The finalists for the Norfolk Care Awards 2022 have been announced and now it’s your chance to vote for the winner of the Local Care Hero category.

The Norfolk Care Awards are a chance to recognise the fantastic work that takes place across Norfolk to support people and their families, often at very difficult times. And if the finalists for this year’s awards are anything to go by, there are plenty of reasons to shout about this hard-working and dedicated sector.

It was a tough job for the judges to choose those that would make the shortlist (see the full list at the end of this story), with a wealth of worthy nominations coming in from care organisations, individuals and families.

“Once again it has been great to have such a high volume of nominations all of such a great standard,” said Claire Gilbert, awards director. “Shortlisting is always so hard and I would definitely not want to be a judge this year, they are going to have their work cut out to decide on the winners.”

Fellow director Tracy Wharvell was pleased that the awards are still seen as a great way to recognise the amazing work that’s going on in the sector.

“It’s fantastic that the Norfolk Care Awards is still a much-wanted event within our sector,” she said. “I think it’s the awards near to home that everyone wants the recognition for. We are so pleased to be able to recognise and celebrate Norfolk social care and all shortlisted finalists would be worthy winners.”

All the finalists will go forward to the next round of judging, except for the Local Care Hero category, which is now over to you to decide who should be chosen as the winner.

Oliver Pritchard, partner and head of healthcare at Howes Percival, one of the sponsors of the Norfolk Care Awards, said: “We are proud to support the Norfolk Care Awards and celebrate the fantastic care professionals and organisations across our region. There are many unsung heroes working tirelessly across the sector and it’s important to recognise all of the hard work they do. We are really pleased to sponsor the Local Care Heroes category and have the opportunity to show our gratitude for Norfolk’s incredible care workers.”

Here we take a close look at the three finalists:

Gail Preston - Ambient Support

Gail Preston has been a support worker since December 2000, working at Ambient Support’s 24-hour supported living service at Framingham Earl, supporting five women with profound and multiple learning disabilities.

Throughout Gail's career she has dedicated herself to her work and consistently gone over and above in her support of the women in the service.

“Gail embodies the Ambient values by putting the people we support at the heart of what she does, doing everything she can to ensure they have the highest quality of life,” said Katrina Nobbs, who nominated Gail.

“Gail shows huge passion in her work and her calm approach has such a positive impact on the people we support. She is noted for her patience and kindness and is skilled in supporting individuals who are distressed or feeling unwell to feel better.”

There are so many examples of where Gail has gone over and above the call of duty, including helping a service user to visit her mum when her health deteriorated, and offering help with transport to the hospital.

Gail also fully supported a person to remain at home and have a dignified end of life, volunteering to sleep on a mattress in the person's room so they were not alone, giving huge comfort to families knowing their loved ones were well cared for.

Gail lives locally to the service and on many occasions has stepped in to cover staff sickness.

During severe weather where snow has meant that roads have been blocked and staff have found it difficult to get to work, Gail put on her walking boots and walked to and from work to make sure the people were supported and other staff, who at times were trapped at the service, got a break.

“Gail will tell you it’s just her job, but the dedication and commitment she has given this role SHOWS that it is far more than just her job,” said Katrina.

“I am proud to call Gail my work colleague and I am grateful to have worked with her for almost 22 years. Gail is retiring this July, but even then, has asked to stay as bank staff. She is nothing short of amazing.”

Tommy Copsey - Autism Anglia

Tommy joined Autism Anglia in 2012 as a support worker and quickly developed in his career path to become lead support worker. After a short period of working within another care setting, Tommy returned as deputy manager in 2019, and is now the service home manager for Autism Anglia’s campus in Dereham, which supports autistic adults.

Tommy is a popular member of the team among his colleagues and service users. Tommy thrives on achieving higher standards of care and will always go the extra mile to ensure needs are met in a person-centred way.

“Tommy shows huge compassion and commitment in his role, ensuring safe practices, not only during the pandemic and lockdowns but at all times,” said Anna Smith, who nominated Tommy.

“Tommy provides a positive outlook with a can-do attitude and problem-solving strategies. He supports the implementation of staff ideas that will deliver the best outcomes for service users, and can be seen upskilling and utilising the team’s strengths, which has led to career progression.”

Since he joined, Tommy has been passionate about improving the home and has been fundraising to make those changes. In 2021 he took on a gruelling personal challenge to walk 500km throughout August. He also involved the service users, taking them on walks in the area and discovering new places and routes with them, which was an ideal activity throughout the pandemic.

In March this year he also took part in a muddy obstacle course to raise funds.

Christina Probert - Private Carer

Christina has worked as a care assistant since she moved to the UK from Spain aged 18 and has cared for Johnathon Byrne, who nominated her, for four years.

“I was lucky enough to first meet Christina when she applied to support me privately on a trip to South Africa,” said Johnathon. “I have muscular dystrophy and require full-time care support. Over this time, we became very good friends.”

After the trip, if Johnathon was ever short of care, Christina would always support him when needed. Then, two-and-a-half years ago, Christina moved into Johnathon’s home address as a live-in personal assistant to support him to live independently.

“In the last year, all my other personal assistants moved into other jobs, leaving me with no care. Christina did not hesitate to move in fully with me and supported me full time for nearly eight months. This meant I did not have to give up my home and life and be moved into residential care.

“Christina has changed my life. She has taken me all over the world, enabled me to try new things such as learning to scuba dive.”

Throughout Johnathon’s life, he has had many complications associated with his disability and Christina is always there to take him to appointments, hold his hand when he’s been frightened of surgeries, and made sure he’s always had the best care available.

“She has always put me first and has always been there when I need her, no matter what is going on in her life,” said Johnathon. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of an award and it’s a perfect way for me to show my appreciation for all she has done to give me the best life possible.

“Over my lifetime I’ve had support from hundreds of people from all kind of settings and without question, Christina has been the most incredible of them all. She is selfless, caring and just a remarkable woman. I could never be more grateful for everything she has done for me.”

You can vote for your favourite on the below poll until midnight on Friday, September 30:

Fill out my online form.

The Norfolk Care Awards 2022 celebration event will take place on Thursday, November 3 at The Holiday Inn Norwich Airport, and will be hosted by Britain’s Got Talent winner Jon Courtenay.

Norfolk Care Awards 2022 finalists

Collaboration in Care

East Coast Community Healthcare – Great Yarmouth and Waveney

Oakwood House – Norwich

Norfolk and Suffolk Care Support Ltd; Zena Aldridge, dementia nurse consultant NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group; Dr Liz Waddy, GP advisor NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group and Reflex Theatre

Delivering Excellence through Learning & Development

Ford Place, Stow Healthcare – Thetford

Oakwood House – Norwich

Victoria Farnham and Jack Anthony-Knell, NorseCare Practical Dementia Coaches

End of Life Care

St Johns House, Castlemeadow Care – Norwich

Extra Care Home Services

Ford Place, Stow Healthcare – Thetford

Ensuring Dignified & Respectful Care

Home Instead Mid Norfolk

Extra Care Home Services

Kevlin House, Hollycoombe Healthcare – North Walsham

Local Care Heroes

Gail Preston, Ambient Care – Framingham Earl

Tommy Copsey, Autism Anglia – Dereham

Christina Probert – private carer

Motivational Leadership

Ruth French – Stow Healthcare

Raj Sehgal – ArmsCare

Joanna Jankowska – Meadow House Care Home, Swaffham

Rising Star

Ola Ogunyebi, Lambert House, Autism Anglia – Norwich

Emily Goodchild, Oakwood House – Norwich

Faith Branagan, St John’s House, Castlemeadow Care – Norwich

TEAM Award - Together Everyone Achieves More

The Mayfields, Castlemeadow Care – Long Stratton

Abbottswood Lodge – Swanton Abbott

Linden Court, NorseCare – Watton