A LOCAL care worker is celebrating after winning a gong in the prestigious NI Independent Care Awards 2012 - reward for her exceptional efforts looking after individuals and helping society.
Ann McToal, a domiciliary care worker with Mears Care NI in Lisburn, was shortlisted as a finalist, alongside three other care workers — including colleague Stephen Vance - before going on to win the award for best Domiciliary Carer in Northern Ireland.
Renowned amongst her service users for her personal touch, ex-hairdresser Ann visits service users regularly in her own time and will wash and cut their hair free of charge because they are not able to get to the hairdressers themselves. She has always made a point of treating everyone she cares for as individuals with their own personal problems and realises how small acts of kindness can change a person's whole outlook on life and make them feel good about themselves.
The awards, compèred by local TV personality Julian Simmons, were presented at a Gala evening on Wednesday in the Ramada Hotel, Shaws Bridge, Belfast.
Julian said: "It means a lot to me to be asked to host these awards and be part of an evening that rewards people who work so hard simply because they want to look after others.
"Ann is obviously hugely popular among all the service users with
Mears, and it sounds like she's
taken her vibrant personality from hairdressing to caring without missing a step. The small touches are so important, but it takes a special person to be able to work the way Ann does — she's an example.
"That's the most important thing about this evening, and the work these people do — it's a positive thing, they help make people happy and improve their lives. I can't think of another group of people more deserving of a glitzy party in their honour."
Speaking after winning the award, Ann said: "I am so excited about winning this award and so . very grateful for everyone who has helped me achieve it. I couldn't have got here today without the training and support from the management at Mears, the team of girls I work with but most of all the service users and their families who I just love working with every day. I love my job and I am humbled and honoured to be given this award and I accept it as much for my team as for me, I didn't get here alone it was a team effort."
IHCP Chief Executive Hugh Mills also expressed his delight at being able to reward hard-working carers, saying: "These awards are a great way to put the spotlight on the tremendous efforts of care staff throughout Northern Ireland.
"There are thousands of people in the care industry who go to work with a smile on their faces and put in a massive amount of time and energy to helping people in our society who face a wide variety of difficulties. I'd like to wholeheartedly congratulate all the Winners and express my thanks to them for their wonderful efforts."
Mears' Manager Joan Telford said: We regularly get calls from service users about Ann, and about how she naturally goes beyond what is expected in order to support our clients both as service users with individual needs. Ann is an ex-hairdresser, and a number of her clients cannot get out and about. She has wash and cut several service users hair free of charge, and it has given them a new lease of life. One lady in particular is now socialising more, and visiting the bingo within the FOLD housing, it has made a huge difference to her lifestyle."
The Care Awards are an opportunity to recognise the quality and commitment of staff working in the Independent Health and Social Care sector in Northern Ireland. Outstanding staff will be acknowledged for the enormous contribution they make to society and the individuals they care for. The seven award categories attracted over 120 nominations for community care staff, including those working in nursing and residential homes and those providing care for people in their own homes.
This year's awards were sponsored by Priory Group, who run seven homes in Counties Antrim and Down. Nominations were assessed by an independent panel of judges before being shortlisted for a gong.