A passionate care manager who featured in a Panorama documentary exploring the care of vulnerable people in their own homes is in the running for a top award.
Menna Roberts, who is a full time carer for her disabled parents as well as an area manager for Bangor-based Cymorth Llaw Ltd, thrives on helping vulnerable or terminally ill people retain their independence by remaining in their own homes.
The 36-year-old, from Llanaelhaearn, Pwllheli, Gywnedd, has risen through the ranks since starting her first care job working with individuals with learning difficulties and mental health issues 16 years ago.
Now, just six months after gaining UK-wide exposure on BBC’s Panorama programme and the Welsh BBC series Week In Week Out, the former Botwnnog High School pupil is celebrating further national recognition – a Wales Care Award nomination.
Menna, who has worked at Cymorth Llaw since 2003, has been shortlisted for the Excellence in Leadership and Management award.
The national awards, run by Care Forum Wales, acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the care sector.
Menna, who is responsible for 150 carers and staff, 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 never thought I would get this far, I cried when I heard I’d been shortlisted,” she said.
“This is the first time I’ve been in the running for anything. It’s a really nice feeling.
“I just want every service user to be treated as I would want a member of my own family treated. It’s a very rewarding job and it’s my life. The thanks you get back from people when you bring them home for care is so rewarding. You feel like you’ve made their wish come true.
“The most important aspect of the job, especially when delivering palliative care, is to meet the needs of the individual and fulfil their personal wishes. We work with them to ensure they are treated as they deserve to be treated and I feel very privileged to do that.”
Menna started working in care at the age of 18 after completing a health and social care qualification at Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor in Pwllheli. Initially, she worked with individuals with learning disabilities in a residential setting before finding employment as a general carer with Cymorth Llaw. Working her way up the ladder to a senior carer, she was eventually appointed as area manager for Dwyfor and went on to complete her NVQ levels two and three and an RMA level four.
As well as the demands of care management, Menna is also a full time carer for her parents, Nora Roberts, 78, who suffers from emphysema and is on permanent oxygen and Thomas Roberts, 77, who has been disabled for 20 years following a scaffolding injury.
“I’m an only child so there’s only me,” she said, admitting she rarely leaves her care work behind.
“My dad’s there for my mum during the day and they struggle on. I go to them on a daily basis.
“I think I was always going to go into care. I love working with elderly people and listening to their stories. Keeping them at home is where they want to be and I help make that happen.”
Menna said the company was approached by the BBC with the aim of giving a single episode insight into the day-to-day activities of a home carer from the planning and preparation right through to the delivery.
“They just filmed our day-to-day work, how stressful it can be at times and how difficult it can be to move people back to their own homes,” she said.
“The programme had a really good outcome and as an organisation we came across in a very positive way. We were filming on and off for about two weeks. I was really nervous but it went very well.
“I speak Welsh as a first language and so to speak in English throughout the filming was difficult but I did really well (even though I hid under the table when I saw it on TV).
“Carers generally don’t get recognition for what they do and I wanted them to receive the praise they deserve by showing the reality of our work. The documentary was put across in a compassionate and sensitive way.”
Menna, who will be attending the awards ceremony with her colleagues, says her secret to successful management is getting to know her staff.
“My philosophy is to keep positive,” she said.
“I work with my staff and if they have problems I help them as much as I can, especially with childcare issues and personal issues. If you don’t work alongside your staff as a team then you won’t be a very successful organisation.
“It’s really important to listen. Our carers’ are the eyes and the ears of the company.”
Nominating Menna for the award, Janice Hogg, managing director of Cymorth Llaw, said: “Menna is passionate about delivering high quality care with an emphasis on person-centred care while also supporting her staff in a very rural area.
“Menna demonstrated magnificently the problems of delivering care today on the Week In Week Out/Panorama programmes. She filmed for two weeks with the BBC and showed the nation how difficult and challenging the management role can be. She felt it was important to raise the profile of the whole sector.”
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.”