Former First Minister Mark Drakeford has been honoured for the “reassuring way” he led Wales through the pandemic.

He received a 2024 Wales Care Award at a celebration at the Senedd, Cardiff, marking the 30th anniversary of Care Forum Wales.

The Special Recognition award was presented by Mario Kreft MBE, chair of Care Forum Wales, who hailed Professor Drakeford as a man of “great integrity and intellect”.

Mr Kreft said the pandemic was the worst possible nightmare for the social care sector because the virus was particularly dangerous to frail and vulnerable people.

Through Mr Drakeford’s leadership, Wales adopted a more considered and cautious approach, recognising the particular challenges faced by social care even before the pandemic struck.

As a result, financial support given to care homes, nursing homes and domiciliary care providers in Wales during Covid was better than elsewhere in the UK.

He has also championed the introduction of the Real Living Wage for frontline staff who rose to the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic, often putting their own lives on the line.

Mr Kreft said: “Mark Drakeford has been a long-term supporter of the sector, right back to the early days of devolution when he was a Special Advisor to then First Minister, Rhodri Morgan.

“As a former Professor of Social Policy and Applied Social Sciences at Cardiff University, he was uniquely well-qualified to understand the challenges facing the sector when elected to represent Cardiff West and later serve in a number of ministerial positions, including health and local government, before becoming the leader of our nation in 2018.

“That understanding and empathy was absolutely crucial when the world was turned upside down by Covid-19 and his leadership was a shining light that plotted a reassuringly cautious path through the dark days of the pandemic.

“One thing that made a big difference was that Welsh Government led by Mark Drakeford sought input and guidance from the sector.

“We had regular dialogue including weekly meetings with the Ministers of Health and Social Services so the level of access we had with decision makers was far greater than any other part of the UK.

“There was always a sense the First Minister was striving to do the right things, in the right way at the right time, with his avuncular style underpinned by a steely determination.”

Mr Drakeford said he was very grateful to receive the award.