Ex-sculptor strikes gold after carving out new career

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Alexander Smith

 

A Master’s student who gave up a career in sculpting and the arts has won a top national award for his work caring for society’s most vulnerable people.

Alexander Smith, 29, says winning Gold at the Wales Care Awards is an amazing morale booster for his entire team at the Lifelong Learning 4 Living organisation at Llanerchrugog Hall, Rhos, near Wrexham.

Alex was thrilled to be presented with his accolade at Cardiff’s City Hall during a glittering awards ceremony.

He said: “It goes without saying that I was very happy to win, but what really pleases me is that it validates all the effort we put in at Lifelong Learning 4 Living. We are quite a small organisation but I believe we do some groundbreaking work here.

“Every member of the team is as important as the next and I see this award as a tribute to all of them.

“Social Services often gets a bad press so to have recognition like this really lifts the spirits of everyone who does such hard work.”

Alex is trainee assistant manager at Lifelong Learning 4 Living, and is also studying for a master’s degree in psychology from Chester University.

He won Gold for excellence in learning disability and mental health services, an award sponsored by Shakletons Ltd.

He said: “It was an honour to be nominated at all and a huge surprise to win, as after meeting some of the others care workers on the night I knew there were some very strong candidates.”

Alex was recommended for the honour by his manager Peter Greenwood who said Alex has made a significant difference to the life experience of people with whom Lifelong Learning 4 Living works.

In the seven years since he joined the team he has pioneered new projects enabling residents to undertake activities that many had never been allowed to do before, such as walking a pet dog, shopping, ironing, cooking, cleaning, having bus passes and even travelling abroad.

After graduating in art at Loughborough university Alex joined Lifelong Learning 4 Living initially in a temporary position teaching lifestyle skills. But after discovering he had an instinctive rapport with the residents, he switched his focus from the arts to care work and went on to gain recognised qualifications in the field.

Originally from Hampshire, Alex now lives in Handbridge, Chester, with his girlfriend, midwife Rebecca Hardaker.

He said: “Attending the awards was an amazing experience in itself for me as I got to meet so many interesting people and hear about their different ideas and approaches to caring for people both in residential facilities and in the community. It is good to hear varying points of view and learn from the experiences of those who have been in the care sector for many years.”

This year was the 13th anniversary of the Wales Care Awards, first established 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.

Alex is also a strong advocate of improving the lot of care givers and is focussing his Masters dissertation on the emotional wellbeing of care providers in residential centres and at home.

He believes to improve the life experience of people in care it is essential to raise the status, rewards and work conditions of carers. He would one day like to open a residential care facility himself.

Mario Kreft, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said: “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.”