Former motor trade man now driving the use of Welsh in care homes is in running for major award

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A one-time car salesman is in the running for a prestigious award for the way he has been driving forward the use of the Welsh language in a group of south Wales care homes.

Despite starting to build up his skill in promoting the language for a busy doctors’ surgery in Carmarthenshire a few years ago, Sion Page decided to leave the job when the practice was faced with closure.

For six months he became a car salesman before rejoining the care sector as a support worker for Integra Community Living Options which provides residential care, supported accommodation and outreach services in Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Neath, Rhondda Cynin Taff and Swansea for adults with mental health issues or an acquired brain injury.

With Integra the first-language Welsh speaker has really got into top gear by actively championing the Welsh Active Offer – the Welsh Government’s plan to strengthen the language in health and social care services.

This has meant enabling clients to communicate in their preferred language and helping an increasing number of residents and staff to learn and speak Welsh.

It is this dedication to his role that has landed 26-year-old Sion a place in the final of major national competition, the 2019 Wales Care Awards.

The glittering presentation ceremony organised by Care Froum Wales  will be held at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday October 18, hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.

The awards are in association with Care Forum Wales, a not-for-profit organisation which is celebrating its own 26th anniversary this year after being 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.

Sion is shortlisted for the Commitment to Training and Workforce Development Award sponsored by City & Guilds and WJEC Consortium.

Born and raised in the Trelech area of Carmarthenshire where he still lives with his fiancée Elizabeth and their two-year-old daughter Esme, after leaving school his first job was as a shop assistant in Carmarthen.

After four years he got a job as an administrator and receptionist with a doctors’ surgery in Llandysul.

After winning promotion as assistant to the practice manager Sion began working to promote the use of Welsh, translating letters and posters.

He said: “After a while I spoke to the doctors and asked them if they would like me to do more of this sort of thing and they told me to carry on, which meant I was then translating lots of things including blood test and x-ray results into Welsh for our patients.

“Things went so well that that in 2015 the practice won a More Than Just Words Award sponsored by the Welsh Government  to promote bilingual services in primary care and  I was very proud of that.”

After his brief spell in the motor trade Sion joined Integra in 2017 and last year was promoted to senior support worker and rehabiltation practitioner.

Based at Elm Lodge in Carmarthen, he is now responsible for promoting the use of the Welsh language at all 10 of the group’s homes across the south of the country, which involves helping spread the good word to about 70 staff.

In nominating him for the award, home manager Anthony Craggs said of him: “Sion as a first language Welsh speaker has taken a key leading role in promoting the Welsh Active Offer within Integra.

“As a company we have witnessed a marked increase in the use of the Welsh language within our services.

“Sion has been instrumental in promoting the usage of Welsh across our homes and recently he produced packs for St David’s Day which included information on St David, some useful phrases related to St David’s Day and some bilingual recipe cards. The recipe cards went down so well in our homes that we were able to feature photographs and stories of how they celebrated the day in our internal newsletter.

“Some feedback from this training included one member of staff stating, ‘it has reminded me to try and speak more Welsh to Welsh-speaking service users, I think it is important to know our mother tongue.”

Sion said: “I love my job, although it can be challenging at times. It’s lovely to see people coming through the system from being unwell to the point where they are well enough to be discharged and helping clients and staff with using the Welsh language means that I can go home at the end of the day feeling fulfilled.

“I was totally shocked at being nominated and then shortlisted for the Wales Care Awards. I didn’t expect it at all. I don’t do what I do for my own benefit, I do it because I enjoy it so much.

“I’m looking forward very much to attending the presentation evening in Cardiff.”

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.”