, did not live to see her being honoured.
In her spare time Leigh enjoys going to the cinema and on cruises with husband Gary, and they also visit their architect son Frazer, daughter in law Lauren and first grandchild Callum in Dubai as frequently as possible.
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.
“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.”