A caring couple who scooped a golden double at the social care ‘Oscars’ were given a rousing street party homecoming by their friends and neighbours.
Husband and wife team Cynthia and Morton Webber, of Ebbw Vale, were over the moon to receive not just one, but two gold accolades at the Wales Care Awards ceremony in Cardiff City Hall.
The pair received their first top honour in the Supported Living Care Practitioner Award category sponsored by Educ8 Training.
But then they got the surprise of their lives when they were announced as winners of a special Spirit of Care award, recognising their years of dedicated service.
Cynthia and Morton have opened up their hearts and their homes to vulnerable adults for more than three decades and continued to devote themselves to caring for others even after enduring a life-changing car accident.
After the ceremony, Cynthia said it was one of the most emotional and enjoyable nights of her life.
She said: “We were on cloud nine all weekend. We knew we had been shortlisted in one of the award categories but then when we were presented with two golds, it was just unbelievable.
“The Welsh First Minister Mark Drayford was there and Sir Bryn Terfel and they both stood up to join in a standing ovation as we went to collect the award. It was like we were in a dream, just amazing.”
Supported by lead sponsor Ontex UK, and organised by care industry champions Care Forum Wales, the Wales Care Awards celebrate exceptional work in the care sector with winners of gold, silver and bronze accolades announced at a glittering ceremony live streamed online.
The host for the evening was popular tenor, Wynne Evans, aka Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV advertisements.
To add to the weekend’s excitement, when the couple returned to their home in Ebbw Vale, neighbours had gathered in the street to give them a surprise welcome and celebrate their win.
Cynthia said: “It was incredible, there were about fifty people in the street, all cheering, with music playing and banners waving. We were so touched. They had prepared food and they all came in and celebrated with us. It was such a fantastic weekend, and to top it off, it was our 58th wedding anniversary weekend too. We couldn’t have wished for a better way to mark it.”
The Spirit of Care award is sponsored by Dormy Care Communities and was presented by their chief executive Helen Davies Parsons, who paid tribute to Cynthia and Morton’s long-standing commitment to social care.
Now in their seventies, they are shared lives carers for the South East Wales Shared Lives Scheme.
They welcome adults in need of care and support to live with them for short term, long term or respite care and have supported scores of individuals with learning disabilities, mobility, dementia and mental health issues.
The couple have always loved contributing to the social care sector and never let setbacks in their own life stop them from helping others.
In 1990 Morton almost died and was left disabled with arthritis following a head-on car crash in which Cynthia was also badly injured.
But they still continued to put others’ needs before their own despite Morton having undergone numerous operations.
They have continued in the role through family traumas, including the tragic loss of their beloved son-in-law to a heart attack, aged 52. They have a grandchild who has autism and another diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.
But despite their own challenges, they recently supported a 94 year old living with dementia and her 63 year old son diagnosed with Downs Syndrome.
South East Wales Shared Lives Scheme worker Kathryn Williams said Cynthia and Morton epitomise the ethos of shared lives care.
She said: “They not only share their life with the individuals they support but also welcome all the individuals’ relatives and long term carers into their life, offering the same dignity and respect to each and every person who is fortunate enough to enter their home.
“The support doesn’t end there as every member of their family from their children to their great grandchildren welcome everyone as if they were an extended member of the Webber household.”
Cynthia became involved in social care in 1989 as a Support Worker for Mencap and a Family Aid Respite Carer.
Following her retirement, she and Morton made the decision to become Shared Lives Carers in 2012.
However, Cynthia said as much as they love their work, they are now planning to retire in March.
She said: “We don’t want to as we love all the people we have met and helped care for and we have such a huge extended family now. But we are getting older and it is the sensible thing to do – I’m 76 and Morton is 78 – so we have to be realistic. And we couldn’t have wanted a better send off than this award. It is the right time to go.
“It was an honour to have been nominated, never mind won two golds, we will treasure the memories of this weekend forever.”
Mario Kreft, chairman of Care Forum Wales, said the ceremony was all the more poignant because of the Covid pandemic and what front line staff had endured.
He said: “I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to all the wonderful people who work in social care after they rose magnificently and courageously to meet the unprecedented challenges they have faced over the past couple of years.
“We have always recognised their true value and hopefully now the rest of Wales is also aware of how lucky we are as a nation to have them providing care and safeguarding our most vulnerable people.
“Our finalists are the best of the best and are here representing the whole social care workforce who all deserve a big pat on the back.
“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.
“In the words of the powerful song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, let the Diolch last forever.
“We take our hats off to them.”