A carer from Penygraig who likes to brighten the lives of people she looks after by belting out Tom Jones songs to them has been shortlisted for a major award.
Apart from the impromptu singing sessions Melanie Walters, 46, who is an assistant manager at the Caerphilly branch of community care group Radis, goes the extra mile for service users by waiting in their homes so they have a familiar face when returning from hospital.
On one occasion she even went to the trouble of climbing in through a window when the front door key to the home of a person at risk of falling went missing.
It is this dedicated approach to her caring role that has landed 46-year-old Melanine, who lives with her family in Penygraig, Rhondda Cynon Taff, a place in the final of major national competition, the 2017 Wales Care Awards.
This is the 15th anniversary of the awards and the glittering presentation ceremony will be held at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday November 17 and will be 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 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.
Melanie, who has been married to husband Neil for 22 years and has a son and a daughter along with a two-year-old grandson, is shortlisted in the Supported Living Care Practitioner category of the awards.
Originally from Penygraig, her first job after leaving Cymmer Comprehensive School was as a production operator in a local electronics factory.
After taking a break to have her first son Joshua, now 26, she returned to work as a school kitchen assistant and was later as assembly worker at a telephone factory.
She and Neil then started a taxi and minibus business which they ran for five years.
“It was at this point I started thinking of having a career in caring and trying to make a difference,” she said.
“My first job was with a company based in Gilfach Goch providing personal care and after two years I promoted to supervisor.
“After a couple of years I moved to another company in Caerphilly and became assistant manager. I then briefly left the care sector to work with my husband in the Welsh cider business.
“Four years ago I was head-hunted by Radis and am now assistant manager in Caerphilly where we have a team of 150 staff providing home care for up to 300 people across Rhondda Cynon Taff who are elderly frail, disabled after a stroke or brain injury or suffer from conditions such as diabetes or Parkinson’s Disease.”
In nominating her for the Wales Care Awards, Radis Area Manager Danielle Jones said: “Melanie doesn’t sit behind a desk for long, she is actively in the community meeting with service users and other professionals and staff.
“People’s safety and well-being is at the heart of everything she does, such as on one occasion when a door to the home of a person at risk of falling was locked with no key available Melanie climbed through a window to gain access.
“She understands that little things mean a lot to those we care for, such as singing with them or waiting for a person to return home from hospital so there is a familiar face to greet them.”
Melanie said: “These sort of things just come naturally to me and I don’t think there’s anything special about them. I like to have a bit of banter with people and sometimes sing a bit of Tom Jones to cheer them up.
“I was overwhelmed to even be nominated for the award and when I heard I’d been shortlisted in my category I couldn’t believe it.
“I’m looking forward to the presentation evening in Cardiff where I’ll be going with my husband and some of my colleagues.”
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.”