Sandra’s compassionate leadership awarded as exceptional

Bucks CAMHS SPA lead contact support worker Sandra Carnevale is our Exceptional People Award winner for December while dietitian Lucy Gardner and mental health social work manager Yasmin Riveiro were highly commended.

Sandra’s compassionate leadership awarded as exceptional

When Sandra Carnevale received a letter saying she has won the Exceptional People Award for December, she initially thought it was a prank. But when she heard who had nominated her and what they had said, she was simply overwhelmed.

“To hear people call me exceptional…phew…I’m just me!” she said.

Sandra Carnevale

Sandra is all smiles after learning what she thought was a prank email turned into a lovely acknowledgement from her colleagues.

During the pandemic Sandra has been acting as the lead contact support worker in the Single Point of Access for Buckinghamshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS.) As the term Single Point of Access suggests, this team is the nerve centre for referrals, phone calls and emails to CAMHS.

“We answer all the enquiries and consider if CAMHS is the right service; then process the referrals and manage the waiting list. When we get a referral, we do the admin letter writing. It is busy all the time,” Sandra tells.

Sandra’s colleagues have noticed that she is the one others go to when they are feeling overwhelmed by the volume of work, the hectic pace and questions that are often emotionally tough. So how does she keep so famously positive?

“It’s just me; I like to keep the morale up. I think positivity is contagious. It helps the team stay positive if I am positive,” she said.

The award was presented to Sandra by Chief People Officer Charmaine De Souza and Service Director Donna Clarke in a small gathering at the Whiteleaf Centre, accompanied by Sandra’s colleague Sarah Evans. Sandra’s win was all the more special as she was chosen from over 20 nominations, from a field that the lead governor Mike Hobbs described as exceptionally strong. Mike said:

“We have all noted that this was an exceptionally strong field of nominees for the award. The Trust has some truly exceptional staff. We commend all who were nominated and those colleagues who nominated them.”

And there were in fact two nominations for Sandra, full of praise for her leadership skills and the support she gives to her team and the families who contact the CAMHS SPA.

Katherine Carter, Deputy Operational Lead for SPA wrote:

“Sandra is a pillar within the team and someone I notice others will go to when feeling overwhelmed. She is able to manage this well, appropriately and with great success and impact on individuals in the team. She is a friendly face to everyone within the team and outside of the team.


She remains calm, collected and compassionate on calls with every family and professional that she speaks with; and this can be up to 30 calls a day and more at times. The feedback she often gets is that families feel heard, understood and appreciative of her time and the call she has been involved with.

Chief People Officer Charmaine De Souza noted:

“An organisation’s culture is defined by what happens when a manager leaves the room. And your nomination shows that your leadership goes beyond you; your colleagues repeat your words of encouragement when you are not in! The executive team, our governors and the board have recognised your exceptional contribution. I am grateful you are part of the team.”

Sandra’s colleague Sarah Evans added:

“Sandra is like the mother of our team; she’s a natural in supporting others. And to me she is also a true friend and an angel in disguise. This recognition is so deserved.”

Sandra said:

“I am so humbled and overwhelmed. I’m just me; I don’t make a point of doing anything differently; I just do it. But it is wonderful to know I am making a difference.”

The winner for Exceptional People Awards in the individuals’ category is chosen by a governor panel Mike Hobbs (Public, Oxfordshire), Jacky McKenna (Servicer User, Bucks), Jonathan Cole (Service User, Oxon), Nyarai Humba (Carer) and Anna Gardner (Public Bucks). The winner receives an engraved glass trophy, a signed, framed certificate and a £50 gift voucher to treat themselves.

Highly Commended

In addition to the winner, every month our judges choose two highly commended individuals. For December the accolades went to dietitian Lucy Gardner and mental health social work manager Yasmin Riveiro.

Lucy GardnerLucy Gardner was presented with the certificate by Modern Matron Ellen Tutisani. Lucy said:

“A really lovely surprise to be presented with this award at the start of the new year by my team at Cotswold House Oxford. They have been outstanding throughout the pandemic and are a great bunch of people to work with and really make a difference.”

Lucy was nominated by her colleagues Kirstie Tillier, Dietetic Assistant, and Philippa Tate, Community Dietitian. They wrote:

“Lucy does not shy away from difficult situations and consistently pushes for dietitians to be acknowledged. She is the key driver to raising our profile and expanding the mental health dietetic team.”

Yasmin Riveiro was nominated by Andi Davis, Section 75 Service Manager. She wrote:

“We have a well-supported and strong workforce, thanks to Yasmin’s motivation, attention and commitment to making them evidence-based professionals.”

Nominate now for January 2022

epa logoGive someone special or a top team an even happier start to the new year: nominate them for Exceptional People Awards! Closing date for January submissions is January 24.

However, nominations are accepted at any time, so if you miss a certain month’s deadline, your nomination will simply roll into the following month.  Find the nomination forms and rules here.

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Published: 13 January 2022