A HOLYHEAD woman hopes to inspire Anglesey people to open their homes to adults with learning disabilities as she celebrates a major award.
Liz Hughes, 51, won gold at the Wales Care Awards after working with the Gwynedd and Anglesey Shared Lives Scheme for 12 years.
In that time she has created a happy and secure home for two young women with learning difficulties who have developed the confidence to go on shopping trips and out with friends.
A former foster carer, she took top honours in the Promoting Fulfilled Lives category sponsored by Boots Healthcare and hopes to encourage others to become part of the Shared Lives scheme.
“The award was a lovely surprise. It’s nice to be appreciated but what I would truly love is for other people to consider sharing their homes in this way, she said.
“The work is so rewarding. The girls are now 29 and 33 and we have great times together. They go out to the cinema and on holiday with their friends and also play an important part in their local community.
“They were so delighted for me and have gone about telling people ‘Our carer has won a gold award!’ They receive as much or as little support as they need to lead independent and fulfilled lives. It’s been wonderful to watch their transformation over the years.”
The pair share Liz’s three-bedroom and duties around it. One who ‘turned up’ on her doorstep nine years ago lacked basic life skills but has grown tremendously in confidence. She now acts as an ambassador for the scheme, speaking up at national level for adults with learning disabilities.
Liz, who previously fostered for 20 years, is planning to celebrate with them on a Christmas shopping trip to Liverpool.
She added: “Unfortunately, there are many young adults out there who simply can’t make it on their own. Their learning disabilities prevent them from leading normal lives and it’s been rewarding to see the two young ladies who live with me come on leaps and bounds.
“It’s a busy home, we have some shared interests that we will do together but we also give each other space. They like spending time in their bedrooms watching Sky TV, listen to music, watching Netflix.
“It’s also a happy home and we all enjoy being with each other. When I first started it was called the adult placement scheme and I can highly recommend it to anyone who can provide the same supportive, caring environment. The work will enrich their lives.”
During her years as a foster carer Liz provided respite and long term placements. They keep in touch and have become her extended family.
Wearing a new frock and heels for the first time in years, she stepped into the spotlight at an Oscars-style ceremony staged at Cardiff City Hall where top sponsors were Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs.
In nominating her for the award, Shared Lives manager Lowri Matulla praised her ability to ‘turn lives round.’
She said: “Liz has offered as life-line to people who would find it hard to live on their own. Years ago they would have been in institutions and it is people like Liz who help them reach their full potential by offering kindness and support.”
Always a swish event, the awards were hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.
Mario Kreft, 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.”