A care worker who refused to let dyslexia hold him back is celebrating winning a coveted industry award. Chris Gregory, who was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 12, scooped silver in the Commitment to Quality in Hospitality and Housekeeping award, sponsored by A Baldwins & Company, at the Wales Care Awards 2016.
Colleagues say Chris has transformed the lives of the residents living at Llanerchrugog Hall in Rhosllanerchrugog, Wrexham, where he has worked for the past 13 years.
The 36-year-old, who originally started his care career as a support worker and has worked his way up to the post of assistant manager of premises five years ago, collected his prestigious gong at a glittering ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday 21 October.
The prestigious national awards, run by Care Forum Wales, acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the care sector.
Chris, who previously made the top three in the Carer of the Year category of the National Carer Awards in 2011, oversees all aspects of the home from dispensing medication and serving tea to the residents through to managing the home’s health and safety compliance, gardening, basic plumbing and plastering and painting jobs.
In his ongoing drive to enhance the residents’ wellbeing and social confidence, he has played an instrumental role in the running of Wrexham Learning Disability Football Team for six years, achieving his own coaching award and taking the team to matches all over North Wales and in Belgium – all in his spare time.
Chris, who lives in Ponciau, Rhosllannerchrugog, said his career success had been harder to achieve than most due to his own learning impairment but that he’d never let it hold him back or stop him from reaching for the top.
“In the beginning it was very difficult but I’ve grown so much since I’ve been here,” he said.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved. I would say to anyone in a similar situation to stick to what they know and learn as much as you can at your own pace – you can achieve anything with the right support.
“My manager, Peter Greenwood, has been a real support to me and has been instrumental in my progression. I’ve improved so much since I’ve been here.
“I’m responsible for all the health and safety and maintenance of the home and there’s quite a bit of paperwork involved. I’ve tried my best and have grown so much since taking on this job.”
Chris, who previously worked as a plasterer and in an air freshener factory before embarking on a career in care, was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 12 and was educated at St Christopher’s specialist school in Wrexham.
“I had a lot of support at school and the condition didn’t hold me back in any way,” he said.
“I achieved my NVQ level 2 qualification in Social Care a few years ago which made me very proud. I can identify better with our service users because of my own background. I’ve want to achieve the same for them as for myself.”
Chris, who met his partner, support worker Gwen Williams, while working at Llanerchrugog Hall eight years ago, admits care work is something of a family career. His dad, also called Chris, has worked as a carer for most of his life while his brother, David, is also in the same industry and was formerly employed at Llanerchrugog Hall.
“I can’t complain,” he said.
“I love everything about my job. I love coming into work and making people smile. It’s very rewarding.”
Colleagues say the amount of effort he puts into his work, including organising for service users to become fully active and competitive members of Gresford Scottish Carpet Bowling Club and his previous responsibilities with Wrexham Learning Disability Football Team, is beyond any reasonable expectation, especially as much of it is arranged on his time off from work.
“The football and the bowling is a target for the service users,” he said.
“When you’re coaching, you see the improvement little by little in their football skills and also socially.
“The training is making them happy.”
Chris, who brought his partner Gwen along as a guest to the ceremony, admitted he was shocked to be nominated for the awards and even more surprised to win silver.
“It’s nice to be recognised,” he said.
In nominating Chris, Peter Greenwood, manager of Llanerchrugog Hall, said: “Chris is the ‘Hall’ part pf Llanerchrugog Hall. Chris is a really quiet unassuming person. He does his job because he enjoys doing it.
“He is genuinely self-deprecating and sees himself as what everybody should be doing. There is no such thing as the extra mile – in Chris’s book you do what is needed.”
Mario Kreft MBE, 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.”