A Gwent grandmother who juggles the demands of family ill health while managing a care home has become the toast of the care industry with a top industry award.
Self-confessed workaholic June Clark, 60, won a prestigious bronze prize at the Wales Care Awards 2017, held at City Hall in Cardiff.
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.
June was shortlisted for the Outstanding Service award, sponsored by Hallmark Care Homes Ltd, following a 35-year career in social care.
The grandmother-of-six, from Varteg, Pontypool, who has managed the Plas y Garn Care Home in Penygarn, Pontypool, for the past five years, accepted her award at a glittering ceremony hosted tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, best known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV adverts.
In a career that spans more than 30 decades she hasn’t once taken off a day sick – despite being the sole carer of her husband, Neil, an insulin-dependent diabetic suffering with a serious bowel condition which leaves his body in a permanent state of infection.
June, who has a daughter, Jodie, 36, and sons, Dean, 41, and Leighton, 43, said: “Giving makes me happy. I always feel embarrassed when somebody does anything for me as I always feel there’s somebody else more deserving.
“This time, though, I feel like I do deserve to be nominated and I’m so proud that someone has recognised who I am.
“This place is my castle and I can be who I am here. I’ve got another five or six years left in my career but I won’t be able to walk away. My life is about making sure people are happy.”
June, who was brought up in Blaenavon and attended Park Street Secondary Modern, started her career as a care assistant at Ty-Ceirios Nursing Home in Pontypool and moved to Plas y Garn Care Home in the late 1990s where she held almost all positions at the home before covering in senior management roles.
Sadly, however, tragedy struck when her mother, Jean, was diagnosed with terminal throat cancer. Her husband Neil, 61, a former builder, was also diagnosed with an ongoing gastrointestinal fistula as a complication of his diabetes around the same time and was forced to give up work. To date, he has undergone 34 bowel operations and requires ongoing medical treatment.
Torn between two hospitals where each of her loved-ones were being treated and working night shifts away from home, June was forced to leave her job at Plas y Garn and take on a more flexible role as an NVQ assessor inspecting homes from Cardiff to Brecon.
“I just wanted to do so much for everyone in my life and I couldn’t,” she said. I never do anything for me. I always put everyone else first and everybody knows that.
“I was able to fit in visiting times to both hospitals and still hold down my job.”
Sadly, June’s mum lost her battle with cancer aged 70. At around the same time, her husband’s condition improved and he grew stronger.
When June realised her former employer, Plas y Garn, was recruiting the manager’s position she couldn’t wait to apply and was appointed to the job.
“I run a pretty tight ship but we haven’t really lost many staff over the past five years as I think they are happy,” said June.
“I know the whole building inside and out as I’ve done most of the jobs. It’s like a little hotel.
“I don’t do it for me. I do it for the residents and the staff. We are a big family and if I’m not at work I’m out shopping for the home.
“People tell me I can’t keep this up but the moment I stop something will probably happen to me. I’m like a hamster on a wheel and can’t – or rather won’t – get off!”
In June this year June won a coveted recognition award from Aspiration Training for mentorship skills.
Nominating June for her awards, Karen Healey, director of quality, learning and development at Hafod Care, which owns the home, said: “I have known June for three years and she has always shown great care and compassion, not only to those who receive services, but also their family, friends and advocates.
“June works relentlessly in her quest to achieve excellence in her work. She is extremely driven, hardworking and conscientious and has a very good relationship with everyone who she comes into contact with.”
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.”