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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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Health

Give someone “the best gift” this Christmas by giving blood in West Wales

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A MOTHER who needed in-the-womb blood transfusions during her pregnancy and a man who depends on regular, lifesaving blood donations are encouraging communities across Wales to give “the best gift” this Christmas by donating blood.

The Welsh Blood Service is preparing to face Winter pressures on its services and is hoping their new Christmas campaign, “the best gift” will raise awareness about the importance of donating blood and the lifesaving difference it makes.

Last December over 900 donations of blood and blood products were needed across Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire to provide care to patients at Prince Philip, Withybush, Bronglais and Glangwili hospital. 

These donations play a vital role by supporting a range of treatments from helping recovering accident victims and patients with blood cancers to supporting mothers and new-born babies during childbirth.

Blood donations were needed during both pregnancies for mother of two, Shelley Parry. After her own life was saved during her first pregnancy, Shelley received several more blood transfusions directly into her womb to keep her youngest daughter alive.

Shelley explains: “Receiving blood is truly the best gift we have ever received. We’re forever indebted as a family to those who have taken the time to donate. Without the generosity of blood donors, quite simply, we wouldn’t be parents. Thanks to their selfless act, we can look forward to Christmas together as a family.

“It only takes one hour of your time to donate, if you can, please consider donating.”

Also supporting the campaign is blood recipient Giggs Kanias. Since birth, Giggs has received over 1,000 blood transfusions as part of his treatment for beta thalassaemia major, a severe blood disorder. Thanks to blood donors, Giggs is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with his family.

Giggs said: “I am so thankful to the incredible people who give blood. When I’m in hospital, I stare at the bags of blood being transfused into me and always wonder, who is the person that has helped me?

“I know the difference these people have made to my life and I’m so grateful to each and every one of them. Without their generosity, I wouldn’t be here today, I wouldn’t be a dad, or have had the opportunity to see my daughter grow up. Receiving blood is truly the best gift anyone could ever receive.”

Alan Prosser, Director of the Welsh Blood Service, said: “For patients like Giggs, receiving blood will be the best gift they receive this Christmas. It truly is the best gift you can give.

“Blood products have a short shelf life and is needed by hospitals 365 days a year, including Christmas day, to help support patients in need, which is why we can’t stop collecting.”

The Welsh Blood Service provides lifesaving blood products to 20 hospitals across Wales and four Wales Air Ambulance aircraft for use in emergencies.

Giggs and his daughter

Alan continues: “It is critical the service prepares. We need to build up blood stocks ahead of a potentially challenging winter, where seasonal illnesses and Covid-19 may exacerbate the usual winter pressures faced by the NHS.

“We are reaching out to communities across Wales to ask them to make a lifesaving blood donation and give “the best gift” this festive season.”

Do something amazing this Christmas. Give someone the best gift. Give blood. If you are aged 17 or over, book to give blood at: www.wbs.wales/Xmas21 or call 0800 252 266 today.

Appointments are available in Pembrokeshire on 7 December and January 6 and 20 in Tenby, 16 December and 27 January in Crymych, 20 December and 17 January in Haverfordwest, 10 January in Letterston Village Hall and 21 January in Milford Haven. 

Appointments are available in Carmarthenshire on 10 December in Pontyberum, 29 December and 13 January in Carmarthen, 28 January in Kidwelly Community Hall, 23 and 24 December and 4, 12 and 25 January in Parc Y Scarlets and 31 January in Llandeilo.

Appointments are available in Ceredigion on 14 December in Newcastle Emlyn, 14 January in Aberaeron and 18 January in Lampeter.

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Scrub removal at Pembrey to improve dunes for biodiversity

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If scrub growth is not controlled, it will cause species like lizards, orchids and dune pansies to suffer and disappear from our sand dunes.

SCRUB provides a splash of greenery in our sandy spaces, but too much scrub smothers the sand dunes and has a devastating effect on the specialist plants and invertebrates which live there. 

This winter Natural Resources Wales will be removing non-native, invasive plant species from areas of dune at Pembrey to help wildlife thrive.

The coast around Pembrey is home to 20% of all the plants in Wales and features a large sand dune system. Sand dunes are listed as the habitat type most at risk of biodiversity loss in Europe.

The Dynamic Dunescapes project, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and delivered in Wales by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), is working at Pembrey with Carmarthenshire County Council’s Outdoor Recreation Service to improve the condition of these dunes for wildlife.

Some non-native plant species, like the dense scrub plant sea buckthorn, are invasive and they are growing quickly in this dune system – spreading further across large areas of dune each year. 

Many of the dunes’ rare and specialist wildlife needs bare sand or low grassland habitat to survive and gets lost under or outcompeted by scrub. 

If scrub growth is not controlled, it will cause species like lizards, orchids and dune pansies to suffer and disappear from our sand dunes.

Scrub removal in specifically chosen locations will help to restore the habitat types that these species need, and this work will play a part in ensuring the dunes at Pembrey have a healthy, biodiverse future. 

Improving the ecological condition here will increase this coastal landscape’s resilience to other threats, such as extreme weather events and changing conditions brought on by climate change in the future.

The first phase of this work is to take place in Pembrey Country Park around Car Park 8 and the second will take place on the foredunes in front of the Welsh Government Woodland Estate which is managed by NRW. 

It is scheduled to begin in the last week of November and will last for two weeks. There will be a temporary closure of Factory Road outside the Country Park for one week – reopening on 5th December.

Ruth Harding, Senior Environment Officer at Natural Resources Wales, said:

“Sea Buckthorn control is important to improve the dune grassland habitats at Pembrey. Carmarthenshire County Council and Natural Resources Wales have carried out this type of habitat management over a number of years which has resulted in restoring the area to a dune grassland rich with different species of plants. 

You can best enjoy this during the summer months within the Pembrey Burrows and Saltings Local Nature Reserve. As part of Dynamic Dunescapes, we are now continuing this work, which will result in an overall increase in dune grassland habitat.”

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for leisure, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said:

“Whilst scrub is a valuable habitat it does need management to maintain it in good condition for wildlife. Cutting back the scrub will ensure it does not spread into areas where it is not wanted and or where it can destroy other habitat.”

Dynamic Dunescapes is not the only project working to restore Pembrey’s important sand dunes. The EU LIFE-funded Sands of LIFE project, managed by (NRW), has also been undertaking sand dune management to improve conditions for wildlife in recent years. The two projects work closely to build on and support each other’s work.

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Community

Demolition of 4 Tys begins in Tyisha, Llanelli

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Four Tys

WORK to demolish the Four Tys housing blocks in Tyisha, Llanelli has started, marking the next exciting step in Carmarthenshire County Council’s plans to Transform the area. 

The demolition work is set to be completed by civil engineering contractor Walters over the next 20 weeks and will enable the build of modern, mixed-use housing which meets the needs of the community.

Improvements to existing homes and the creation of community facilities and green spaces will also form part of changes on the horizon for Tyisha. 

Cllr Linda Davies Evans, chair of the Transforming Tyisha steering group and cabinet member for housing said: “The demolition of the Four Tys marks an important step in the Transforming Tyisha project. Although this process will evoke powerful memories for many of the people who have lived and worked in Tyisha since the Four Tys were built in the 1960s, their demolition will enable us to provide the housing and facilities that the community needs.

Local residents and businesses who may be impacted by the demolition process will be contacted throughout to ensure minimum disruption.”

This forms a part of the council’s ambitious plans to regenerate the Tyisha ward and the wider Llanelli town centre area which is undergoing massive investment.

The council is also seeking a partner to develop new housing and create a vibrant community. An early market engagement exercise is currently live which gives potential partners the opportunity to express their interest in working with the council to transform the area.

Fresh and innovative ideas for this exciting project can be submitted to the council until December 7.

For more information on the early market engagement process or the council’s Transforming Tyisha regeneration project please visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/tyisha

The demolition of the ‘Four Tys’ forms part of the council’s ambitious Transforming Tyisha project which looks to regenerate the area through increasing community safety, developing housing and community facilities and improving the environment.

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