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Protecting the protectors: An inside look into the service supporting the frontline of Dyfed-Powys Police

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POLICE officers give their all to protect their communities – running towards danger as others run away, supporting victims and families in their darkest hours, and seeing unimaginable scenes.

But who is there for the protectors when they need back-up?

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Dyfed-Powys Police is sharing an insight into a previously unseen side of the force – the work the counselling service carries out in guiding officers and staff through their own struggles.

From officers painstakingly combing crime scenes for vital evidence, and investigators trawling through thousands of images on digital devices, to colleagues balancing the pressure between work and home life, Counsellor Samantha Davies and a team of 13 others around the force are there to offer guidance and support.

And Samantha explained the service is often most needed when officers least expect it.

“We often see officers who have got 20 or 30 years’ experience and don’t understand why an incident has affected them,” she said.

“Say you have an officer who has dealt with atrocities for 30-plus years, and suddenly they find themselves crying over something small. They think they’ve gone mad.

“Of course they haven’t – it’s the weight of what they’ve dealt with over the course of their career.

“It usually goes that they say they’ve dealt with worse things, they’ve seen worse things, and they don’t understand why this particular incident has bothered them.

“We work closely with them to find the trigger. It might be something in their past that they haven’t dealt with, there might be similarities with this job, or this latest incident is simply the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

While there are formal mechanisms in place to support officers who have dealt with traumatic incidents – being the first on scene at a murder, a sudden death, or a fatal collision, for example – the need for the counselling team might come from wider impacts of the job.

The challenges of dealing with a long term investigation, months spent in exposed conditions looking for evidence, or long night shifts guarding scenes of crime to ensure evidence isn’t lost can take their toll.

As part of her role, Samantha ensures she is readily available to officers working in difficult conditions – visiting investigation sites regularly to offer support.

“It’s not always the things they’ve seen – it can be problems at home, or the pressure of being away from home for weeks on end,” she said.

“One of the biggest things we see in the counselling room is guilt. We help officers to work through this, and give them the tools to help themselves.

“With the ongoing operation in Carmarthen, before the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, I was making sure I was on site twice a week, every week, with the force chaplain and our in-house Occupational Health Specialist team so they could see we were there if they needed us,” she said.

“Being on a site day in day out isn’t easy – if we can be there for a chat in the canteen, help clear the plates away, then officers get to know what we can offer, and are more likely to get in touch if they do need support.

“They might not need us during that particular investigation – it might be months or years down the line – but by meeting us at that time, they know we’re here.”

While Samantha sometimes faces reluctance from officers in accepting that they need a counselling session, she is able to strip away layers of bravado from those saving face from their colleagues.

“You do get a bit of banter between some officers – particularly when we carry out specialist unit reviews,” she said. “They’ll be in the waiting room making jokes about it, but when they come in, it changes.

“They might be worried that their line manager has to know they’ve had a session, or that I could take their firearms license away, for example, but that’s not what I’m here for. Once they realise what we’re about – that we’re not candles and whale music – they start to open up about things.

Nearly a year into her position at Dyfed-Powys Police, Samantha is realising a career dream stemming from her childhood, growing up in a policing family.

“My dad was an officer for 30 years,” she said. “When I was young, he used to tell me lots of gory stories, which I loved, and they gave me an insight and understanding into what they face.

“While he told me what he’d seen, he would never tell my mum. She didn’t work for the force, and he didn’t want to burden her with the things he had seen – that’s still true of officers today. They carry the weight of what they have seen and heard on shift, and often have nobody to offload to.

“He fully supported me when I said I wanted to be a counsellor. He was old fashioned, and would say in front of others that people need to pull their socks up, but quietly he would sit with me and say that things had changed since he left the job. They used to go to the pub and talk things through – he knew that didn’t happen anymore, and that people need somewhere to talk.

“I absolutely love my role. When someone says they wouldn’t have got through something without support, it absolutely humbles me. It brings me to tears.”

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Further childcare hub opening in Llanelli

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AN additional childcare hub has opened in Llanelli this week (w/c Monday, May 25) due to increasing demand to provide care for children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

It will be located at Ysgol Ffwrnes in Llanelli and follows the opening of an extra three hubs at Bryn Primary School in Llanelli, Model Primary School in Carmarthen and Ysgol Tycroes.

It is important that numbers are kept low at the hubs to ensure the health and safety of both the children and staff.

Parents are being reminded to keep their children at home where possible to help contain the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19). However, if you are a critical worker, and your child cannot stay at home, then your childcare will be prioritised.

Parents should only apply for childcare to cover their working hours; and are also being reminded to please cancel as soon as possible if they no longer need the provision.

Please note the timetable for applications to the childcare hubs has also changed, and that applications now close at 5pm on the Wednesday of the week before.

Unfortunately, we will no longer be able to consider any applications made after deadline. Due to the significant increase in demand for places at our hubs we must make sure they are staffed sufficiently. The health and safety of both staff and pupils is vital and has to be our main priority.

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How Wales created 19 new field hospitals in less than 8 weeks…

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Across Wales the Welsh Government is supporting the NHS to create new field hospitals and rapidly increase bed capacity.
Health boards have repurposed existing buildings, including the Principality Stadium, a holiday park and even a television studio to provide an additional 6,000 beds.Field hospitals are designed to support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic by providing extra bed capacity but they will also help normal hospital services be restarted and support social care services.Last month, the first patients were admitted to Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig at the Principality Stadium, in Cardiff.

Four to six weeks

Here is how Wales almost doubled its bed capacity in less than eight weeks…The time it has taken to nearly double hospital bed capacity in Wales, creating field hospitals across the nation.

19 field hospitals in Wales
This includes the repurposing of Bluestone Holiday Park and Parc y Scarlets in west Wales and Venue Cymru in north Wales.

1,500 beds at the Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig
Making it one of the largest field hospitals in the UK.

Five days
The length of time it took to plan Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig, which overlapped with the build phase.

3,000
The number of planning hours, involving more than 20 different disciplines, it took to plan Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig.

£166m
Welsh Government funding for the set up, construction and equipment for field hospitals in Wales.

138,000
The number of pieces of equipment have been provided to help support field hospitals, including beds, imaging equipment, syringe drivers and medicines.

Three North Wales field hospitals have the name Enfys
Meaning rainbow – the symbol of hope and thank you to the NHS during the pandemic.
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7-year-old Mattie from Pembrey takes on home Pen y Fan-tastic challenge for Action for Children

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Plucky Mattie Denman will climb the equivalent of Pen y Fan in the drive at her family home in Pembrey on Friday 22nd May to raise funds for Action for Children.

Mattie (7), has always wanted to climb the highest mountain in South Wales and is unable to currently because of the coronavirus pandemic.  As the family exercise at home every day, she decided she wanted to do the 6-mile equivalent journey there while she waits for the chance to do it for real.  Mattie chose Action for Children as her mother, Sian, works for the charity in Carmarthenshire.

Mattie said: ‘My Mammy works for Action for Children and I want to help as well because lots of families need help.  My older brother and sister help Action for Children, so I asked Mammy if I could do something. We exercise everyday walking up and down the drive and I have always wanted to climb Pen y Fan, but we have never done it.

‘Mammy said I could pretend I am walking it and people will give money to the charity. I said brilliant, that is what I am going to do and I am super excited to do it. I will use mammy’s step counter and I hope I can help children that need support especially because it is so hard for some families because of coronavirus.’

Proud mum and family support practitioner for Action for Children, Sian, added: ‘Mattie has a lovely heart and really wanted to do something and I’m very proud she chose Pen y Fan as her home challenge.  Action for Children has been going the extra mile during the coronavirus pandemic continuing to support vulnerable families through phone and video sessions as well as food and help with the basics from our Emergency Appeal Fund. 

‘It is a tremendously challenging time for our families and every bit of money will directly help those in our communities who need it most.  I hope as many people as possible will donate to Mattie’s brilliant fundraising effort, it’ll make it even more special when we finally get to climb Pen y Fan for real.’

If you want to support Mattie’s Pen y Fan challenge please go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mattiesclimb

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