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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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Public Services Board seeks views to improve local well-being

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CARMARTHENSHIRE’S Public Services Board (PSB) is seeking residents’ views to find out what matters to them and their local communities.

The PSB has developed its Well-being Objectives and draft actions to deliver them, based on feedback received on its Well-being Assessment. The results of a survey at that time gathered views and helped shape the PSB’s understanding of the economic, social, environmental, and cultural factors that impact the well-being of individuals and communities within Carmarthenshire.

Once again, residents are being asked to contribute to help public service partners develop Carmarthenshire’s Local Well-being Plan for 2023-28.

To help shape the future of well-being please visit: Current Consultations (gov.wales)

The survey closes on 25 January 2023.

Cllr Darren Price, Chair of the Carmarthenshire PSB and Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “To deliver what is important to our communities, we need to their feedback and input. This survey is an opportunity for our residents to tell us if we, as public services, are on the right track to help create a better future for our children’s generation, and the generations to follow, as we strive to reach this goal.” 

Andrew Cornish, Vice-Chair of the PSB andChief Executive Officer / Principal of Coleg Sir Gar and Coleg Ceredigion said: “Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our work so far. Our Well-being Assessment gives us a strong foundation on which to build our Well-being Plan and I would like to encourage everyone to take part in our involvement work for the preparation of the Plan.”

Carmarthenshire’s Public Services Board is a partnership of public and third sector organisations working together to improve well-being across the county and includes Carmarthenshire County Council, Hywel Dda University Health Board, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Natural Resources Wales and other organisations.

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Llanelli prepares for Sunday’s Remembrance Day parade

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LATER TODAY (Sunday, November 13) the town will honour those who have fallen in service over the decades.

A number of roads will be closed on the day, including Murray Street, Church Street and Vauxhall Road from its junction with the mini roundabout.

These will be shut for the parade between 8.30am and noon, however, pedestrian access for those wishing to reach individual properties in those streets will be maintained where possible throughout the duration of the closure.

Traffic will be diverted to Robinson Street, Arthur Street, Columbia Row, Anne Street, Bigyn Road, Stepney Place, Water Street, Thomas Street and Gelli Onn.

At 10am, police, organisations and others not marching in the parade will take up their respective positions in front of the cenotaph in the town hall grounds, while the civic party will assemble inside Llanelli Town Hall.

At 10.15am the parade leaves Drill Hall for the town hall with the mayor Cllr Philip Warlow proceeding to the Boer War Memorial where he will lay a wreath.

When the parade arrives at the town hall, the civic party will proceed to the cenotaph where the Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed Sara Edwards, will lay a wreath.

This will be followed by the chair of Carmarthenshire Council Cllr Rob Evans, laying a wreath on the Royal Welch War Memorial and then on the town’s cenotaph.

More wreaths will be laid by dignitaries and politicians and ex-servicemen and women A two-minute silence will then be observed at 11am.

Any service groups or individuals who wish to lay a wreath on Remembrance Sunday can contact Paul Wickers via email at llanlva2009@aol.com.

While community organisations are to contact Llanelli Town Council at enquiries@llanellitowncouncil.gov.uk.

Contact should be made by Monday, October 31 at the very latest to confirm arrangements as no additional wreaths will be able to be accommodated on the day.

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Community

Llanelli choir launches fundraising naked calendar

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MEMBERS of a Llanelli female choir have bared all to raise money for the town’s Ty Bryngwyn Hospice.  

Côr Curiad has created a cheeky fundraising calendar for 2023 – the second one they have done.

With around 50 members, photos were taken across Llanelli with strategically placed items to spare their blushes – all in the name of a good cause.

Llanelli photographer Graham Harries was behind the lens for the project.

The choir’s musical director Alex Esney, who is Miss December in the calendar said: “Local businesses sponsored the calendar and so many of the photos were taken at their premises.

“So for example we went to LTC Mobility Ltd and had scooters carefully positioned in front of us, it was a lot of fun.

“I also want to thank Ffwrnes Theatre for opening up especially for me to go and have my photo taken with the piano there.”

Alex said the aim is to raise as much as possible for the hospice, adding: “We did a calendar a few years ago but we now have more members so we thought it was time to do it all again.

“The ladies decided to ‘bare all’ to raise money for the hospice which provides such great care and support for families in their time of need, including two of our own.

“I think we pulled out all the stops this year, getting their clothes off at local businesses in and around Llanelli.”

One of the calendar photos (Images: Graham Harries Photography)
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