A passionate care manager who featured in a Panorama documentary exploring the care of vulnerable people in their own homes is celebrating national awards glory.
Menna Roberts, who is a full time carer for her disabled parents as well as an area manager for Bangor-based Cymorth Llaw Ltd, has been announced as a bronze winner at this year’s Wales Care Awards, held at City Hall in Cardiff.
The 36-year-old, from Llanaelhaearn, in Gwynedd, was nominated for the Excellence in Leadership and Management award, sponsored by Christie & Co.
The national awards, run by Care Forum Wales and sponsored overall by Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs, acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the care sector.
Menna accepted her award at a glittering ceremony hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, best known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV adverts.
Menna has risen through the ranks since starting her first care job working with individuals with learning difficulties and mental health issues 16 years ago.
Six months ago she gained UK-wide exposure on BBC’s Panorama programme and the Welsh BBC series Week In Week Out.
Menna, a former Botwnnog High School pupil who has worked at Cymorth Llaw since 2003, said: “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 fulltime 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 says her secret to successful management is getting to know her staff.
“My philosophy is to keep positive,” she said.
“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, 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.”