Care home manager Sarah is as good as gold

A highly-regarded care home manager’s dedication has been recognised with a gold award.

Sarah McCowan, 40, who runs the Hillside residential home in Pontypridd  which caters for adults with mental health problems, was honoured at the prestigious Wales Care Awards..

She was a finalist at the annual Wales Care Awards at Cardiff City Hall, organised by Care Forum Wales, where she came up trumps in the category for Promoting Fulfilled Lives was sponsored by Boots.

Sarah has been involved in the social care sector since the age of 17, and with her sister had previously owned and run a private residential home for adults with learning difficulties and autism. She shadowed another home manager for three months before taking up her present position with Ucan Care Ltd in May 2014.

Sarah said after receiving her award :”It was a lovely night. I was very shocked – I didn’t expect the award. It’s a team effort and the whole house won it.”

She added :”I love my job and try to do my best for the residents.

“Encouraging and helping others to achieve their potential and live a full life is so important. We try to rehabilitate and support so that hopefully residents can live independently in the community.”

There is a team of 10 at Hillside offering a seven days a week, 24 hours a day service.

The home has large grounds which have been turned into gardens for the residents. “Planting a seed and later having the result on a plate can have a great effect,” said Sarah, who has a degree in Health and Social Care from the University of Newport.

Away from work Sarah still has a busy time, with a small holding at Ystrad Mynach and three daughters aged 9, 11 and 16 – the eldest of whom is already planning a career in the care sector.

She was nominated among others by Helen Jones, her managing director, and also by a resident, which is a particular matter of pride.

Helen Jones was full of praise for Sarah’s “holistic approach”, including gardening, growing  produce and then cooking and eating it.

A greenhouse has been bought to help with seedlings and to grow tomatoes and peppers. “It has been well documented about the beneficial properties of gardening, particularly for mental health wellbeing and it is an area that has 100% support from the management,” she declared.

“Another way in which Sarah enhances the quality of our service provision is in her promotion of service user’s freedom of choice, respecting their dignity, diversity and independence. She encourages any personal hobby or interest to the maximum and also tries to get their engagement in group activities.”

An example was in helping a younger resident who came from hospital to the home to further his involvement in a “Streetwise” soccer initiative for the homeless. “She was on the sidelines at every football session giving him support,” recalled Miss Jones.

She arranged an art class for a resident with anger management issues and organised group outings such as for afternoon tea, shopping and fishing trips and Sarah is always on the lookout for interesting things to motivate those she cared for. “She understands fully the differences and likes and dislikes of her residents and will go the extra mile to ensure they are feeling happy, fulfilled and confident in whatever they choose to do.”

The MC for the awards evening was opera singer Wynne Evans, aka Gio Compario from the television adverts for Go Compare.

Mario Kreft, the chairman 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.”