A dedicated behaviour support practitioner decided to learn Welsh after seeing the smile on a client’s face every time he heard the language.
That kind of insight into the needs of vulnerable people with learning difficulties and mental health problems has now put Gayle Thomas in line for a prestigious award.
She has been shortlisted in the category for Excellence in Learning Disability Services in this year’s Wales Care Awards organised by Care Forum Wales to recognise and reward good practice in the care sector.
The awards ceremony will be held at City Hall, Cardiff, on November 19, and will be hosted by singer and Radio Wales presenter Wynne Evans, popularly known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV adverts.
For the past two years Gayle, from Llangennech, near Llanelli, has worked for Consensus as a member of the Positive Behaviour Intervention Team covering the company’s residential and supported living homes in Wales and the South West.
Her work involves assessing new residents, some of whom have complex, challenging behaviour, and drawing up support plans tailored to their needs.
It is a role she relishes and one in which she is able to draw on her 14 years’ experience in working with people with learning difficulties and mental health problems. In that time she has worked in the local authority and private sectors.
“When I saw this job advertised it looked absolutely fascinating, and the Consensus values and ethos are exactly in line with my own, which is to look upon everyone as an individual and as a full person. The support provided is person-centred,” she said.
“It’s a fantastic job and I feel privileged to be able to play a part in the lives of those we support, some of whom are inspirational in the way they have faced things and overcome difficulties.”
One of the rewards of the job, said Gayle, was in giving a voice to those who had previously had no-one to speak up for them.
She enjoys coming up with solutions to the problems being experienced by the supported individuals, which is where her determination to learn Welsh came in.
One of the supported individuals was Welsh and Gayle noticed that he was more relaxed and smiled whenever he heard Welsh spoken, so she decided to pick up some conversational Welsh which would help others.
“I drive around a lot in my work so I listen to Radio Cymru and tapes in the car,” she said.
Gayle was nominated for the award by Simon Kezic-Williams, head of strategy and operations for Consensus in Wales, who praised her direct work with people she supported and as a mentor for colleagues.
“Gayle is a real team player both in her own PBI team and also in the wider team of Consensus,” he said. “She is positive and supportive in times of stress and crisis and able to build a rapport with new teams.”
In her spare time Gayle is something of a film buff, enjoying releases such as esoteric Japanese films, and also attends concerts in Cardiff, Bristol and other venues.
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.”