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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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New international travel rules for Wales confirmed by First Minister

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International travel will restart for people in Wales from Monday 17 May, the Welsh Government has confirmed today.

As part of changes to Wales’ coronavirus regulations, people living in Wales will be able to travel to some overseas destinations without the need to quarantine on their return.

But additional safeguards will be put in place to help prevent new cases of coronavirus being imported into Wales.

A traffic lights system, aligned with England and Scotland, will be introduced. Countries will be classified as green, amber and red, depending on their rates of coronavirus.

Mandatory quarantine is in place for all people returning to the UK from countries on the amber and red lists. All people returning from overseas travel must have a PCR test.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

 “Wales, like other parts of the UK, will be restarting international travel. But protecting people’s health continues to be our top priority and we want to do everything we can to prevent coronavirus from being re-imported into Wales.

 “This will not be like travel in the past. Everyone travelling abroad will have to have a test when they come home and for many people, they will need to quarantine when they get home. There are significant fines in place for those who do not follow the legal requirements.

“Some countries are not yet opening up travel to people from the UK. It’s my strong advice that this is the year to stay at home and enjoy all that Wales has to offer.”

Under the international travel rules:

• People arriving from green-list countries are not required to quarantine on their return to Wales, but they must book and pay for a mandatory PCR test on or before day two of their return. All travellers and members of their household will also be reminded about the availability of additional lateral flow tests to continue to monitor their health.

• People arriving from amber-list countries are required to quarantine for 10 days at home on their return. This is a legal requirement. They are also required to book and pay for mandatory PCR tests on day two and on day eight. Unlike in England, Wales does not operate a test-to-release scheme where an additional test can be taken on day five to reduce the period of quarantine. This is because some 30% of people who develop Covid-19 do so after day five.

• People arriving from countries on the red list are required to quarantine for a full 10 days on arrival in the UK at a designated UK port in a government-managed facility – a ‘covid hotel’ – at their own cost, starting from £1,750 per person. All UK entry points for arrivals from red-list countries are in England and Scotland, which means Welsh residents returning from those countries will need to quarantine outside Wales. Travellers are also required to book and pay for mandatory PCR tests on day two and day eight.

All those who do not follow the rules for red-list countries face fixed notice penalties of £10,000.

Welsh residents must also consult the requirements for visitors for any country they plan to travel to. Restrictions may be in place, including proof of vaccination, tests, quarantine and reasons for entry.

Vaccination status certificates will be available for people in Wales who have had two doses of their vaccination and need to urgently travel to a country that requires covid vaccination proof from Monday 24 May.

The First Minister added:

“We call on people to think about whether they need to travel overseas at this time. We should be cautious about going abroad in light of the ongoing risk of coronavirus and the presence of variants of concern in many countries.

“My clear message to everyone is make Wales your destination of choice this year.”

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Main contractor sought for Llanelli’s multi-million-pound Pentre Awel

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A MAIN contractor is being sought to start work on Llanelli’s multi-million-pound Pentre Awel.

Carmarthenshire County Council has gone out to tender to appoint a contractor for zone one of the landmark project which will bring together life science innovation, community healthcare and modern leisure facilities all at one location along the Llanelli coastline.

The scheme is the highest valued tendering opportunity the council has ever published and demonstrates its commitment to the project.

As a major capital project, the contractor will be appointed via the South West Wales Regional Contractors Framework.  

Significant emphasis has been given to community benefits including recruitment and training, supporting the supply chain and wider community and educational initiatives.

Zone one of the ambitious scheme – anticipated for full completion by the beginning of 2024 – aims to bring together education, business, research, leisure and health in a single building which will be linked together in a ‘street’ layout and connected by a central atrium comprising a reception, café and other public amenities.

The new leisure centre will have state-of-the-art sports and fitness facilities including a 25-metre eight-lane swimming pool, new top-of-the-range gym, eight-court sports hall and an adventure play area.

The plans also include incubation and acceleration spaces for that will help research businesses develop innovative healthcare technology, and a clinical research and delivery centre focusing on community level clinical trials, and providing multi-disciplinary care closer to home for a wide range of community-facing services.

A proposed well-being skills centre will provide health and care training, with courses ranging from entry level through to postgraduate, placing students in a clinical setting and focusing on areas where there is a skill shortage.

Council Leader Emlyn Dole said: “This is the first step in an extensive procurement exercise for Pentre Awel and I am delighted that after years of planning we are now in a position to deliver this exciting development which will bring huge benefits to the people of Llanelli and Carmarthenshire.

“Both UK and Welsh Government have recently approved the business case which means we can now start to draw down the £40million Swansea Bay City Deal funding to help with its delivery.

“Pentre Awel is the first development of its scope and size in Wales, it will bring a wide range of employment and training opportunities for local people while considerably boosting the local economy.

“This could not have come at a better time as we begin our economic recovery from COVID-19.”

Set within an 83-acre site at Delta Lakes, Pentre Awel is being delivered by Carmarthenshire County Council in partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board, Universities and Colleges including Coleg Sir Gar, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Cardiff University and Swansea University.

The plans for Pentre Awel also include assisted living accommodation to meet a wide range of care needs, a hotel, and elements of both open market and social and affordable housing which will be delivered in zones two, three and four. Landscaped outdoor public spaces for recreation with walking and cycling paths will benefit from spectacular views across the Loughor Estuary and Carmarthen Bay.

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Have your say in Sandy Road traffic flow consultation

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A PUBLIC consultation is being held to allow feedback on options for improving traffic flow along Llanelli’s Sandy Road.

Carmarthenshire County Council, working with transport engineers at Atkins, is opening a three-week consultation allowing anyone with an interest in the traffic along the A484 to have their say.

The consultation follows several investigations and topographical surveys which has led to some proposals being developed.

Residents in the immediate vicinity of proposed schemes have been invited to a presentation allowing them to speak to the project team before the public consultation opens online on Tuesday May 18.

The consultation seeks to find out how people travel through Sandy Road and how people feel about the improvement proposals.

Feedback will be reported to the council’s Executive Board before any decisions are made.

Cllr Hazel Evans, the council’s Executive Board Member for Environment, said: “We have been looking at options for traffic improvement in this area and I’m pleased we are bringing forward this consultation which will allow us to gather people’s views on the proposals put forward by our transport engineers. I’d encourage anyone who lives in the area or who uses the road to have their say.”

For further information, and to provide feedback, visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/consultations from Tuesday May 18.

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