GROWING up with learning disabilities in west Wales, 18 year-old Philip Thomas found it difficult to fit in with his peers. He found it difficult to understand new ideas as well as social situations, and he also suffered from depression, and was led into trouble by his friends.
Now a year later, he has made the most of the support available to him and his story is a fantastic example of the life-changing difference that can be made through the Getting Ahead programme, a £3.4m grant awarded in 2013 to support care-leavers and young people who have offended into work.
In March 2014 he was referred to Symud Ymlaen / Moving Forward (SYMF) and was keen to maximise the support available to him, by engaging with the SYMF team, and to find a work placement as soon as possible.
Philip’s initial meeting identified learning needs in literacy, numeracy and employability skills, and through positive engagement with SYMF tutors he successfully gained Entry Level 3 accreditations in Calculations With Whole Numbers, Preparation for a Recruitment Interview and Career Preparation.
These were not the only issues that Philip felt he needed to address though. He lacked confidence around new people and he was determined to develop and improve his social skills. He was quickly matched with a SYMF mentor, Raymond, to meet weekly to help develop these skills and improve his self-esteem. Philip enjoys their meetings as it means having somebody to talk to, confide in, and support him during his placement.
Before starting his current placement, Philip had expressed interest in working in animal care as well as furniture assembly but soon found that neither of these were what he was looking for. Third time lucky, he was supported into another placement, this time working on warehousing and furniture removal with Wales Air Ambulance.
He thoroughly enjoys this type of work, particularly being out in the van, and gets on well with his colleagues. He feels that the placement has helped him mature, and his family members, SYMF staff and his social worker have all noticed a huge positive change in him.
Speaking of his support, Philip said: “The experience has been great for my confidence. It has given me valuable work experience, it gets me out of the house and gives me a real opportunity to socialise and get over my difficulties. Visiting customers’ houses as part of the job gives me a real confidence boost, and I was really lucky to meet Catherine Zeta Jones through this placement! I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’ve even got my friends to volunteer here as well.”
Philip meets with Andrew Douglas, his SYMF Employment Liaison Officer (ELO) every month to review his progress, and to update his Personal Development Plan that allows him to further develop his confidence around new people and his customer service skills. Andrew has regular contact with his Social Worker and will continue to support Philip up until the end of his placement.
Upon completion of his formal placement, Philip will be kept on by Wales Air Ambulance as a volunteer and will receive funding from Social Services to ensure that he continues earning until he can finalise his future plans.
Looking back over the last year, Andrew tells us: “Seeing how positively the Getting Ahead programme has been for Philip has been amazing. As well as giving him the opportunity for full-time employment, Philip has experienced such a positive transformation from his placement. He has managed to address his learning needs, gained the knowledge and understanding of the world of work, and improved his confidence. Overall he has developed into such an independent person through the programme.”
Speaking of SYMF’s involvement with the Getting Ahead programme, SYMF Partnership Project Coordinator, Bridget Lafferty said: “Symud Ymlaen / Moving Forward works with young people who are furthest from the job market and would otherwise miss out on the opportunity to gain work experience and the chance of a reference from a reputable business. Philip is just one example of how the project provides young people with support to overcome significant barriers in order to gain employability skills and the invaluable experience of working with a supportive employer.”
Herald publisher ceases operations
HERALD NEWS UK LTD, the company which prints The Pembrokeshire Herald, The Carmarthenshire Herald and The Llanelli Herald has ceased operations.
Editor of Pembrokeshire Herald, Thomas Sinclair said: “After finalising today’s paper to go to print yesterday, a meeting was held last night. It was confirmed that the expected further investor funding would not be made available for the company.
“This meant that operations need be halted as the businesses was not able to pay its ongoing costs.
“At 10am today the 24 members of staff working at the newspaper have today been given notice of redundancy.
“We are absolutely devastated that after nearly 7 years and hundreds of editions of the paper we can no longer continued.”
“I would like to think that over those years, some of the stories we have written have made a difference to Pembrokeshire and beyond.”
Director of Herald News UK Limited, John Hammond said: “The company accountant could be appointing administrators as soon as next week.”
“The Owners of The Pembrokeshire Herald came to the conclusion last night during a finance meeting that the venture is no longer financially viable.
“Whilst every conceivable effort has been made to improve the financial situation of the business, we have to face the fact that there is no way that we can now continue in a solvent position.
“Whilst there has been a slow decline in readership of local newspapers, our costs for wages, printing and transport have substantially increased.”
“We would like to thank all of our loyal readers and staff.”
Council announces overnight roadworks
MOTORISTS face further inconvenience owing to a series of planned night-time closures in Llanelli whilst essential road improvement works are carried out later this month.
Hard-pressed motorists, including Llanelli’s AM Lee Waters (see his column in this newspaper), already experience long delays using routes into and out of the town.
To reduce the level of inconvenience, Carmarthenshire County Council has programmed road surfacing works to take place during the night over the next month at Parc Trostre, Sandy Road, Pembrey Road and Queen Victoria Road, Llanelli, to avoid the busiest periods. Diversions will be in place.
A section of B4304 Parc Trostre Roundabout near ATS will be closed from Wednesday, October 30 between 7 pm and 6 am for up to four nights.
A section of Sandy Road, between its junction with Denham Avenue to the entrance to Coleg Sir Gâr, will be closed between 7 pm and 6 am on November 11-22 for up to nine nights.
A section of Pembrey Road, from its junction of Chapman Street to New Road, will be closed between 7 pm and 6 am on November 3 and 12 for up to nine nights.
Part of Queen Victoria Road and the Murray St crossroads will also be subject to night-time closure between 7 pm and 6 am on November 10 and 15 for up to five nights.
Since April the council has resurfaced 22 sections of road as part of a £2.5million investment in Carmarthenshire roads.
The sections of road being resurfaced have been identified as a priority based on road condition, usage and strategic importance.
Comprehensive traffic management will be in place whilst the works are being carried out and all schemes will be published in advance with full details available on roadworks.org.
The council said the works are unavoidable and have thanked members of the public in advance for their cooperation.
The council’s executive board member for transport, Cllr Hazel Evans said: “This is a significant amount of money that we have secured to improve our roads in the county. All roadworks will be publicised in advance so motorists can plan journeys to avoid the area and take an alternative route. We will minimise as far as possible the impact on road users by careful planning, however, some disruption cannot be avoided, so please bear with us. We thank everyone in advance for their cooperation and patience.”
These dates may vary due to unforeseen conditions or adverse weather. People are being advised to check https://one.network for further updates.
UK’s top skaters and riders drop in on Llanelli youngsters to celebrate a special birthday
THE WORLD’S and the UK’s finest skateboarders, BMX and Wheelchair Motocross stars will drop in on young people at a Carmarthenshire Ramps skatepark on Saturday 19 October 2019 from 11 am till 2 pm.
The event was arranged to celebrate the £3 billion National Lottery players have raised for projects which have specifically helped children and young people develop and thrive in the UK over the last 25 years.
£2 million of National Lottery funding has specifically been awarded to support and develop over 47 BMX projects in local communities for young people in Wales to enjoy.
Wales and Pembrokeshire’s own wheelchair sports superstar, Lily Rice; the Olympic BMX freestyler from Swansea, James Jones; Britain’s leading street skateboarder and 2020 Olympic hopeful, Alex Decunha; and YouTube influencer, Jake O’Neill (aka Jake100), visite hundreds of youngsters at Ramps indoor and outdoor skatepark in Llanelli as part of the National Lottery’s celebrations.
More than £340,000 was awarded by the National Lottery in 2013 to develop and build Ramps Skatepark which now provides activities for over 15,000 young people a year.
At 15 years old, Lily Rice from Manorbier, Pembrokeshire, is a World Champion wheelchair motocross (WCMX) star. She was propelled to fame two years ago when she became the first female in Europe to achieve a wheelchair backflip, and only the second girl in the world to pull off the stunt. Since then, Lily has emerged as one of the global leaders of WCMX – wheelchair motocross.
She says: “By contributing towards building amazing facilities such as this indoor and outdoor skate park, National Lottery funding is helping thousands of young people of all abilities to reach their goals and discover new opportunities.
I have trained and practised at numerous National Lottery funded skate parks and there is no doubt that the funding has helped wheeled sports, enthusiasts, to become healthier and more active.”
The National Lottery has inspired millions of people to get active in their local community, as well as supporting individuals and teams from grassroots to elite.
James Jones is a 25-year-old professional BMX rider from Swansea. James, who also celebrated his 25th Birthday this year, is one of six world-class athletes who make up the Freestyle BMX Team GB for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. James honed his skills and practised his tricks at the Ramps skate park in Llanelli when he was growing up and highlights the importance of young people having access to facilities like this on their doorstep.
James Jones said: “I practised a lot here growing up and this facility has played a big part in my development as a professional rider and a person. I probably wouldn’t be where I am now without the support I got here. It’s not just about learning to ride or skate, there’s a real family vibe here, a great social aspect and it’s well supported by the community.
The National Lottery must fund parks such as this one so that young people can have a safe space to pursue their hobbies and meet friends.”
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