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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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Outdoor hospitality given go-ahead and rules on mixing outdoors relaxed in Wales

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SIX people will be able to meet outdoors in Wales from Saturday 24 April while outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26 April as cases of new COVID-19 infections continue to fall, First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed today.

The current rule provides for up to six people (not including children under 11 years of age or carers) from a maximum of two households to meet outdoors.

The new rules from Saturday will allow six people (not including children under 11 years of age or carers) to meet outdoors.

People should observe social distancing from people from outside their household or support bubble when meeting others outside.

The rules for meeting indoors remain unchanged.

The First Minister has also confirmed outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26th April 2021.

First Minister, Mark Drakeford said: “The public health context in Wales remains favourable, with cases falling and our vaccination programme continues to go from strength to strength. Because meeting outdoors continues to be lower risk than meeting indoors, we are able to bring forward changes to allow any six people to meet outdoors.

“This will provide more opportunities for people, especially young people, to meet outdoors with their friends. This will undoubtedly have a significant positive impact on people’s wellbeing.

“I’m also pleased to confirm outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26th April.

“These changes will help the hospitality sector recover after a difficult twelve months.

“It is thanks to the continuing efforts of people across Wales we are able to introduce this change. Together, we will continue to keep Wales safe.”

On Friday (23rd April 2021), the First Minister will confirm further relaxations to the covid rules that will come into force on Monday 26 April 2021.

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Scientists issue urgent appeal for help on ground-breaking Covid genetic study

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SCIENTISTS involved in a ground-breaking COVID-19 genetic research study are urgently asking people across Wales who caught the virus to donate a small amount of blood to their project.

To help encourage as many people as possible to join the study, volunteers are now able to quickly and easily book an appointment for a nurse to visit their home and donate a sample.

The unique GenOMICC COVID-19 Study, which is being delivered in Wales through Health and Care Research Wales, analyses the genes of people who have had the virus to discover why some experienced mild or no symptoms while others became extremely ill. The study is already contributing to the fight again COVID, with preliminary results helping identify possible new treatments.

study open to anyone who caught COVID but didn’t need hospital treatment

However, for the study to continue to make progress, the scientists urgently need to recruit 2,500 more people from all backgrounds. Along with seeking the help of members of Asian and Black communities, they’re also keen for more men to volunteer.

The home appointment system has already proved popular when the scheme was launched in Scotland and Bradford earlier this year – and with lockdown restrictions beginning to be eased in Wales, organisers are hoping for a similar response from people across the country.

“This study has one key objective – to help us understand why COVID-19 has impacted different groups in different ways,” said Dr Matt Morgan, Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine at the University Hospital of Wales and Specialty Lead for Critical Care at Health and Care Research Wales.

“Across the UK, a disproportionate number of people who ended up in hospital have been male as well as people with Asian and Black heritage – that’s why we need people from these groups in particular to join the study as soon as possible.”

“If you are eligible, please register and join the project. You’ll be making a direct contribution to helping improve our knowledge of the virus and discovering new ways of beating it.”

scientists issue urgent appeal for assistance to help them identify new treatments

Dr Kenneth Baillie, the study’s Chief Investigator, said: “We’re appealing for more volunteers from all walks of life to come forward and register. We need to find people who tested positive for COVID but experienced either mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment. To maximise the study’s potential, it’s important these volunteers are similar in age, gender and ethnicity of those people who were severely affected and hospitalised.”

Professor Sir Mark Caulfied, Chief Scientist at Genomics England added: “The quicker this research can be completed, the faster we can solve the COVID-19 puzzle and protect vulnerable people.

Genetic research into COVID-19 is now playing an increasingly important role in our fight against the virus, enabling us to identify new forms of the virus and develop treatments.

“The findings from the GenOMICC COVID-19 Study will improve the treatment, care and outcome for those most at risk and lower the number of deaths.”

Dr Nicola Williams, Director of Support and Delivery at Health and Care Research Wales, said: “It’s vital we learn as much as possible about COVID-19 and to do that we need people to volunteer to take part in research. By introducing an appointment booking system, the GenOMICC COVID-19 Study is giving people the opportunity to contribute to potentially life-saving research from their own homes. These contributions can help provide the evidence we need to give all patients the best possible outcome.”

The research project is open to anyone who tested positive to COVID-19 but experienced mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment – volunteers can register online here.

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A Llanelli household is hospitalised following reports of an “unknown substance”

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REPORTS of an “unknown substance” at a Llanelli property led to a multi-agency operation.

Police, ambulance and the fire service descended on a property in a village, just outside of Five Roads, Llanelli,  following reports of members of the household feeling unwell and the presence of an “unknown substance”.

Three members of the household in Five Roads, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire were taken to hospital as a precaution.

Emergency services were alerted to members of the household feeling unwell and the presence of an ‘unknown substance’ on Sunday, April 11 at 7.30am.

The ambulance service were first on the scene with one rapid response vehicle, four emergency ambulances and the Hazardous Area Response Team and were supported by police and the fire service.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Ambulance Service said: “We were called to a residential property in the village of Five Roads, Llanelli at 7.30am on Sunday, April 11 to reports of three people needing medical attention.

“We responded with one rapid response vehicle, four emergency ambulances and our Hazardous Area Response Team.

“Three patients were taken to Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen, for further treatment.”

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) assisted the police and ambulance service, deploying a specialist officer and an Environmental Protection Unit to the property.

The service ventilated the property and remained on the scene until 5.29pm.

A MAWWFRS spokesperson said: “At 7:44am, crews from Llanelli were called to assist the ambulance service and police at an incident in a property in Five Roads, Llanelli.

“An unknown substance was found at the property and its occupants reported feeling unwell.

“The occupants were taken to hospital by the ambulance service.”

“The incident was contained to one property and there were no concerns for the wider community of Five Roads.”

A Dyfed-Powys Police Spokesperson confirmed the force assisted in the multi-operation incident.

A spokesperson said:: “Members of one household in the village were feeling unwell, and were taken to hospital for assessment.

“They were found to have no medical concerns.

“Following examination of the scene by a number of agencies, there was no cause for further investigation into the incident.”

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