Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Thought for the Day: should mindfulness be taught in schools?

The long summer holidays are almost over and school is back just next week. How many children listen to Thought for the Day on the Radio 4 Today programme at 7.50am as they pull on school uniforms and pack sports kits and musical instruments at the start of a new school day? I’m guessing probably not that many… But they miss out on some good stuff about them!

Last Thursday I was in my kitchen piling fresh sandwiches into my lunch box as Vishvapani Blomfield read his latest Thought for the Day. I was stopped midway between slicing camembert and beefsteak tomatoes by some very thought-provoking words. Vishvapani is a Buddhist writer and mindfulness teacher based in Cardiff. According to his Wise Attention website his work explores how “time-honoured Buddhist practices such as mindfulness and meditation can be accessible forces for social change in the modern world”.

My rhubarb yoghurt hit the lunch box. And Vishvapani was on to the recently published The Good Childhood Report – research carried out over the past decade by The Children’s Society. This indicates that when it comes to reported wellbeing British children languish in a table of 15 countries at number 14, below Algeria and Ethiopia.

Vishvapani continued: “It's sad news; and we know from elsewhere that mental health difficulties are rising sharply among young people. Bullying is a particular problem and English girls are especially prone to feeling bad about their appearance and confidence. But why is this happening?”

“Various causes are proposed — our exam-focused education system, the influence of advertising and social media and so on. A common thread is that they encourage us to compare ourselves to other people or an idealised view of how things should be — how we should look, what we should achieve or the perfect existence we ought to be having. Psychologists call this 'the discrepancy monitor'.”

When looking at children aged 14 – 15, the researchers carried out an interesting exercise by analysing “the most commonly occurring words in children’s responses, which included ‘friends’, ‘family’, ‘bullying’, ‘parents’, ‘school’, ‘drugs’, ‘home’, ‘fun’, ‘education’ and ‘money’". Bullying is number three in the list.

Clare Foster wrote about the “discrepancy monitor” on the Everyday Mindfulness website, in her piece Social Media, Mental Health & Mindfulness. Elsewhere extensive research has been done over the past decade looking into why “people suffering from depression often believe themselves to be falling short of their own or other’s goals or expectations.”

Vishvapani’s Thought continued. He went on to suggest that rather than constantly comparing themselves with others, young people could focus on the present moment, using a technique used in many mindfulness approaches. “Pausing and accessing a sense of calm can create the space for a young person to start letting go of the anxious belief that they're fat or ugly, or don't fit in.”

Many of the researchers reach the same conclusions, that “people who engage in prolonged periods of meditation practice report that it profoundly alters their concepts and experiences of self”. So what is happening in schools? Are children able to engage in mindfulness? 

The Mindfulness in Schools Project is a non-profit organisation whose aim is to encourage, support and research the teaching of secular mindfulness in schools. Teachers who practise mindfulness themselves can sign up to a 3 day course to teach “Paws b” – a mindfulness course for 7 – 11 year olds.

The Mindfulness Foundation promotes the Mindfulness in Schools Campaign and wants to make mindfulness available to all UK school children. It’s strapline is: "Mindfulness in Schools - as important as sport and as politically relevant as health."

And last month a large-scale trial was launched by the Wellcome Trust to assess the effectiveness of teaching mindfulness in UK schools. It will involve 76 schools and up to 6,000 students aged 11 – 14 “to establish whether and how mindfulness improves the mental resilience of teenagers, and an evaluation of the most effective way to train teachers to deliver mindfulness classes to students”.

It sounds like a good start. What do you think? Should all children receive teaching in mindfulness, and would that help address the so-called “discrepancy monitor”? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.

And, by the way, there is mindfulness training for adults coming up here in Powys very soon. Mid Powys Mind is offering a new Autumn 2015 mindfulness course, with teacher Jo Mussen, at Crossgates near Llandrindod Wells. Tuesdays 10.30am – 1pm, orientation session 15 September, course 29 September – 24 November.

Finally, the Centre for Mindfulness Research & Practice – holds its All Wales Mindfulness Practitioners’ Network Day on 3rd September 2015 at Bangor University. It is the second event to bring mindfulness practitioners, teachers and trainers working across Wales together. So, as the new school term in Powys starts, Sarah Silverton, of the Mindfulness in Schools Project, will talking about Mindfulness Education.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Diwrnod yn Eisteddfod 2015 Our day at the Eisteddfod 2015

Ar 5ed Awst bu ein tîm yn helpu ar stondin PAVO a Chyngor Gweithredu Gwirfoddol Cymru (WCVA) ar y cyd yn Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru. Cynhaliwyd yr eisteddfod eleni ar gaeau Mathrafal ger pentref Meifod yng Ngogledd Powys. I’r rhai hynny ohonoch sydd heb ymweld â’r Ŵyl, gweler isod disgrifiad ohoni:

On 5 August our team helped staff the joint PAVO and Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) stand at the National Eisteddfod of Wales which this year was hosted by the village of Meifod in North Powys. For readers who have yet to visit the annual Eisteddfod Festival, it is described as:

“Uchafbwynt calendr diwylliannol Cymru, sy’n teithio o le i le, sy’n ymweld â’r Gogledd a’r De bob yn ail, a thrwy hynny’n rhoi cyfle i gymunedau ar draws y wlad groesawu hyd at 160,000 o ymwelwyr dros gyfnod o wyth niwrnod.”

“The pinnacle of the Welsh cultural calendar, it travels from place to place, alternating between north and south Wales, giving communities across the country a chance to welcome up to 160,000 visitors over an eight day period.”

Chwith i dde: Freda Lacey (PAVO), Gill Colerick (Hafal), Glynis Luke a Lisa Banfield (PAVO).
L - R Freda Lacey (PAVO), Gill Colerick (Hafal), Glynis Luke & Lisa Banfield (PAVO).
Prif nod yr Eisteddfod yw hybu’r Gymraeg a diwylliant Cymru. Y diwrnod roedden ni yn yr Eisteddfod, roeddem yn ffodus i gael cymorth Lisa Banfield - mae hi’n gweithio yn yr Adran Gyllid, ac mae hi wrthi’n dysgu Cymraeg. Wrth gyrraedd y safle lle cynhelir yr Eisteddfod byddwch yn mynd i’r Maes - ac yma y ceir gwledd o bebyll amrywiol a stondinau sy’n llawn gweithgareddau, gan gynnwys y Pafiliwn Pinc hynod enwog. Edrychwch ar rai o’r lluniau gwych o’r Eisteddfod ar wefan yr Ŵyl, fydd yn rhoi blas i chi o’r hyn sy’n digwydd yno.

The Eisteddfod’s main aim is to promote the Welsh language and Welsh culture. Luckily our English-speaking team had the support of Lisa Banfield on the day we attended – she works in our Finance Department and is a keen Welsh learner. When you arrive at the valley where the Eisteddfod is hosted you find the Maes – which means “field” in Welsh and is where visitors are drawn to explore numerous marquees and stalls packed with activities, including the Eisteddfod’s iconic pink pavilion. Do check out some brilliant photographs on the Eisteddfod’s own website which give more than a flavour of the festival.

Penderfynodd PAVO gael themâu ar gyfer dyddiau gwahanol yr Eisteddfod ac estynnwyd croeso i grwpiau gwirfoddol eraill ar draws y sir i ymuno â ni er mwyn hyrwyddo eu gweithgareddau i gynulleidfa ehangach. 5 Awst oedd y Diwrnod Iechyd a Llesiant a chawsom gwmni Cymdeithas Ponthafren, Hafal, Ymddiriedolaeth Bracken a’r Gronfa Loteri Fawr.

At PAVO we decided to theme our days at the Eisteddfod and we invited other voluntary groups from around the county to join us and promote their activities to a wider audience. 5 August was our Health & Wellbeing Day, and we welcomed Ponthafren Association, Hafal, The Bracken Trust and the Big Lottery Fund Wales.

Jan Rogers, (Ymddiriedolwr – Cymdeithas Ponthafren), Rhian Davies (Prosiect YAPS, Cymdeithas Ponthafren)
Jan Rogers, (Trustee - Ponthafren Association), Rhian Davies (YAPS project, Ponthafren Association)
Roedd cyfle i ymwelwyr ymuno ag un o ymddiriedolwyr Cymdeithas Ponthafren, Jan Rogers, a chynrychiolydd y grŵp cysylltiadau cyhoeddus, Ken Davies, i greu clychau gwynt o gyllyll, ffyrc, llwyau, gemwaith a broc wedi’u hailgylchu. Yn ogystal, roeddynt yn dosbarthu gwybodaeth am y gwasanaethau amrywiol a gwerthfawr a gynigir gan yr elusen hon sy’n gweithio ym maes iechyd meddwl yng ngogledd Powys yng nghwmni Rhian Davies, sy’n gweithio ar y Prosiect Cymorth Cyfoedion Oedolion Ifanc ym Mhonthafren.

Visitors could join Ponthafren Association trustee Jan Rogers, and public relations group rep Ken Davies, to make wind chimes from recycled knives, forks, spoons, jewellery and driftwood. They and colleague Rhian Davies, who works for the Young Adult Peer Support Project at Ponthafren, also provided information about the varied and much valued services provided by this mental health charity in North Powys.

Daeth Gill Colerick, Swyddog Cefnogi Teuluoedd Powys gyda Hafal yr elusen iechyd meddwl i’r maes hefyd, ar ôl treulio Wythnos yn Sioe Frenhinol Cymru lle bu’n cefnogi’r Ymgyrch ‘ Gyda’n Gilydd Nawr!’. Mae’r ymgyrch yn teithio ar hyd a lled Cymru yn ystod yr Haf eleni, i fynd i’r afael â gwarthnod a phroblemau iechyd meddwl trwy gerddoriaeth.

Gill Colerick, Powys Family Support Officer with the mental health charity Hafal, was straight from her week at the Royal Welsh show where she joined the All Together Now! Campaign. This is travelling the length and breadth of Wales this summer, tackling stigma and mental health issues through the power of music. 

Ac ar stondin Ymddiriedolaeth Bracken roedd y nyrs Helen Davies yn rhoi profion pwysedd gwaed am ddim - profiad gwerth chweil yn yr Eisteddfod oedd mor hamddenol ei natur. Mae Ymddiriedolaeth Bracken, a leolir yn Llandrindod, yn cefnogi pobl yng Nghanolbarth Cymru i “fyw gyda, trwy a thu hwnt i ganser trwy ddod â chymorth proffesiynol a chymunedau cymorth at ei gilydd a thrwy greu canolfan eithriadol i gynnig gofal canser.”

And at The Bracken Trust stand nurse Helen Davies was providing free blood pressure tests – well worth doing in the relaxing atmosphere of the Eisteddfod. The Bracken Trust, based in Llandrindod Wells, supports people in Mid Wales “to live with, through and beyond cancer by bringing together professional help, communities of support and creating an exceptional centre for cancer care.” 

Daeth aelodau tîm Cyfathrebu’r Gronfa Loteri Fawr atom am y diwrnod hefyd. Ar hyn o bryd, maen nhw’n datblygu rhaglen cyllid newydd ar gyfer cefn gwlad, ac roeddynt yn awyddus i glywed barn y bobl.

The Big Lottery Fund Wales’s Communication team also joined us for the day. They are currently developing a new rural funding programme and were keen to hear people’s views.
Rosie Dent, Swyddog Cysylltiadau’r Gronfa Loteri Fawr yn gosod ei rhuban cochRosie Dent, Communications Officer at Big Lottery Fund Wales, pins her red volunteering ribbon
Roedd nifer o ymwelwyr â stondin PAVO yn awyddus iawn i ddysgu mwy am gyfleoedd gwirfoddoli o fewn y sir. Ac ar ôl cael sgwrs, bydden ni’n gofyn iddyn nhw osod rhuban ar ein map o’r DG i ddangos eu statws gwirfoddoli presennol - coch: rwyf eisoes yn gwirfoddoli; gwyrdd: buaswn yn hoffi gwirfoddoli; a gwyn: hwyrach y byddaf eisiau gwirfoddoli yn y dyfodol. Erbyn canol yr wythnos roedd Powys yn goch i gyd - arwydd fach o lwyddiant go iawn - mae pobl yn gwirfoddoli ar hyd a lled y sir yn barod!

Visitors to the PAVO stand were particularly interested to find out more about volunteering opportunities in Powys. And once we’d had a chat we asked some of them to pin a ribbon on our map of the UK to flag up their current volunteering status – red: I am already volunteering, green: I would like to volunteer, and white: I may wish to in the future. By the middle of the week Powys was already ablaze with red ribbons - a small symbol of a genuine success story – people really are volunteering like mad!

Ken Davies, un o wirfoddolwyr Grŵp CC Cymdeithas Ponthafren, gyda Choeden Ceiniogau Powys
Ken Davies, volunteer with PR Group at Ponthafren Association, with the Powys Pennies Tree
Buon ni hefyd yn hyrwyddo cynllun Ceiniogau Powys sy’n codi arian ar gyfer grwpiau cymunedol ac elusennau ar draws Powys trwy grynhau cyflog net staff i’r bunt agosaf, a’r ceiniogau dros ben yn mynd i’r cynllun. Ar hyn o bryd mae Cynllun Ceiniogau Powys ar agor i staff sy’n gweithio i PAVO a Chyngor Sir Powys, ond mae’n bosib y caiff ei ehangu yn y dyfodol. Caiff y cyfraniadau a gesglir eu dosbarthu i gymunedau ym Mhowys trwy grantiau cymunedol. Yn ystod yr Eisteddfod cafodd ymwelwyr gyfle i “Gyfrannu at gynllun Ceiniogau Powys” trwy ddewis eu hoff ganwr opera - Catherine Jenkins neu Bryn Terfel - ar goeden Ceiniogau Powys!

We also promoted the Powys Pennies scheme which raises funds for community groups and charities in Powys by rounding down staff net pay to the nearest pound with the spare pennies being donated to the scheme. Powys Pennies is currently open to staff working for PAVO and Powys County Council but may well be extended in the future. Contributions raised from the scheme will be distributed to communities in Powys in the form of community grants. At the Eisteddfod visitors had the opportunity to “Grow the Powys Pennies scheme” by choosing their favourite opera singer – Catherine Jenkins or Bryn Terfel – on the Powys Pennies tree!

Jackie Newey (PAVO), Menna Reese (Bwrdd Iechyd addysgu Powys)
Jackie Newey (PAVO), Menna Reese (Powys teaching Health Board)
Yn ystod y dydd, cefais sgwrs gyda Menna Reese sydd wedi gweithio ar brosiectau amrywiol gyda thîm iechyd meddwl Bwrdd Iechyd addysgu Powys Yn ddiweddar mae hi wedi bod yn rhan o ddatblygu prosiect cyfrifiadurol Mastermind, ym maes Therapi Ymddygiad Gwybyddol, ’yn ystod yr haf y llynedd bu Menna a’i chydweithwyr yn ysgrifennu am y prosiect hwn. Dywedodd Menna fod dros 100 o bobl ym Mhowys wedi cofrestru bellach ar-lein ar gyfer Therapi Beating the Blues Mae wedi addo diweddariad manwl ar gyfer y blog yma - felly gwyliwch allan amdano!

During the day I caught up with Menna Reese who has worked with Powys teaching Health Board’s mental health team on various projects. Of late she has been much involved in the development of the Mastermind computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy project, which she and her colleagues originally wrote about last summer. Menna told me that over 100 people in Powys had now signed up to the online Beating the Blues therapy. She has promised a more detailed update for this blog – so watch this space!

Lesley Griffiths (canol) y Gweinidog dros Gymunedau a Threchu Tlodi yn lansio Polisi Gwirfoddoli Llywodraeth Cymru
Lesley Griffiths (centre) Minister for Communities & Tackling Poverty, launched the Welsh Government Volunteer Policy
Lansiwyd nifer o brosiectau a chynlluniau pwysig ar stondin PAVO-WCVA yn ystod yr wythnos hefyd. Yn ystod y dydd buom yn gwylio dwy araith bwysig gan Weinidogion Llywodraeth Cymru.

Our PAVO-WCVA stand was also the venue for several important project launches and initiatives over the course of the week. During our day we watched two key speeches from Welsh Government Ministers and their chosen guest speakers. Most of the speeches were made in Welsh, but translation facilities were available for anyone who required them.

Lesley Griffiths, Gweinidog Llywodraeth Cymru dros Gymunedau a Threchu Tlodi, oedd yn lansio Polisi Gwirfoddoli newydd LlC, gyda’r is-bennawd: “Rydym yn cydnabod cyfraniad enfawr y Trydydd Sector i fywyd yng Nghymru”. Bu Elan, gwirfoddolwr ifanc, yn trafod ei phrofiad fel hyfforddwr chwaraeon gyda’r Urdd, ac wedyn bu Carwyn yn trafod ei rôl fel gwirfoddolwr gyda Pride Gogledd Cymru.

Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Government Minister for Communities & Tackling Poverty, launched the new Welsh Government Volunteer Policy, with the strapline: “We recognise the huge contribution made by the Third Sector to life in Wales”. Young volunteer Elan talked about her experience as an Urdd sports coach, whilst Carwyn from North Wales Pride spoke about his volunteering role.

Mark Drakeford, Gweinidog Llywodraeth Cymru dros Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol fu’n rhoi anerchiad blynyddol ar Blant yng Nghymru
Mark Drakeford, Welsh Government Minister for Health & Social Services, made the annual Children in Wales speech
Yn ddiweddarach y prynhawn, rhoddodd Mark Drakeford, Gweinidog Llywodraeth Cymru dros Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol, ddarlith flynyddol ar destun Plant yng Nghymru a’i ddewis destun oedd plant mewn gofal, ac wedyn, atebodd cwestiynau gan y gynulleidfa.

Later in the afternoon
Mark Drakeford, Welsh Government Minister for Health & Social Services, gave the annual Children in Wales lecture on his chosen topic of looked after children, followed by questions from the audience.

Glynis Luke (PAVO) gyda chyfaill o Sefydliad Prydeinig y Galon
Glynis Luke (PAVO) with friend from the British Heart Foundation

Roedd yn ddiwrnod prysur iawn, gyda llawer o ddigwyddiadau, ac fel y dywedodd pawb y buom yn sgwrsio gyda nhw, roedd awyrgylch yr Eisteddfod yn hynod gyfeillgar o ystyried maint yr ŵyl.

All in all it was a very full day, with lots happening, and, as everyone we met commented, one of the friendliest atmospheres we have come across at a large event or festival like this.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Freda Lacey on her new role in the Health and Social Care (H&SC) team, PAVO

Handing over the role - Senior Officer Health & Social Care
L - R: Trish Buchan (now on Powys Teaching Health Board), Freda Lacey (new in post)
One of my Health and Social Care team colleagues recently said to me that I should introduce myself to the Sector and tell people who I am. Because I’ve worked for PAVO in the Mental Health team for several years, I’ve assumed people know who I am. However, I recently met and had a very good conversation with the manager of the Brecon Volunteer Bureau who hadn’t heard of me before, so, I thought it probably was time to make myself more widely known.

The role

I have been recruited to fill the vacancy of Senior Officer Health & Social Care, as left by Trish Buchan who is now the Third Sector Organisation rep on the Powys teaching Health Board. At the time I started the nature of the role needed to shift to respond to current changes within procurement and commissioning, both in terms of the national context with new European Union guidelines, and locally, as more joint commissioning initiatives between the Health Board and Local Authority are developed.

I’m in the 7th week of being “inducted” into my new role and, in many ways, I feel familiar and comfortable with the direction of travel. I’ve been reflecting on the changes I’m witnessing and while the nature of the work is somewhat different to what I had been doing within my previous role in Mental Health, this new work also relies on a foundation of forming good relationships and engendering open, timely communication between the Sector and our colleagues within the Health Board and Local Authority.

My role can be broken down into several key activities:

  • To help broker possibilities for collaboration within the commissioning process.
  • To act as a conduit for timely information and response.
  • To offer general and focused support to organisations and networks responding to business development opportunities.
  • To represent the third sector on strategic management boards with Health Board and Local Authority colleagues.
Ultimately I am there to help ensure that voluntary organisations involved in Health and Social Care are engaged and equipped with what they need to respond quickly to changing needs within public services.

This is me 

So who am I personally? I’m drawn to use a process/initiative which forms part of caring for people who have been diagnosed with a dementia to help me tell you who I am. Publicised by Alzheimer’s Society, their “This is me” activity provides the tools for telling the key parts of someone’s life story. I’ve found the process very fruitful as an exercise in self-reflection and hope that it gives you a flavour of who I am - you can read it here

L - R: Freda Lacey, Claire Powell, Anne Clark, Ruth Middleton - Health & Social Care team

Who are we as a team and what are we about?

Pete Lathbury is the Head of Third Sector Support and as such helps give our team direction.

There are four of us (two part-time and two full time) in the Health and Social Care team. Myself, two third Sector Brokers – Anne Clark and Claire Powell, and Ruth Middleton who helps collate and provide vital information to the Sector on Health and Social Care news and manages our network events.

In reflecting on my first seven weeks’ highlights:

  • I have helped plan and deliver a recent Health and Social Care Network event.
  • Attended a Virtual Ward meeting in the North in addition to engaging with the Third Sector Brokers as they attend others that are being developed or rolling out rapidly.
  • Helped facilitate two Sector meetings with colleagues providing Carers’ Services that are being recommissioned by the Council.
  • Initiated 10 meetings with Sector, Local Authority and Health Board key influencers.
  • Met with the Local Authority commissioner and Disability Powys relating to the Physical Disability and Sensory Loss (PDSL) commissioning engagement strategy.
  • Met and discussed service level agreements with three Health and Social Care third sector organisations delivering services for older people.
  • Attended a scoping workshop with the Health Board looking at their Strategy for Consultation and Engagement.

Freda updates attendees at the recent Health & Social Care Network event

To say my first seven weeks have been eventful would be an understatement and yet, I am finding the work very varied, interesting and exciting. I am also endeavouring to be mindful of my capacity, that of the team and balancing priorities.

The process of change, in having to respond to the Council and Health Board’s challenges about reducing costs, the needs of the citizens of Powys, and the current landscape of shifting more public services into and onto the community, are all driving the strategic public agenda forward at a rapid rate of acceleration.

While there are always opportunities in transforming services, there are also threats to the ways things have currently been and expected to be (sometimes for years) and the levels of discomfort and fear that rapid change engenders cannot be under estimated.

One of the important parts of my role, and the team’s going forward, is to ensure that we provide timely communication about what is happening, provide a forum for sharing information, and ensure that the Sector can jointly collaborate within local, strategic service planning and delivery.

I am very much looking forward to getting to know Health and Social Care colleagues in more depth and gaining greater understanding of the pressures being faced. I welcome open contact, communication and feedback.

So do get in touch by emailing or calling 01597 822191.