A Blackhall Colliery registered care manager has fought off tough competition from across the country to clinch the titles of ‘Manager of the Year’ and ‘Pandemic Star of the Year’ at the first ever virtual National Care Group Annual Awards.
Almost 1,400 National Care Group colleagues from across England and Wales tuned into the online event last night (Wed), which was hosted by radio and television presenter Jo Whiley, and broadcast live – marking the biggest celebratory event the company has ever had.
Julie Shields joined Abbeyvale Care Centre near Hartlepool, part of the National Care Group, as a care assistant in 2000. She has since worked her way up through the business and has now been a manager for 11 years.
Abbeyvale provides residential care to individuals with learning and physical disabilities as well as mental illness and autism spectrum disorders. She’s been recognised as a manager who always puts the wellbeing of the teams and people she supports at the forefront of the centre’s individual operations.
Julie was also named ‘Pandemic Star of the Year’ following a live poll during the event. This special category was dedicated to, and in memory of, two National Care Group colleagues who lost their lives to coronavirus.
She said: “I’m over the moon to have won not one, but two awards at this year’s conference, it still hasn’t sunk in properly yet. We put our home into lockdown two weeks before we were instructed, and I strongly believe that this made a massive difference to keeping our home Covid-free. I suffered a stroke early in the pandemic, but came back after six weeks as I wanted to be there for my colleagues and the people we support. During my absence, National Care Group was truly incredible in supporting my team and ensuring all their needs were met.
“I’d like to take the opportunity to say a massive thank you to everyone who nominated me, to all of my wonderful colleagues who have truly gone above and beyond in their roles throughout the pandemic, and the families who have been so understanding and supportive. Over the past year, the individuals we support have needed us more than ever and I couldn’t be prouder of every single person who works in the care sector.”
James Allen, CEO of the National Care Group, said: “We’re incredibly proud of the work Julie has done over the past year. The nominations we received for her detailed how hard she fought to ensure the safety of every single person at Abbeyvale at the height of the pandemic, and the fact that the centre didn’t have a single coronavirus case is a testament to that. She also went above and beyond to keep the home alive during lockdown, organising birthday celebrations and socially-distanced performances in the car park to keep spirits up – there’s no doubt that she’s a very worthy winner.”
Awards were also presented to winners in a number of other categories, including:
- Support Worker of the Year;
- Residential Team of the Year;
- Supported Living Team of the Year;
- Support Function of the Year;
- Newcomer of the Year;
- Making a Difference Award; and,
- Executive Board Award for Outstanding Achievement.
James added: “The theme for this year’s event was ‘unlocking your potential’ and all of our winners have not only done this for themselves but, crucially, have unlocked the potential of the individuals they support as well – and that’s at the heart of everything we do at the National Care Group.
“We were truly overwhelmed by the volume of nominations we received for this year’s awards, with more than 400 people placing their vote, meaning it was really difficult to choose the winners. We’ve seen some fantastic examples of innovation and ingenuity from so many people and, while it’s a shame we couldn’t celebrate their achievements in person, the fact the awards were virtual meant we were able to have more people join in the celebration than we could have otherwise.
“Everyone who attended the awards ceremony was not only given the opportunity to dress to the nines, but also to share photos of themselves on social media with a prize for ‘best dressed’ being given out. In my eyes, that interactive and all-encompassing element has been the best thing about the whole event and we’re now in a really good place to look forwards as the sector continues to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.”