A MAN who gave up his globe-trotting career and found a job he truly loves - as a residential support worker - has been honoured with a national award.

Simon Hughes, who works for Corwen-based Branas Isaf which provides specialist care for young people with complex needs, was a finalist at the prestigious Wales Care Awards and ended up taking home the bronze award in the exceptional newcomer category, sponsored by Coleg Cambria.

The awards are organised by Care Forum Wales and this year's ceremony, which was hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, took place at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday, October 18.

Simon, who started his role as a residential support worker in November 2017 and primarily works at the company's Ashfield House base in Oswestry, was nominated for an award by operations manager Leanne Bennett.

The 46-year-old from Overton-on-Dee, near Wrexham, had left his role as Coleg Cambria's head of international and external funding, which saw him travel the globe during his 15 years in the post, to turn his childhood hobby collecting first edition books into a business.

While building up his new venture, Curious Pelican, Simon wanted to earn some extra cash and joined the team at Branas Isaf on the recommendation of his father who works in a similar role in Newtown.

The married father-of-one said: "I genuinely didn't expect to love the job as much as I do.

"I've still got my business, but I spend most of my life here!

"I should really be doing more with the books but I get so much out of working here. You're part of making a difference and you see the changes you make - it's hugely rewarding.

"It was a shock when I found out I was nominated. I didn't expect it. It's such a fantastic team here and that makes all the difference.

"It's very different to what I was doing before. I travelled to 22 different countries during my 15 years at Coleg Cambria, places like Chile, India, China and Japan.

"The job involved international recruitment and overseas projects. It was a varied role. I think with the management background I've got the expectation would be for me to go into that at Branas Isaf.

"But I've no interest in that. I really enjoy what I'm doing and I want to carry on with this. I love being hands-on."

Such is Simon's enthusiasm to learn more about the role and wider business, he also offers to work extra hours at other Branas Isaf sites near Ruthin and Bala.

He explained: "It's been good to experience different homes because they work in different ways.

"For instance, our home is very communal.

"We have six boys here in what is basically an open plan living space.

"Other homes tend to have one or two to a house so it's a very different environment. I think it's very beneficial for staff to go to other areas of the business.

"We work with young people aged 16 to 18 preparing them to move on and go into the wider world. Our job is to give them the skills to do that.

"Basic things like opening up bank accounts and making medical appointments. We're a full time care home and it can be very challenging.

"The important thing here is to ensure that they keep moving forward. We deliver therapeutic care so they attend a therapy session every week.

"Our model is to support them in a way that identifies the positive elements of their life. We have next step plans so they progress in a way that doesn't rush them along the system.

"The role is about giving them support and guidance."

Simon, who is originally from Llangollen and has a degree in educational studies, has his father to thank for convincing him to take the plunge into the care sector.

He added: "My dad works at an assessment centre for young people in Newtown so it was him that gave me the idea.

"He's 65 now and didn't start this role until he was 60 but he loves it. He said to me 'listen, give it a go' so you could say I've followed in his footsteps.

"I've still got the book business. I've collected first edition books since I was a teenager and it's doing really well, but I love this job. I'm so glad I did it."

On nominating Simon, operations manager Leanne Bennett said: "Simon is the most enthusiastic staff member I have come across in a while, he is dedicated to the role and shows great passion on a daily basis to learn new skills and to support the young people in our care.

"Simon has requested a personal development plan as he wishes to progress in the company therefore he is taking on tasks to develop his skills and knowledge past the normal expectations of a new staff member.

"Simon supports all of the young people to the best of his ability, with flair and geat ease. He has developed great relationships with all the young people in the home as he seems to understand what level to reach them on individually.

"Simon has requested to do additional hours in other parts of our business in order to develop his knowledge of the continuum of care we deliver and have a taster of the different homes and how they operate slightly different to cater for the individual needs of the service users.

"The feedback following this is that all teams want Simon to be part of their team!

"Simon is happy to help out in an emergency last minute and is keen to attend as much training to aid his development.

"He has been completing group consultation discussions with the boys in our care to educate them on pressing issues in the home.

"Simon goes above and beyond on each shift he works and I feel he should be acknowledged for his continuous efforts."