Deb, who is from Barry, first joined Tŷ Hafan as a Trustee in 2018, and was appointed Director of Care on a fixed term basis in March 2020, just as lockdown began.
Now, with restrictions lifting, the charity has announced her appointment to the role on a permanent basis.
Maria Timon Samra, Chief Executive at Tŷ Hafan, said: “Having infamously joined on an interim basis on the first day of (the first) lockdown last year, Deb has been confirmed as our permanent Director of Care.
“It has been a privilege to witness at first-hand her passion and her absolute commitment to our Purpose, and the considered, professional leadership she brings to the charity and to the Care team. Deb has been positive and resolute in leading our Care services throughout one of the most challenging periods in our history.
“As well as ensuring our doors remained open for crisis and end-of-life care throughout both the pandemic and refurbishment, Deb has already instigated a ‘First Positive Steps’ programme of change to ensure we provide the best possible care to the children and families who need us, both at the hospice and in the community.
“In addition to her day-to-day responsibilities, Deb has been instrumental in completing our Family Voices project. She has also supported us to secure Covid grant funding and in preparing a Lifeline Fund proposal for Welsh Government seeking sustainable funding for children’s hospices in Wales.”
Deb, who leads the 85 strong Care team in both the charity’s hospice in Sully and in the community across Wales, started her career at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.
“I always wanted to be a nurse. It wasn’t in my family, but it was really important to me and just something that I always wanted to do,” she says.
“At St Barts I was surrounded by incredibly positive role models who led the way for me, demonstrating the traditional strengths of the role of the nurse. Straightaway I felt confident because the people around me invested in my growth and development.”
While at St Barts, Deb developed an interest in cancer and palliative care, and after moving to the Royal Marsden Hospital, gained specialist qualifications in palliative care.
“I then became a Macmillan nurse at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, providing care and support, and helping people who faced life with the uncertainty of a life limiting illness. It was an incredibly fulfilling role that confirmed for my this was the work I wanted to do,” she said.
Subsequent roles included Team Leader at Prospect Hospice in Swindon, where Deb’s responsibilities included the leading a team of specialist nurses. After progressing into senior management and becoming Director of Patient Services, Deb then stepped away from palliative care to work with Nationwide as Senior Manager Member Vulnerability, Access and Inclusion, helping members retain control, choice and independence when managing their money, even in vulnerable circumstances.
Now, as Director of Care for Tŷ Hafan, Deb is leading the 22-year-old charity’s Care team onto the next stage of its evolution.
“This really is a fantastic role,” she says. “Tŷ Hafan has a vital role to play in the lives of children and families with life limiting illness, and as we emerge from the challenges of the pandemic, I look forward to working with the wider team to strengthen our services at the hospice and across the community.
“This means leveraging the rich heritage of Tŷ Hafan and strengthening our services to be fit for a future where there will be more demand and greater complexity of need.
“Importantly, it is about making sure that the right care and support is available for the right children, in the right place and at the right time.”
And as for those first few days in post as the UK entered lockdown in March 2020?
“It was a time like no other, with a situation that was changing day by day,” says Deb.
“I am incredibly grateful to have been a Trustee before joining as Director of Care. Having that insight and understanding of Tŷ Hafan was invaluable, I was also supported by a skilled and experienced team.
“The wellbeing of children and families was at the front of our minds - ensuring that our support was there for the families who needed us most, albeit that our services were being delivered in a different way. I am very much looking forward to working with colleagues across the charity in the months and years ahead.
“I am immensely proud of our multidisciplinary team. This has been a challenging time for them all but throughout they have been flexible and adaptable, working with skill and compassion to ensure we are always there.”