A VALE of Clwyd social care champion has been given a lifetime achievement award for his remarkable and outstanding contribution over three decades.

Mario Kreft is the son of a circus bear and lion tamer, Franz Kreft, who came to Britain as a refuge from Slovenia after the Second World War and later met and married his mother, Pamela.

Mario, chairman of Care Forum Wales and owner of the Pendine Park care organisation, was honoured at the prestigious Wales Care Awards at City Hall in Cardiff.

He comes from Rhyl and lives in Denbigh, is one of the most influential figures in social care in the UK.

Mario and his wife, Gill, were inspired by their own experience to establish Pendine Park 1985. They both had elderly grandparents who needed care and the places they went to see didn’t match their requirements, so they set up their own family care home. The organisation now has eight care homes in Wrexham and Caernarfon and a training academy which employ more than 800 people.

He was a founder of Care Forum Wales which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. For most of that period he has been either honorary chief executive or chairman of the Care Forum Wales which represents nearly 500 independent providers.

At Pendine Park Mr Kreft and his wife, Gill, have placed the arts at the centre of daily life and were probably the first social care organisation in the UK to appoint an artist in residence nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Former Care Forum Wales chairman, Shokat Babul, paid tribute to Mario for helping the organisation become the leading champion for social care in Wales.

He said: “From the outset Mario has been the guiding light and the inspiration leading the way in influencing the development of the care services.

“This has required outstanding determination to pursue with vigour the best possible provision for people who require care and to make their lives rich and fulfilling.

“The qualities Mario has demonstrated over the past three decades and his reputation as a successful entrepreneur, with sustainable ideas about how care should be provided, has been recognised in the professional, political and economic spheres in Wales.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Cabinet Secretary Ken Skates who said: “This is a timely and richly deserved award, recognising Mario’s huge and positive contribution to the sector.

Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths, and Welsh Government Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, said: "This recognition for all his pioneering work and dedication for more than 30 years is richly deserved.

"He leads by example and is an eloquent and effective champion for the social care sector in Wales.

"He is always the first to say he has fantastic support from his colleagues at Pendine Park and Care Forum Wales and his wife, Gill. They are very special people."