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Determined to be getting ahead

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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.”

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Cllr Kevin Madge elected as new county council Chairman

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THE new chair of Carmarthenshire County Council said he will work tirelessly during his term of office.

Cllr Kevin Madge, member for Garnant, takes the chain of office whilst celebrating 40 years as a councillor.

Taking the chair, Cllr Madge paid tribute to outgoing chairman Cllr Mansel Charles, member for Llanegwad, saying he had fulfilled his duties with passion.

Cllr Madge will chair the council for the next 12 months, with Cllr Ieuan Davies, member for Llanybydder, as his vice chair, and his wife Catrin as his consort.

“I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead, I will do my best for everyone. I will work tirelessly,” he said.

Cllr Madge has chosen the Trussell Trust, which supports a nationwide network of food banks and emergency food provision for people in crisis, as his Chairman’s Charity of the Year.

The Chair is the first citizen of Carmarthenshire County Council, and is elected at the Annual General Meeting.

Duties include chairing full meetings of the council, representing the council at formal and ceremonial occasions, welcoming visitors to the county, and attending and supporting events organised by local people and organisations.

Cllr Madge has been a county councillor since 1996, and a member of Cwmaman Town Council since 1979.

He also serves as chairman of the Royal British Legion Garnant branch, Garnant Family Centre and Cwmaman Meals on Wheels, and is a member of Amman Valley League of Friends.

He represents the county council on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, and the Mynydd y Betws Wind Farm Community Fund, and is on the governing body of Ysgol Y Bedol.

A former pupil of Amman Valley School, Cllr Madge has worked in the Amman Valley throughout his life, most recently as agent and researcher to Dr Alan Williams MP until 2001.

A keen football supporter, he has served as chair and president of Cwmaman Football Club and spent 25 years as a Welsh League and Neath and District football referee.

He is married with two children and three grandchildren.

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‘UK Government should work with the Welsh Labour Government on Tata’

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LOCAL Assembly Member Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said ““This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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MP and AM call for Trostre certainty after merger fails

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LOCAL ASSEMBLY MEMBER Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said “This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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