Star awards winners

Congratulations to our 2022 STAR Award winners!

Congratulations to our winners
The winners of the Staff Awards 2022 were announced and presented with certificates and vouchers in a fantastic ceremony, celebrating excellence and achievement among our people.

From 65 nominee submissions, our winners were selected by a judging panel of peers from across the organisation, in each of the nine categories, which were linked to our corporate values. We would like to say a huge congratulations to all our winners and finalists.

Every year, the Optalis Star Awards provides an opportunity to shine a light on the teams and individuals who have gone the extra mile to deliver services. The Awards also provide inspiration for all of us to continue to make a lasting and positive difference to the lives of the people we support.

David Birch, Chief Executive, said: "Events and celebrations like this are essential for recognising the outstanding work that our people do every day for the local community. I hope you'll all join me in congratulating our winners."

Read all of our nominations in our award brochure.

Respect Award

Left to right - Melissa Keane with Kevin McDaniel

Winner: Melissa Keane - Westmead Service (Community Lives) 

Melissa always endeavours to do her best for the customers at Westmead - for example, one of our service users needed support regarding overcrowding; his severe health conditions were imploding into depression and his family were at their wits end. Melissa stepped in and contacted social services who met with her. She explained her concerns and this led to the social worker seeing how she could help this gentleman and his family - they are now waiting to move very shortly. The wellbeing of this gentleman and his family has vastly improved thanks to Melissa’s intervention.

Continuous Development Award

Left to right- Sarah Finigan with Gemma Argrave

Winner: Gemma Argrave - Community Social Work Team

Gemma is enthusiastic and motivated to help new team members develop their skills, arranging time to go through processes integral to their work. She has been involved with knowledge sharing around Each Step Together processes, including training the team. Resulting in improved quality of work. Gemma led her peer group through PARIS system changes and was proactive in understanding how it benefits people. Customers continually benefit from the support she gives to colleagues – from the right way of working when completing assessments and a consistency of approach.

Transparency and Integrity Award

Left to right - Lynne Lidster with Nighat Ellahi

Winner: Nighat Ellahi - Community Lives

As Ethnic Minorities Development Worker, Nighat supports family carers from BAME backgrounds. During the pandemic she found herself providing invaluable support at a time of crisis- making daily welfare check-in calls, offering emotional support and signposting, shopping and even cooking meals and dropping them on the doorstep of isolating families. Nighat spent time educating, raising awareness and tackling misinformation. She supported community members to take up the offer of the vaccine, dispelling false information and explaining its importance to the older generation where language was a barrier.

Unsung Hero Award

Left to right - Andrew McCabe with Helen Sargeant Dar

Winner: Andrew McCabe, Governance & Quality Assurance

At the height of the Covid crisis and with countrywide supply problems, Andy went about sourcing PPE with gusto - liaising with services and giving reassurance. With a fantastic attitude, he has been described as ‘a shining light of positivity.’ Amid a national shortage, Andy showed creativity and dogged determination to ensure we had the right quality products to keep safe.

Passionate about safety and diligent under pressure, Andy’s exceptional customer service to ensure front line safety went above and beyond - personally delivering PPE to services with a smile on his face.

Communication Award 

Training Team
Left to right Viv Crump, Cllr David Hare, Shani Houghton, Ruth Walsh

Winner: Training Team - Ruth Walsh, Shani Houghton, Viv Crump 

Over the last two years the team have had to push themselves in completely new directions - in the world of digital learning, designing and delivering courses. With many restrictions in place, they have had to think ‘outside the box’ to ensure staff can develop and evidence their knowledge and skills without attending a classroom. The team have also been working hard to design and implement new courses such as Team Teach behaviour training and communication training. By training staff in the right way and designing and delivering engaging training, the team are making sure staff have the right skills to support our customers in the best way.

Customer Choice Award

Left to right - Jane Smith with Helen Woodland

Winner: Janet Smith - Community Mental Health Team, Carers lead 
Janet has done so much work over the years to support me and my family. She has arranged training and talks about mental health issues, which have been such a help. Many times, talking with her has helped me decide how ‘manic or depressed’ my family member is.
Other members of the support group said: "She helped me realise that mental health is not something to be ashamed of."
"Always a source of support and encouragement...Available when I’ve needed advice or to offload...Proactive in promoting the cause for carers and ‘fighting in our corner’…an amazing lady, very professional but very caring."

Outstanding Team Effort Award - Dementia Care Advisors Team 

Dementia Care Advisors
Left to right - Isabel Marsala, Nancy Thorn, David Birch, Belinda Dixon

The team has taken on every challenge, adapting the service throughout the pandemic and reshaping it as needed, remaining professional throughout. Many of the things introduced during the pandemic are still part of the service, including a themed activity pack delivered to over 100 households and regular zoom activity sessions.

The team provide a vast range of support to find the best individual path, including visiting people at home, signposting, help with paperwork, support for carers, education and awareness about dementia and related behaviours. They demonstrate a high level of teamwork, cohesion, positive outlook and problem-solving skills, going far and beyond their set roles to improve the lives of our customers. Each team member brings their own skills to build the DCA into a respected and well used service.

Customer Service Award

Winner: Christine Webber - Out & About

Chris is very passionate about providing the best care and support in a person-centred way. She shows dignity and respect for her customers. Chris has a special quality; people immediately warm to her. She is very popular; requests come from customers and parents for her specifically. She willingly gives up he free time so our customers can have a weekend away and parents a well-earned rest, She provides a bespoke level of care and support with a lot of fun and laugher along the way.

Enjoyable and Rewarding Award

Winner: Helen Rowell - Woodley and Earley Learning Disability Day Services (Community Lives)


The backbone of our team, for customers and staff. Helen brings enjoyment in abundance, implementing special events as often as she can – Macmillan coffee mornings, Children in Need, Picnics in the Park - you name it Helen will be in party mode for it and recent challenges haven’t dampened her enthusiasm. Our customers always enjoy their activities and special events. Covid didn’t stop Helen from organising activities, making sure they were Covid secure but still fun. Working in small bubbles, meant she would often run the events in triplicate!

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