A former hotel worker who switched to a career in care after volunteering at a day centre for young people with disabilities is in line for a top national award.
Noel Williams, 42, worked for a range of care providers and charities before founding his own care agency, Calon Lan Community Care Ltd, based in Llandudno, at the age of just 30.
The dad-of-two, who grew up in the seaside town, is determined to pull home care into a new direction with a focus on developing carers as professionals and recognising their talents and skills in an unprecedented way.
Since then the company, which was founded in December 2005, has grown rapidly and now has 400 service users while also employing 120 staff. It also recently achieved the coveted Investors in People Gold Award, recognising its success in people management.
Following a 21-year career in the industry, Noel is now personally celebrating reaching the finals of the Wales Care Awards 2017 after being nominated for the Leadership and Management In Supported Living or Small Group Community Living Award.
The national awards, run by Care Forum Wales, acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the care sector.
Noel, who is married with two sons, Sebastian, five, and Maximilian, two, will now attend a glittering awards ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff on November 17 which will be hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, best known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV adverts.
“I’m absolutely over the moon and chuffed to be nominated,” said Noel, who once worked in the Imperial Hotel in Llandudno.
“Calon Lan already has three Wales Care Awards, two bronze and a silver. The staff would love gold to add to the collection so finger’s crossed!
“It’s really nice for the team to get recognition. One of our biggest achievements to date was receiving the Investors in People Gold Award which is very difficult for an organisation to achieve. We did this for the staff and to ensure we are recognised as a person-centred organisation and I’m really proud.”
Noel, a former pupil of Ysgol John Bright in Llandudno, began his career in the hotel industry, initially working as a luggage carrier at the age of 10 where he’d regularly collect tips of £150 a week throughout the 1980s.
When he left school, he worked in hotel kitchens and bars before an operation on his back forced him to take two months off to recuperate. As a result, he lost his employment and decided to volunteer in a day care centre in Llandudno for young adults with a range of disabilities.
“I volunteered for four months and they offered me a job at a care home run by Conwy Borough Council Social Services. Some of the adults I’d been working with at the day care centre lived at the care home,” said Noel, who is currently studying for an MSc degree in Professional Studies at the University of Chester.
“The hotel industry gave me a good grounding in customer care and you’re basically doing the same thing, making sure people are looked after, that their environment is comfortable and making sure they have a good nutritious meal on the table. All that’s really different when you switch is maintaining people’s health and wellbeing and protecting the vulnerable of course.”
During a five-year period, Noel earned himself a senior position at the home with deputy management responsibilities before moving to Kingston upon Thames in London to work with the charity Scope in a care home for adults with cerebral palsy.
Over the next few years, Noel took on a number of professional care roles in London including a job at Richmond Adult Community College auditing NVQ portfolios, a registered manager’s position at Deer Lodge residential care home for the elderly in Teddington. It was while working in domiciliary care in 2005 that Noel found himself redundant and decided to set up Calon Lan Community Care in his hometown of Llandudno.
The company’s aim is to help people stay in their homes safely for independent living. Carers work with individuals with a range of diagnoses including; dementia, physical disabilities or terminal illness.
From the outset, Noel’s ambition has been to develop outstanding staff who understood the needs of the people who use the service and applied their skills compassionately and effectively.
“Richard Branson said “if you look after your staff they’ll look after your customers, it’s that simple.”. As the leader of this organisation, that is my focus,” said Noel, who has a BTEC National Diploma in Leisure Management, Level 5 Diploma in Leadership for Health and Social Care Services and a Diploma in Welfare Studies.
“What the sector seems to lack is a sense of belonging. People feel they can go from care home to care home or agency to agency, depending on what suits them best. I want people to feel valued and give them a sense of belonging and then you’re on your way to building their self-esteem.
“Many of my colleagues in university are nurses and I’m looking at the NHS models for mentorship and transferring them to social care. People in this industry don’t usually consider themselves as professional but I’m desperate for this to change and for staff to be recognised and rewarded for their skills.”
One of the ways Noel, who has completed two London Marathons, is building the self-esteem of his staff is to hold his own internal awards scheme. Every quarter, staff are asked to nominate someone in the company for best practice and at the end of the year Noel hosts a party for all 20 finalists where staff jointly agree a shortlist of three. The winner is chosen to be nominated for a Wales Care Award.
The company has also recently drafted a new mission statement and has agreed a list of 15 competencies in order to attract the right candidates for recruitment.
Nominating Noel for this award, Martina Hanes, registered manager at Calon Lan, said Noel promoted continuity of care by setting three week rolling rota which ensured fairness and stability of hours/work life balance to staff and provided a permanent team to service users. She also said Noel concentrated on people’s skills and abilities to promote quality of service,
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.”