AFTER much deliberation the finalists of the 2021 Worcestershire Health & Social Care Awards have been revealed.

The awards were launched - in conjunction with the University of Worcester - earlier this year to recognise the talent and dedication of those heroes who work in the industry.

Run by Newsquest’s Worcestershire titles, including the Worcester News, Malvern Gazette, Evesham Journal, The Shuttle, Droitwich & Bromsgrove Advertiser and Redditch Advertiser, the aim of the awards is to champion those teams and individuals that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to care for people during the Covid pandemic.

In total an incredible 250 nominations were submitted and after much thought and consideration a panel of judges has decided on three finalists for each of the 11 categories.

Here are the three finalists in the Care Hero category:

• CLARE Mankowski, aged 36, started work as a carer with a local care provider after returning to the area from working in London, and five years ago she set up on her own as a self employed carer and currently has three clients.

The mother-of-two, originally from Stourport and who now lives in Kidderminster, keeps her client list deliberately small, deciding she wanted no more than three or four clients at any time to ensure she can deliver the best care she can.

Clare offers personal care, manages medication and also offers vital companionship. During the pandemic she has also been a lifeline between client and distant family, going with clients to hospital appointments, and is always available for their calls.

Clare said she was thrilled to have been chosen: “I’m not one for having the spotlight on me, so it was a shock to even be nominated.

“There are hundreds out there that do what I do.

“To be a finalist has come as a lovely shock.”

• ZOE Rira said to have got this far, and be a finalist in the Worcestershire Health and Social Care Awards, was an achievement in itself.

Zoe works as a housekeeping supervisor at Juniper House Residential Care Home, the Oak View Way-based care home.

In March last year, when the Prime Minister announced the country was moving into the first national lockdown due to rising Covid infections, Zoe left her husband and three children at home to move into the Sanctuary Care care home in Worcester.

She went on to spend weeks working and sleeping at the city home, all the time providing support and reassurance for the residents she cares for.

After hearing she had been chosen as a finalist Zoe said: “I am so shocked I literally cant believe I’ve reached the finals.

“No words will be able to say how happy and proud I am to work at Juniper House and to make a difference. To make it this far is such an achievement in itself.”

• RUSSELL Wall, the head of operations at the Where Next charity is another of our finalists in the Care Hero category.

Where Next is a Redditch based charity that provides supported employment and training for people with learning disabilities in a number of social enterprises.

Russell helps with its work ensuring meaningful employment builds confidence and training develops skills needed for independent living for all its clients.

Russell started as a handy-man at the charity, 16 years ago, working his way up to head of operations.

His colleagues said that throughout the pandemic he had been “great” in keeping everyone’s spirits up, coming up with new ideas to keep people engaged, making people laugh in remote video sessions, with staff adding he was not afraid of hard work and making people laugh at the same time.

Russell said he was “really happy” to have been chosen as a finalist in the category.