The Argus' Pride of Gwent awards were held earlier this month, in which a plethora of dedicated volunteers were hailed for their hard work during the pandemic. Here we highlight just one of them.

HAYLEY Thomas is the winner of the Carer Award, sponsored by Melin Homes, which goes to a person who looks after a friend or family member, or those from their community, who are ill or disabled.

She’s been nominated for the care she takes of her five children, all of whom are on the Autistic Spectrum with varying levels of need.

South Wales Argus: winner: Hayley Thomas

Hayley has worked hard to ensure they are supported and treated as equals, which has made a big difference to their education. She’s long strived to bring about change and understanding among teaching professionals, to benefit both her family and others in a similar position. Hayley has worked especially hard to raise awareness of a profile known as ‘Pathological Demand Avoidance’ (PDA).

“She has set the precedent in the very difficult world of PDA for other parents, by navigating an often very lonely road to getting the support that our children need,” says the nomination for Hayley.

“She has paved the way for an easier ride at times for those of us that follow the same difficult path with an area of the Autistic Spectrum that is so often misunderstood.”

Hayley is also the founder of the Helping Caring Trust, which seeks to look out to the homeless and vulnerable people.

One nomination for Hayley described her as a “carer for the world”.

“She simply can’t help herself; she has to help everyone,” it says.

“She helps many desperate people who feel they can’t navigate the system or are too worn down to.

“She never judges a situation but will give honest advice and shows them the way to follow the process. She’s on hand to help people day and night.”

Sponsor Melin Homes is a registered Social Landlord providing affordable homes and services to people living in south east Wales. It exists to create opportunities for people and communities to thrive.

It says the Pride of Gwent Carer Award is something that’s close to its heart, and that of its disability group, stating that now more than ever it’s important to celebrate the unsung work of carers and that they should be recognised for the amazing things they do.

“Recognising the work of carers in our communities is something that is very close to my heart,” says the chair of Melin’s resident group ‘100Voices’ Natalie Gardner.

“During these difficult times, many carers have seen an increase in their responsibilities, whilst still trying to work and deal with the restrictions we have all faced.

“It has not been easy for many of us, but carers can face increased pressures and isolation so recognising their work in society is something we should all be behind.”

Hundreds of people across Gwent selflessly give up their time to care for others. Across the UK some 6.5 million individuals – one in eight adults - perform this vital role, according to Carers UK.

“Caring is such an important part of life; it’s simply part of being human,” it says.

“Carers are holding families together, enabling loved ones to get the most out of life, making an enormous contribution to society and saving the economy billions.”

South Wales Argus: Melin