Mary Mowat, a care home boss from Pontypool who has spent nearly half a century working in social care and is still at the cutting edge of developments in her field, received silver in the Outstanding Service Award at the Wales Care Awards earlier this year. She sat down with THOMAS MOODY to talk about her career, changes in the industry and awards

THE WALES Care Awards was a brilliant night. The care home staff came to the awards with me.

Residents’ families had written me a testimonial, and the head of nursing at Aneurin Bevan had also written one. It was so overwhelming, and I thank them for their kind words, it was really lovely.

It is nice for everyone at the homes. I’m just the person that coordinates my team, who all work so hard, with everyone pushing in the forward-thinking direction.

As long as we are all pushing in that direction, then the wheel just travels and takes us to new places and new innovations for us and the residents.

At the end of the day, the nursing home is its staff. It encapsulates everybody.

When the regulators come in, we are all so proud when we see our reports. Everybody lives and breathes the home, so it is good to see our hard work paying off.

The Health and Care Awards with the Argus and the Royal College of Nursing was absolutely spectacular.

We had done a lot of work with Cardiff University CIW’s initiative of carers now giving out medication and administrating medication.

I saw that the Argus were looking for new innovations, so I put in the proposal and we were lucky enough to be invited out to Chepstow racecourse and were very lucky to win the award for ‘Innovative Care in the Care Home Sector’.


Mary Mowat at Claremont Court Care Home. Picture: Mary Mowat.

I had always fancied doing occupational therapy when I started out and I had imagined that was what I would do when I left school.

I started my career working at The Grange during the summer holiday when I was in sixth form, working in their industrial therapy unit. We would do all sorts of activities and take them out to the theatre and the boating lake.

The lady that was running the unit said that I had such an empathy with the residents that she thought that I would be more suited to nursing.

So I applied for nursing and mental health training and got in to Oxford. I worked at Littlemore Hospital during my time at university, helping with the resettlement of long-term patients to small community houses owned by the hospital. It helped them adjust to being back as part of a community.

From the day hospital we supported the first lot of residents that had been moved into the community and emptying the psychiatric hospital.

I came home when I got married, and it was then that I decided that I wanted to move in to working with the elderly.

I worked for Gwent Nursing Homes for 12 months and then I started working with Janet Eagles to turn around a failing nursing home in west Pontnewynydd, which was Ty Ceirios.

I worked with her there for 12 years and then we decided to buy Claremont Court.

It was closed and empty when we took it over in 2012. We opened the doors 18 months later to the first 12 bedded unit.

We progressively carried on and by September 2014 we were full and had admitted 36 residents and settled, employed and trained 50 staff.

It was a very exhausting time for all the staff between March and September.

Many of those staff are still with me, and that is the beauty of Claremont, that it has the magic for the residents, but also for the staff.

Our whole ethos here is creating a home-from-home. When the residents come to live with us at Claremont, they come to live again and enjoy their waning years.


Claremont Court Care Home in Malpas, Newport.

People used to feel that if you went in to a nursing home, it was the end of your life. We are trying to get rid of that old myth, and now nursing homes are for living in.

Here, they don’t all sit in chairs in a living room, we make sure there is interaction going on all the time.

We are twinning up with Malpas Church Primary School where they will come in weekly to interact with the residents.

These kinds of events are great, all of the residents love the children, and the children are really excited to visit the elderly.

It’s the same with animals as well, we’ve had dogs, cats, birds, snakes and all sorts of animals come in from All Creatures Great and Small, the residents love them.

We always have lots of activities available for residents - singing is one of their favourites.

It used to be, when I started working with the elderly, that they would love to sing wartime songs. Now, we have found that the residents don’t particularly want to sing wartime songs any more, now Elvis is a big hit.

Our generation of elderly people are into more jolly music, like Abba, and they love Mama Mia.

There are 12 residents in each of the three units, so you can make it much more homely. We find this is much better than before when you would have one communal room for all the residents in the home to sit in.

We are always looking to improve the care that we can provide. At the moment, we are setting up Alexas around the home.

Our whole philosophy is that we are creating a safe environment for the residents. We are always working with the residents’ health and wellbeing coming first.

We have been working with the University of South Wales and the Aneurin Bevan Health Board to introduce student nurse placements into both nursing homes, and I also employ Jenna Cudlip who is at Worcester University.

She’s brought in ideas such as ‘It’s okay to not be okay’, where staff are encouraged to talk about their mental health.

She has also brought in the idea of having memorial feathers on the units for the residents that have passed away, so that the residents and the families can see that they do live on in a positive way.

They will be our memorial for them. It’s not doom and gloom, it’s so that the residents and the families can see that they do live on in a positive way and we are doing what we can to make their lives special while they are at Claremont and that their memory will live on.


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It’s so important to introduce student nurse placements. What we need to do is eradicate the myth that nursing homes are somehow inferior to working as a nurse.

I think I have seen massive changes since I started my career. Care homes are cosy homes now where you try to bring the most that you can to the end of everybody’s natural life.

You go as far as looking after everybody’s mental health and well-being now.

When I started in Oxford, we had our own farm and café run by the residents. It was a village and a real community. Those ideas of keeping residents active and giving them a feeling of independence are coming back around now.

I just love working with the elderly because it is giving back to people and society.

I have taken that idea in to bringing up my four children, with those values of loving, caring, sharing and family being what life is about.