Thursday, 12 October 2017

Welcoming Syrian families to start new lives in North Powys

Megan Bowler (second from the left) is a Family Support Worker at Ethnic Youth Support Team and has played a key role in resettling refugee Syrian families in Newtown, North Powys with her colleague Hamed Hassoun.

Ethnic Youth Support Team was set up in 2005 by a group of ethnic minority young people in Swansea. It aimed to fill a gap in provision for young Black & Minority Ethnic people aged 11-25 by providing a “targeted, culturally sensitive and holistic support service to meet their needs.” It now has a team of 15 staff across Wales, mainly in the South.

I caught up with Megan at The Siawns Teg Hub in Newtown to find out more.

How did your involvement start?

A few years ago I was browsing the Powys County Council Facebook page and first found out that there was a plan to resettle Syrian refugees in the county. I followed it out of interest, and then soon later two jobs popped up on the Jobcentre Plus site. These were with EYST – the organisation had just moved into Mid Wales and received funding to supply Support Workers for Newtown. I applied for and got one of the jobs – which is completely different to what I had been doing. During my training in Swansea I met a fantastic team who do some fabulous work in South Wales.

Hamed joined me after starting initially as an Arabic translator. He has lived in Powys for 40 years but came from Palestine originally.

Megan and Hamed
Where did your interest in the project stem from?

I am myself of mixed race. My Dad is chairman of the Refugee Service in NE England, so I have a long-standing interest in resettlement. My Dad’s Mum was from India – she married an Englishman from London who was in the Royal Air Force. Unfortunately she experienced a lot of racial abuse in the 1950s. It was a tough time, and Nana experienced mental health issues as a result.

Tell us more about your role with EYST

The first two families travelled to Newtown in December 2016, and then four more over the early months of 2017. It is nice that their arrival was spread out as the initial resettlement time can be busy and difficult. Our first job is to meet the families at the airport when they touch down.

Our role then is to help them settle by working closely with Powys County Council who find the families homes. We assist them to stock up on food, to register with the GP and a dentist, and to contact the Benefits’ Office. The hardest thing for them to deal with is finding foodstuffs that are right for them as so few are sold in this area.

Luckily there is a small prayer room above one of the restaurants in Newtown that the men can use for prayers on a Friday. An Iman travels from Telford every week and also meets special requests for food which the families have!

Do the families require support around their emotional wellbeing?

Once they have arrived we let them rest and chill. They need to settle their feet as they are so tired when they first get here. We visit regularly in the first two weeks to make sure that they are OK. We don’t want them to feel lost.

It was harder with the first families as it was the first time for us. Subsequent families have benefitted from the first families’ own support system which is now in place.

The families may want to talk about their background or they may not. It is up to them. It has certainly been a long waiting game for them. They sometimes talk about feeling sad. We will listen and then after a short cry they will get over it.

If there is found to be a need we would seek further support. We are still in the honeymoon period where everything is new and exciting. Maybe in a year down the line things may change, but no one is requesting extra support yet. There is a sense they want to get on with their lives as they have been through the worst really.

How do families cope with language barriers?

English for Speakers of other languages (ESOL) courses have been set up for the families at St David’s House in Newtown. They attend three sessions a week. There are some really good speakers in the first couple of families now. The original six children are in primary and secondary school and are doing fantastically – they have settled in so well.

At Newtown Food Fair, September 2017

What support have the families received from the community?

People in Newtown have been really helpful and welcoming. They have offered friendship, they greet the family members on the street, and invite them in for tea. Shopkeepers have also assisted – offering help if people are confused or lost. There has not been a lot of tension, and certainly nothing confrontational.

I experienced a lot of racism when I was little so I am very wary of it. But it is totally different here. People are very open about the situation and willing to confront it more.

What is your ongoing role now the families are becoming settled?

They pop in and see me once a week. We have a lot of volunteers on a Friday here who run an English conversation session. It is also useful for me to provide a link between the school and the parents. And if anything ever goes wrong they can come back to us and we will help fix things. They know we’re here if they need us.

What’s the next step for the families?

The next level is to help support people into work. It is about giving them the confidence to make phone calls and go to appointments.

Are you working in partnership with other organisations?

Yes, several. These include PCC, schools and colleges, St David’s House for the ESOL courses, the charity Siawns Teg (this place is like a community centre for the families), and the police – who have made sure that the neighbourhoods are safe and also make themselves known to the families – there was an initial fear of the uniforms.

Sarah Leyland-Morgan at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations is the Third Sector Strategic Lead on the relocation of Syrian families into Powys. She has engaged with the local communities to provide active support to EYST and the families.

Henrietta Davies-Dunn at SOVA – increasing BME employment – in Machynlleth helps the families to get back into work by providing sessions on English language, writing CVs and finding voluntary work.

What are the challenges of your role?

Sometimes things don’t happen as quickly as the families would like and there is a level of frustration. As the link between the families and services we can feel a bit like middle men and get the blame for things.

Emotionally it can be difficult to hear the stories – I go home and think how would I cope with that? We have to be tough.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done so far with EYST?

The best thing is seeing the kids really progressing through the schools – seeing how well they’ve done and how hard they work to learn English.

The families did some cooking in a kitchen tent at the Food Fair in September. They were so full of enthusiasm because they wanted to give something back to the community. One of the women explained, in English, all about each dish. That really warmed my heart. It’s just so nice seeing them succeed and making their own friends. That’s very rewarding.

When you are not working for EYST, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I’m a mum. I have a 10 year old and a 3 year old. I’m also a jeweller and I make jewellery to sell. I enjoy doing art and jewellery workshops with kids. I’m definitely a maker!

Many thanks to Megan for telling us all about her work supporting resettlement of Syrian families in Newtown. If you want to find out more about the EYST project you can contact Megan by emailing

Thursday, 5 October 2017

5 Uchafbwynt digwyddiad Iechyd a Lles Machynlleth / Top 5 Highlights from Machynlleth Health & Wellbeing event

Helen Roberts, Cathy O'Dwyer a Sioned Jones Pritchard
Ddydd Llun es i draw i’r digwyddiad hwn yn Llyfrgell Machynlleth. Sioned Jones Pritchard, un o’m cydweithwyr yn y tîm Cysylltwyr Cymunedol gyda PAVO drefnodd y digwyddiad, ar y cyd gyda thîm Ymwelwyr Iechyd Bwrdd Iechyd Addysgu Powys.

Mae digwyddiadau fel hyn yn rhagorol i staff rwydweithio a darparu gwybodpaeth ar wasanaethau i’r cyhoedd sy’n ymweld â’r digwyddiad. Byddaf wastad yn dod o hyd i rywbeth newydd i rannu gydag eraill fel rhan o’r Gwasanaeth Gwybodaeth Iechyd Meddwl. Felly i’r rhai fethodd y cyfle i fynd i’r digwyddiad, dyma fy 5 uchafbwynt i o’r sesiwn.

On Monday I went along to this event at Machynlleth Library. It had been organised by Sioned Jones Pritchard, a PAVO colleague from the Community Connectors’ team, in conjunction with the health visiting team of Powys Teaching Health Board.

Events like these are great for staff networking and providing information about services to members of the visiting public. I always manage to find out something new to tell others about as part of our Mental Health Information Service. So, for those that didn’t get chance to go along on the day, I thought I would highlight five of my favourite “finds” from the session.

Eleri Lewis a Anita Schwartz
1. Gwasanaeth Awtistiaeth Integredig Newydd Powys (IAS) / New Integrated Autism Service (IAS) Powys

Gwasanaeth newydd yw hwn i bobl o bob oed yng ngofal y Gwasanaeth Iechyd a Gofal Cymdeithasol sydd â chysylltiadau cryf ag addysg. Bwrdd Iechyd Addysgu Powys yw’r bwrdd cyntaf trwy Gymru i gynnig y gwasanaeth hwn a gyllidir gan Lywodraeth Cymru “oherwydd dywedodd unigolion awtistig, eu rhieni a gofalwyr bod angen mwy o gefnogaeth arnynt”.

Bu Anita ac Eleri’n egluro y gall ceisiadau am gymorth ddod gan weithwyr proffesiynol yn ogystal ag unigolion awtistig neu eu teuluoedd a gofalwyr. Ymhlith enghreifftiau o wasanaethau a ddarperir mae: cymorth gyda phroblemau emosiynol, pryder a rheoli dicter, meithrin sgiliau cymdeithasol, grwpiau hamdden a chymdeithasol, cymorth a hyfforddiant i rieni/gofalwyr a datblygu sgiliau bywyd dyddiol.

Un pwynt mynediad sydd ar gyfer pob cais: rhif ffôn: 01874 712607 neu drwy ebostio:

This new all age service is jointly hosted by Health and Social Care with strong links to Education. Powys Teaching Health Board is the first in Wales to provide the service which is being funded by Welsh Government “because autistic individuals, parents and carers told us they needed more support”.

Anita and Eleri explained that requests for support can come from professionals and also individuals with autism or their families and carers. Examples of services which are being provided include: support with emotional issues, anxiety and anger management, social skills development, leisure and social groups, parent/carer support and training and daily living skills development.

There is a single point of access for all requests, tel: 01874 712607 or email:

Teresa Peel Jones
2. Siop gyntaf Credu – Cysylltu Gofalwyr yn agor / Credu Connecting Carers’ first shop opens

Teresa Peel Jones yw Rheolwr Datblygu’r Siop a’r Hyb gyda Credu a bu’n sôn am siop elusennol gyntaf y sefydliad a agorwyd yn 38 Heol Maengwyn, Machynlleth. “Nid siop yn unig yw, ond hyb cymunedol hefyd” meddai. Byddwn yn annog ymwelwyr i daro heibio am baned a sgwrs, i ymuno â’r gweithgareddau celf a chrefft ac i ddefnyddio’r ystafell gyfarfod sydd ar gael i’r gymuned. Hefyd cynigir cyfleoedd hyfforddiant a gwirfoddoli. Cynhelir sesiynau Paned Gofalwyr ar ddydd Iau cyntaf bob mis am 2 o’r gloch. Gellir dysgu mwy drwy ffonio 01654 703926 neu ebostio:

Dywedodd Teresa: “byddem yn hoffi gweld cymdogion ein cymunedau lleol yn ymgysylltu ac yn helpu ei gilydd. Yn ein barn ni, mae bod yn ofalwr ymroddedig yn gadael llawer gormod o bobl wedi blino’n lân, yn unig (yn ddiangen) a heb digon o gyfleoedd ar gyfer gweithgareddau hamdden ac i fynegi eu hunain. Rydym yn benderfynol o fynd i’r afael â hyn, ond gwyddom mai’r unig ffordd y gellir cyflawni hyn yw ar y cyd gyda gofalwyr a’u cymunedau.”

Teresa Peel Jones is the Retail and Hub Development Manager at Credu and told me all about the first of the organisation’s charity shops which opened in Machynlleth at 38 Heol Maengwyn. It’s described as: “not just a shop but a community hub”. Visitors are encouraged to pop in for a cuppa and a chat, join in arts and crafts workshop activities and use the community meeting room. There are also training and volunteering opportunities. The Cuppa for Carers’ meetings take place on the first Thursday of every month at 2pm. Find out more by ringing 01654 703926 or emailing:

Teresa said: “we’d like to see neighbours within our local communities engaging and helping each other. We believe that being a committed carer leaves far too many people exhausted, unnecessarily isolated, and without sufficient opportunities for essential recreation and self-expression. We are determined to address this, but know that this can only be achieved in association with carers and their communities.”

3. CAMAD – Swyddog Prosiect Llwybrau newydd yn cychwyn / CAMAD – new Pathways Project Officer starts

Croeso cynnes Miriam Davies sydd wedi cychwyn ar ei swydd newydd yn ddiweddar gyda CAMAD fel Swyddog Prosiect Llwybrau, i gefnogi pobl i ddod i wasanaeth taro heibio’r sefydliad i bobl sy’n byw gyda phroblemau iechyd meddwl yn ardal Machynlleth. Gweler cyflwyniad gan Jeremy Richards, y cydlynydd blaenorol ar brosiect Llwybrau yma.

Nid oedd Miriam yn gallu bod yn bresennol yn y digwyddiad yn Llyfrgell Machylleth oherwydd roedd ei sesiwn hi’n un pryd! Fodd bynnag, daeth un o’i chydweithwyr yn CAMAD, Holly Fairclough, draw yn ei lle hi. I ddysgu mwy am Brosiect Llwybrau, ffoniwch: 01654 700071 neu ebostiwch:

Welcome to Miriam Davies who started at CAMAD recently as the new Pathways Officer, supporting people to attend the organisation’s drop in service for anyone living with mental health issues in the Machynlleth area. Jeremy Richards, the previous co-ordinator, wrote about the Pathways Project originally here.

Miriam couldn’t make the event at Machylleth Library as the drop-in was open at the same time! However, her CAMAD colleague Holly Fairclough attended instead. To find out more about the Pathways Project ring: 01654 700071 or email:

Sian Roberts
4. Chwilio am wirfoddolwyr ar gyfer cynllun Buddsoddi yn eich Iechyd / Invest in your Health: volunteers sought

Dywedodd Sian Roberts wrthyf bod angen cefnogwyr gwirfoddol ar gyfer y rhaglenni Buddsoddi yn eich Iechyd -rhaglenni iechyd a lles 6 wythnos o hyd sy’n cael eu cyflenwi am ddim ar hyd a lled y sir. Ym Machynlleth mae’r rhaglen nesaf, fydd yn rhedeg rhwng 25 Hydref - 29 Tachwedd yn yr ysbyty, 10am – 12.30pm, ond mae angen gwirfoddolwyr ar draws Powys, felly nid oes rhaid ichi fyw yn y Gogledd!

Bydd y cefnogwyr gwirfoddol yn gyfrifol am nifer o dasgau – mynychu’r rhaglen a sesiynau hyfforddiant cysylltiedig, cymryd rhan mewn cyfarfodydd monitro ansawdd, a gweithio’n agos gyda’r tîm Buddsoddi yn eich Iechyd i groesawu cyfranogwyr, dosbarthu taflenni’r cwrs, cyd-hwyluso agweddau ar y rhaglen, ac ychwnaegu profiadau personol i gynnwys y rhaglen. Telir costau teithio.

Gellir dysgu mwy am y swydd wirfoddol hon drwy gysyltu â Sarah Cronin, Rheolwr Datblygu’r Ganolfan Rheoli Cyflyrau Hirdymor, Bronllys, Aberhonddu, LD3 0LU. Ffôn: 0800 169 5586 neu drwy ebostio:

Sian Roberts told me that volunteer peer supporters are required for the free Invest in your Health 6 week health and wellbeing programmes which are delivered around the county. The next programme is actually in Machynlleth, running from 25 October until 29 November at the hospital, 10am – 12.30pm, but volunteers are required across Powys so you don’t need to live in the North!

The volunteer peer supporters will have a number of tasks – attending the programme and related training sessions, participating in quality monitoring meetings, and working closely with the Invest in your Health team to welcome participants, distribute course hand-outs, co-facilitate aspects of the programme and add personal experiences to the content of the programme. Travel expenses will be reimbursed.

You can find out more and apply for the position by contacting Sarah Cronin, Development Manager at the Centre for Long Term Condition Management, Bronllys, Brecon, LD3 0LU. Tel: 0800 169 5586 or email:

Nia Llywelyn
5. Awyddus i gynnig gwasanaeth dwyieithog? Gall Menter Iaith Maldwyn eich helpu! / Want to provide a bilingual service? Menter Iaith Maldwyn can help!

Sefydliad lleol yng Ngogledd Powys yw Menter Iaith Maldwyn – un o 24 o Fentrau Iaith ar hyd a lled Cymru. Mae’r sefydliad bywiog hwn yn gweithio gyda phobl a phlant o bob oed ar draws Sir Drefaldwyn. Ei nod yw rhoi cyngor a chymorth i unigolion, sefydliadau a busnesau yn yr ardal, yn ogystal â threfnu gweithgareddau fydd yn codi proffil y Gymraeg. Mae swyddogion PAVO yn awyddus iawn i ddysgu am fentrau sy’n gallu ein cynorthwyo ni, yn enwedig dysgwyr Cymraeg ein timau, i ddysgu mwy o’r Gymraeg a defnyddio’r iaith yn ein bywydau gwaith bob dydd.

Roedd Nia Llywelyn hefyd yn hyrwyddo’r diwrnod Shwmae Su’mae, ar 15 Hydref, “cyfle i gael hwyl a rhannu’r Gymraeg – yn y siop, y ganolfan hamdden, yn y gwaith, yr ysgol,y caeau chwarae a gyda ffrindiau.”

Menter Iaith Maldwyn is a local organisation in North Powys - one of 24 language initiatives covering the whole of Wales. This vibrant organisation works with people and children of all ages across Montgomeryshire. The aim is to give advice and support to individuals, organisations and businesses in the area, as well as organising activities to raise the profile of the Welsh Language. Here at PAVO we are really keen to find out about initiatives which can help us, especially the Welsh beginners in our teams, learn more of the language and put it to use in our everyday work lives.

Nia Llywelyn was also promoting Shwmae Su’mae Day, on 15 October, “an opportunity to have fun and share the Welsh language – in the shop, leisure centre, work, school, playing fields and with your friends.”

Wrth gwrs, roedd cynrychiolwyr llawer mwy o sefydliadau’n bresennol ddydd Llun ar wahan i’r rhai a nodwyd yn barod, megis Heddlu Dyfed Powys, Gwasanaeth Tân Canolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru, Cyngor Sir Powys, Age Cymru, Ymwybyddiaeth a Chymorth Asbestos Cymru, Canolfan Cyngor Bro Ddyfi a chydweithwyr PAVO o Brosiect Cynlluniau Cyfeillion Powys a’r canolfan Gwirfoddoli. Prynhawn gwych ym Machynlleth – os oes gan unrhyw un unrhyw gwestiynau, gallwch anfon neges isod, neu ebost atom ar:, neu drwy ffonio 01597 822191.

Of course, there were representatives from many other organisations in attendance on Monday besides those I have already mentioned, including Dyfed Powys Police, Mid and West Wales Fire Service, Powys County Council, Age Cymru, Asbestos Awareness & Support Cymru, Bro Dyfi Advice Centre and PAVO colleagues from the Powys Befrienders’ Project and the Volunteer Centre. All in all an excellent afternoon in Machynlleth – if anyone has any queries then just post a comment below or send an email to us at:, or ring 01597 822191.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

I've Got Soul

Every now and again on our blog we showcase good practice from other parts of Wales. This week we found out more about a dementia initiative in Pembrokeshire. As part of the Gwanwyn Festival in July 2017, Live Music Now Wales was funded by Age Cymru to deliver a week of performance and loop pedal workshops with elderly residents living in care homes across Pembrokeshire.

Claire Cressey, Director of Live Music Now Wales, told us more:

Care home residents aren’t the usual chart topping performers you’d associate with a potential hit single, but with the rapid rise of older people in society and a continual increase in those living with dementia, our national charity has made the most of their musical talents and done just that.

Residents in six Pembrokeshire care homes have demonstrated their songwriting and vocal talents, with the help of Bridgend based musician John Nicholas (performing as John Llewelyn) through the work of musicians' development and outreach charity, Live Music Now in Wales, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year.

Funded by Age Cymru, as part of the Gwanwyn Festival - a celebration of arts, creativity and old age across Wales - this summer John took his loop pedal, percussion and acoustic guitar to rural residents in Haverfordwest, Goodwick and Fishguard for two week long sessions of workshops and performance. Crafting the lyrics through the input and commentary of residents, John used his experience of working with isolated older people across Wales through his role with Live Music Now, to remind us of the challenges old age can bring, whilst celebrating the heart and passion that remains even when bodies may fail us.

In short the song speaks of the value of all life, regardless of age and ability, and with a movingly emotional video that shows some of the residents involved in the project, it is an important reminder of the many members of our local community who though unseen to us, still have much to contribute from within the walls of what have been termed “islands of the old”.

Lynne Jones, Manager of The Graylyns in Haverforwest commented, “The sessions were absolutely fantastic. John was a brilliant performer, and he definitely picked up a fan or two from our ladies! The whole Home responded so well to his choice of songs and his relaxed manner. The enjoyment on their faces was evident throughout. We are delighted they’re included on this single.”

With a heart reminiscent of Nina Simone’s 1968 “Ain’t Got No../I Got Life” this track is a real celebration of old age. Residents involved help to sing the chorus, and play percussion, and all funds raised through downloads of the single will go towards continuing Live Music Now’s work with older people in care homes, day centres, hospices and hospitals across Wales.

Older people are expected to make up one fifth of the world's population by 2050, with 1,735,087 - an increase of 154% from now - living with dementia by 2051. A recent Age UK report showed that creative and cultural participation was the number one contributor to wellbeing in later life from a list of 40 different areas, so why shouldn’t they be releasing new music?

As John commented, “This was probably the most fun I've had working in care homes in Wales with LMN. We can be too quick to write people off in old age, yet even for those with dementia the connection to music is one of their last remaining abilities, helping people recall memories and emotions, shifting mood, bringing emotional and physical closeness. It is truly humbling work to be involved with, and as a gigging musician, really reminds me of how powerful live music can be.”

Whilst they may not all become the next Ed Sheeran, the inclusive nature of the loop pedal and percussion elements allowed everyone to take part regardless of ability, and residents' mental and emotional health improved as a result. Now even their grandchildren will be able to download their hard work from iTunes.

The song “I’ve Got Soul” is released as a charity single via all good online music stores (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Deezer, CD Baby) from Tuesday 19th September 2017. The video can be seen via Live Music Now UK’s Vimeo and YouTube channels. 

For more information on the work of LMN in Wales and the UK visit the Live Music Now website.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Back to the Floor: Superintendent Jon Cummins at Felindre Ward

Superintendent Jon Cummins, Staff Nurse Melanie Fletcher, Dr Frank Medford
Years ago there was a BBC TV documentary series called Back to the Floor, where bosses returned to the shop floor to find out what life was really like as a worker in their company. This turned out to be both intriguing and extremely useful for the managers who took part.

Here in Powys the approach has been adapted by the Powys Mental Health Planning & Development Partnership* to give Chief Officers, Service Directors and other high level staff the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a member of staff at the operational end of a service. They have chance to find out what is really happening on the ground, and what consequences strategic decision making can have on people who are in receipt of a service. For someone experiencing mental distress in Powys, that service could be provided by a voluntary organisation such as a Mind centre or Kaleidoscope, or the statutory sector such as the NHS or the police, for example.

Every couple of months I attend the PMHPDP’s Engage to Change sub-group which focusses on enhancing the Partnership’s communication, participation and engagement activity to support delivery of the Powys strategy Hearts and Minds: Together for Mental Health. The great thing about this role is that it gives me the opportunity to participate in some of the Back to the Floor activity as an observer (I make notes, take photographs and feed back to the Partnership). The Partnership has identified three clear learning opportunities for the exercise: 1. Are we meeting our purpose? 2. What gets in the way? 3. What can we do better?

So it was that in mid-August I observed Powys Divisional Commander, Superintendent Jon Cummins, who is a member of the PMHPDP, go Back to the Floor at the mental health inpatient unit in Powys, Felindre Ward at Bronllys Hospital. Towards the end of our visit Jon also had chance to meet staff from the South Powys Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team. It was a brilliant opportunity for both of us to find out more about the workings of the ward and the CRHTT, and for the agencies to build stronger and better working relationships.

Felindre Ward, Bronllys Hospital

Before the visit: Jon’s view

I had been to Felindre Ward before during a Section 136 three years ago when I had a different role in Dyfed Powys Police. At that time I didn’t see beyond the S136 suite. The person was compliant and of no trouble to police or health partners, but in spite of this I could see that the joint working at the time was not quite there. I am keen to see how things have changed.

Throughout my career I’ve only been fleetingly in mental health secure and non-secure units across both England and Wales purely from a policing perspective and they all appear broadly the same. I have an image of rows of beds and people receiving care and attention in a stuffy unwelcoming environment.

I did not make such a visit to a mental health ward during my induction as a newly appointed student police officer a number of years ago when I entered the service. However, I would expect Dyfed Powys police staff to have some understanding of what goes on in Felindre Ward – it is important to have this understanding as part of their training and is something that we are currently working on with partners to implement. As only 11% of demand of what Policing is currently dealing with is crime related, it is even more important today for officers to have that rounded knowledge and perspective on mental health and vulnerability than when I first joined the police service as the nature of our work has changed.

The barriers to this that I am aware of are often around knowledge, training and the sharing of information between partners. Although we are consciously improving, we can be quite parochial and not always create opportunities for joint training and provision of services. And we can sometimes 
have misunderstood expectations about what the other agencies can do for us and us for them. 

There are also challenges around available resources in the right place at the right time. Powys is such a huge geographical area and the public rightly need the right resource dealing with them. For instance we were once asked by health colleagues to attend the home address and check on an admitted patient’s cat! It’s the little practical things which can make a significant difference, ensuring that both the community and our partners have an understanding of what the police can and should be doing to protect our communities.

When it comes to strategic issues, I am aware that all mental health services in the county have recently returned to be managed by Powys Teaching Health Board, having previously been outsourced to neighbouring health boards. A move to a single place of safety for S136 into Powys is one strategic issue that we will be working on over the coming months.

And I know there are current service gaps around the mental health provision for children – unbelievably they can still currently end up in police custody and then there will be headlines in the media and scrutiny on the police from a number of external partners such as HMIC (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary) and the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission). Policing feels that this can be a significant burden to carry when there are service gaps from other partners.

The perception is that people often using services at Felindre Ward are from certain aspects of the community. As we know children are ruled out due to age. I think the profile of service users differs across Wales. Here in Powys we don’t see the high volumes of abuse of drugs/alcohol as in other parts of Wales. Well, people may have a dependency, but they are often more willing to engage with their community as they are smaller and generally known to each other, this also provides services with opportunities to identify people earlier.

And people are less transient in Powys. They are often either from Powys or have moved here. It feels that the majority of service users are unemployed and from the 25 – 40 age group. There seem to be more men than women who are suffering from mental health and who will be engaged with the police and health partners.

Many men who are subject to a S136 have self-harmed, either at the point of contact or previously in their history. There are also some women who are repeat service users who are also very well known to the police, they are smaller in number as a group, but often have a higher individual demand on police and partners' services.

90% of those calling the police around mental distress do so themselves when in crisis. If they are making the call to the service themselves it is often a cry for help and we strive to put the appropriate intervention in place. It is not unusual for people to call police 20 – 30 times and say they are going to kill or seriously harm themselves. What is more concerning is those whom are not known to police or other partners and are suffering in silence, not being comfortable to tell someone they are not ok.

Back to the Floor exercise

Jon and I were shown round Felindre Ward by Staff Nurse Melanie Fletcher. We saw nearly every nook and cranny from laundry rooms to bedrooms, common room to garden space, clinical room to nurses' station. 

En route Melanie introduced us to colleagues and some of the people currently staying on the ward and happily answered our many questions. She explained that staff can voice their opinions at regular team meetings and she felt that there is a “good listening ear”.

We then met and spent a considerable time talking to three members of the South Powys Crisis Resolution Home Treatment Team.

After the visit: Jon’s view

Well, I had hoped to learn more about mental health services and I have absolutely done that! I have made some great contacts within the Mental Health services at an operational and tactical level which mean that I can put processes in place around information sharing, across all of Powys, but particularly in the South Powys area. There is a real opportunity for information sharing and problem solving meetings to be set up between the different services – ambulance/police/mental health.

I learnt that people aren’t necessarily admitted on any form of section, but do need support and that there is problem-solving going on around these individuals which is something police officers will be unaware of.

There appears to be a gap around providing support and/or services for those people who are distressed but have not committed a criminal offence and are not on the ward, but are regularly coming to the attention of police. There needs to be a problem-solving forum around these people who are regularly in contact with police officers but have not passed the threshold for admittance to the ward on a form of section, which is something that I will take forward with the police management team in Powys.

Jon with Sharon Stinson and Laura Charles-Nelson
from the South Powys Crisis Resolution Home Treatment Team

I also now have a much greater understanding of the work of the CRHTT. They seem to act in much the same way as a mental health triage team that operate in other areas of Dyfed Powys. So there is the opportunity and willingness for officers to put in a call to the staff about people we come into contact with and see if the person is known to them and what solutions can be provided or advice given.

Seeing the inner workings of the ward was also very useful. There are a quite a few activities going on in the ward. Everyone currently on the ward seemed happy. They are getting the care and attention that they need and no issues were raised. They seem to have made the ward home, so it was a positive experience in that regard.

The main barrier to service delivery, as it always has been, is around communication. One thing I didn’t realise we had finalised until today was that student police officers are having work experience with mental health staff on the ward, which is hugely positive. And information sharing is starting to happen now with the joint mental health training which takes place.

Following on from the Back to the Floor session I want to put some formal structures in place and circulate information about the various mental health teams and what they can offer to colleagues – what they do and where they are. And finally I would just like to say that it would be extremely useful for all managers within policing to do a similar exercise themselves. Thank you to the staff and all at Felindre Ward for their warm welcome, allowing me to experience what they do and how they do it to benefit the partnership working approach with Dyfed Powys Police.

And finally

Many thanks to Jon for taking part in this Back to the Floor exercise at Felindre Ward. All of the learning from this and subsequent BtTF visits will be fed into the Powys Mental Health Planning & Development Partnership* to share with others and to help with future planning and delivery of the Hearts and Minds: Together for Mental Health Strategy. Over the next six months a number of other members will also be visiting partner agencies to recognise the excellent work staff do and to talk to people using services so watch this space for future blog posts.

*The Powys Mental Health Planning and Development Partnership brings together key stakeholders including Powys County Council, Dyfed-Powys Police, Powys Teaching Health Board, Powys Community Health Councils, Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations, and representatives of people using services and those close to them.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Mental health and children, young people & families

By guest author Lucy Taylor

Hello, my name is Lucy Taylor and I am the Children, Young People and Families Officer for Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO). 

My role is to support the organisations across Powys that work with children, young people and their families. This involves acting as a conduit between the organisations, for example Action for Children which works with families, and the statutory partners, for example Powys County Council which, in some cases, commissions part of their work. I use a blog, Facebook and network meetings to keep the sector up to date and informed. 

Another part of my work is to support the Play Networks and to raise the awareness of play. We ask: are there enough opportunities, time and space for our children to play in Powys? It was working with organisations looking at what services are available, and what support is needed for children and young people, that the gap or thinning of services that support them when they are having low level mental health worries was noted, hence this blog post.

Listening to young people speaking at the Mental Health Today conference in Cardiff in May this year I was struck by their common sense approach to some of their issues. They knew that life was not always going to be plain sailing - that events or relationships could knock them back. They wanted to be self-reliant, not turn to medical interventions or for the medical community to medicalise their problems. They recognised that in helping and supporting friends through their low patch in life, they may put their own mental wellbeing and stability at risk. Their request – “A toolkit for life, not a bucket of sand to hide from it.”

Mental Health Today conference presentation

This is the issue and where some gaps in support appear. Everyone can experience a wobble in their wellbeing. But, with a few self-help tools, some supportive friends and community, the knowledge of where to go for help early on, we may all take a role in our and our community’s wellbeing, leaving the expertise of medical interventions to those whose condition requires it.

The Young Adult Peer Support Project (YAPS) which was run by Ponthafren Association as part of the One Powys Connecting Voices lottery-funded programme was really excellent. When it wound down recently as the funding came to an end none of the young people (age 16 – 25) involved with the project was happy to see it go. Peer support projects like these are extremely valuable, as the first port of call for a young person struggling with their emotional wellbeing is friends and family.

The Making Sense Report was produced in January 2016 as a response to the Together for Children and Young People programme. It had emerged that referrals to Children & Adolescent Mental Health Services across Wales had increased by over 100% between 2010 – 2014, and four organisations – Hafal, Mental Health Foundation, Bipolar UK and Diverse Cymru – joined together to find out why and consider what could be done to address the situation. Young people themselves, who had been in contact with CAMHS teams in Wales, reported on their health and wellbeing and called for “non-mental health professionals such as education staff, counselling services and youth groups to share responsibility for the emotional needs and development of young people”.

For children, young people and their families to have access to informal and non-medical support, we – the families and communities – need to be able to recognise when we, and our neighbours, need a bit of help. It is also crucial that we know how to source help in our particular locality. Information and connectivity is the key. The PAVO Community Connectors help people in Powys (aged 50+) and their families or carers, to access community-level services and activities, (tel: 01597 828 649) – and Powys People Direct “one number for children, adults and families for information and support services” (tel: 01597 827 666) can also help.

The third sector as a whole plays a huge role in providing services and opportunities for children and families in Powys. From the playgroups and play networks, guides, cadets and St John groups to sports clubs and arts organisations. Then there are the agencies offering more targeted support or drop ins. Think of Action for Children, Mid Powys and Brecon Mind or Ponthafren Association.

Powys Youth Service supports young people around their emotional wellbeing in youth clubs or at school. The service has recently noticed that where it used to work with pupils around exam stress, now stress is more general and anxiety about life and the future prevalent. Online counselling and advice is available via an organisation called Kooth (Xenzone) .

But what of families, education and skilling our young people for life? If “it takes a village to raise a child”, what part do we all play in ensuring the wellbeing of all the children? Can Google or YouTube really teach you everything? The ability to budget, know about nutrition, healthy eating and exercise, or how to cook from scratch? These are the life skills the young people want, alongside how to protect their mental wellbeing, perhaps using such techniques as yoga, meditation or mindfulness.

Would it surprise you to know that a walk in the park or taking time to walk and be around trees can also help? The Japanese call it “Tree Bathing” and have invested in public awareness of the benefits of being outdoors. 

PAVO staff are working with organisations from the mental health and children’s arenas, alongside green or outdoor providers, to look at how best we can work together and bolster our communities and families by making the most of the green resource we have on our doorstep. We will be meeting in the coming months to discuss the support we can all offer. For more information call 01597 822191 and speak to Lucy Taylor or Jane Cooke.

Why not take five minutes out from your busy day to walk in the fresh air, appreciate the sights and sounds of nature? Perhaps grab some friends and all walk together. Take the children to the park or share a picnic with other friends and families. It may not solve any problems but it can help soothe your mind and give you a place to start. Like eating elephants you can take life one bite at a time.

There is currently a Welsh Government consultation on: The Emotional and Mental Health of Children and Young People. If you, or someone you care for, has been in contact with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, then you can give feedback up until 29 September 2017.

The Children, Young People and Education Committee’s Inquiry will consider whether the ‘Together for Children and Young People Programme’ is on track to deliver the ‘step-change’ in CAMHS services that is needed. It will also consider how effective the programme has been in promoting the resilience of children and young people, including a focus on the role of education in preventing mental health problems. The Together for Children and Young People (T4CYP) programme is a multi-agency service improvement programme that is aiming to reshape, remodel and refocus the emotional and mental health services provided for children and young people in Wales.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

On the Experts by Experience panel

Sarah Dale was recently in contact with the Participation Officers in our team. She expressed an interest in getting more involved with our engagement work, which includes working with individuals who have been in contact with mental health services and supporting them to attend partnership meetings as reps. They are encouraged to give feedback, to represent the views of others, and to help shape future mental health services.

Sarah subsequently agreed to accompany Participation Officer Philip Moisson to a conference earlier this summer, and joined the Experts by Experience panel on the day. We were all really pleased that someone from Powys had been willing to speak up about their experiences, and asked Sarah to give us her take on the day.

The Together for Mental Health conference on 12 July at the Marriott Hotel in Cardiff was organised by Cymorth Cymru, the umbrella body for providers of homelessness, housing-related support and social care services in Wales. The event looked at “the contribution that the Supporting People programme can make to mental health, in the context of the Welsh Government strategy - Together for Mental Health. It brought together service users, providers and academics to consider the difference we can all make to mental health.”

First of all we had a welcome address from Katie Dalton, the Interim Director of Cymorth Cymru. This was followed by an informative session about the Welsh mental health legislation, including a good look at the aim of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010, the difficulties, aims and challenges and the relationship to housing and homelessness. We also looked more closely at the government strategy Together for Mental Health.

Next up we got to listen and pose questions to a panel formed of people who provide the services. The individuals on the panel were the chair: Phill Chick - Assistant Director, NHS delivery Unit (below right); Louise Evans - Director of Services, Gofal; Julian John - Director, Merthyr and the Valleys Mind; Dr Julia Lewis - Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist, Gwent Specialist Substance Misuse Service (below left); and Dr Matthew Sargeant - Executive Committee Member, Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales. Some very interesting points were raised especially about alcoholism and the services mental health teams provide.
We then had a presentation about the Housing First programme and the links to mental health and homelessness. I learned that only a few people who become homeless actually have mental health issues, however the longer someone is homeless the greater the risk of them developing mental health issues. Those that are made homeless on more than one occasion are even more likely to develop mental health issues.

After a quick tea break we then had the choice of attending two workshops. One was delivered by Time to Change Wales, and I decided to attend the other which was about supporting people with personality disorders. I found it extremely informative and brilliant even. We had a quick overview of the classification of the 10 personality disorders followed by a closer look at two of the more common personality disorders, borderline and antisocial personality disorders. We looked at the different factors at play that 'cause' these two disorders, such as neurocognitive, life experiences and genetics. We also looked at the different therapies that help cope with these disorders such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Multi Systematic Therapy and the trauma informed approach. I found it very insightful and well presented.

In the next workshop, after lunch, we looked at psychoeducation which is group-based and aims to educate individuals on how to cope with everyday life. Topics included anger management, emotional resilience, and emotional well-being. For example, we did some group work, figuring out how psychoeducation could be fitted into our organisations. It was very interesting.

After a tea break four of us were invited to speak about our experience and the services we have used, highlighting the positives as well as areas for improvement. It was immense and very emotional. All the speakers’ stories were moving and some very important issues and positives were raised. The audience was clearly moved.

After that we wrapped up and closed the day. Overall it was a brilliant opportunity, and a great day.

Many thanks for Sarah for telling us about her day at the Cymorth Cymru conference. If you would like to find out more about volunteering as a mental health “rep” then get in touch with us by emailing or call 01597 822191 and ask to speak to us.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Mums Matter

Mums Matter is a new project being run at two of the Mind centres in Powys – Brecon & District, and Mid Powys Mind in Llandrindod Wells. As the name suggests, the aim is to provide emotional support for new Mums “to manage the everyday, nurture themselves and dispel the many myths of motherhood.”

The project facilitators, Deborah Wilkie in Brecon (left below), and Tracy Lewis in Llandrindod (right below), told me more.

Tell us why you think there is a need for this project in Powys

Deborah: Whilst promoting this programme mums who have had their babies have stated “they wished this sort of course was available to them after they had given birth to their children." They also said “there was no additional support to help mums apart from their GP or health visitor to help them go through such a huge life-changing experience. They felt alone and that they were the only ones suffering and could not fully be honest in how they were struggling with their feelings of anxiety and worries, and feeling very low and isolated”.

Tracy: Powys has the worst access to services and facilities of all 22 principal areas of Wales. There are 30% of households living in poverty in rural Wales. Because of this women can become isolated after childbirth. The stresses of becoming a new mum and all the different advice and opinions can lead mothers to become anxious and worried.

Has Mind rolled out Mums Matter elsewhere in Wales and if so how has it been received?

Deborah: This is the first time this type of support and programme has been rolled out in Wales and we are delighted that Powys has this great opportunity and is leading the way in Wales.

Tracy: This project has been designed by mums with postnatal anxiety and depression who live in deprived and rural areas. The pilot was held in Cardiff and was received very well. Mid Powys Mind is very happy to be rolling this programme out for mums in Mid Powys.

What about motherhood can be different in a largely rural county?

Deborah: Powys is the biggest rural county in Wales covering 2000 square miles with many small country villages and small towns so accessing essential health and social care services for mothers and families can prove to be very difficult especially if they have no transport. The local transport can be infrequent or not at all, leaving a lot of mums and dads trying to cope and do their best for their babies and children. Motherhood can be lonely in these small villages and towns as the population can be very small. They may be the only young family in the area and accessing baby/toddler groups will mean travelling to another area.

Tracy: There are a lack of effective support networks in Powys as its geographic and social isolation is an ongoing problem, mums sometimes don’t feel they can ask for help as it looks like they are a failure in small communities. Many women can struggle to hold on to their identity once becoming a mother.

Tell us about some of the myths around motherhood, and how women can feel in the early days

Deborah: Social media, magazines and TV can portray life is perfect whilst pregnant and after giving birth and concentrates on images of the ideal ‘perfect’ mum. Even when a mum has a quick snapshot of a mum pushing a pram in the street and that mum can seem like they have “got it together” and look like a ‘perfect’ mum in the mind of the viewer, it may not be the case. This programme gives evidence and demonstrates that that’s not the reality and we discuss what motherhood is really like for them. Learning being a ‘good-enough’ mum is essentially a healthy way of bringing up children as it instills realistic expectations in children and teaches them to cope with uncertainties in our realistic world.

Tracy: There are many myths in motherhood and these can lead to self-stigmatising behaviour and negative perceptions of one's self-worth. This can affect any mother of any age and any walk of life.

When women hit a certain age they can feel the pressure to have a baby without being mentally prepared. When you have your baby a mother does not always have the immediate rush of love that you are told you will have as this can be slow to build and can come over time.

There are harmful myths surrounding working mums that they are neglectful and guilty mothers which can add to the pressure and create anxious feelings.

Mums Matter aims to show these women that they are not alone with these feelings, and provide them with the tools they need to overcome these pressures.

How do new mums find out about the project and join in? And when is your next course?

Deborah:  I am running another programme in September 2017 in Brecon during the school term. It's an 8 week course (2 hrs a week) for mums and I provide a crèche for your baby (if you require it) in the same building of the course. If you like to find out more don't hesitate to contact me for a chat….. call or message/text Deborah on 07487 239 150 email Or ask your health visitor or GP to refer you.

Tracy: The next Mums Matter programme I am running is on the 12 September in Knighton Leisure Centre, 1 till 3 every Tuesday for 6 weeks. There is a crèche available which is run by qualified members of staff. If you would like to book onto this programme please contact me on 07960 271 696 message or text, or you can email me on

What kind of support can the sessions provide? 

Deborah:  Being a mum is a very busy role and can be overwhelming and the need to look after yourself is important so we spend time looking at that in a friendly group of mums sharing similar experiences. We explore what it’s really like being a mum and all the feelings of anxieties and worries that go with the role. We look at many coping tools to manage the everyday, looking after yourself and feelings such as negative thoughts and guilt. The aim is to help mums feel much better and more confident in themselves and trusting their own skills and decisions in their role as a mother.

The programme also offers a confidential supporter session for partners and significant others who supports mum, raising their awareness to postnatal depression and anxiety and exploring ways they can support the mum.

Tracy: The sessions will introduce mums to tools such as breathing techniques, meditation and ideas that will help with wellbeing as well as providing an opportunity and space for mums to come together and talk about their experience and feelings. Those in the group, with the help of the Mums Matter Facilitator, will be able to support each other with the changes that becoming a mum demands, and they will realise they are not alone.

There is also a supporters' session for family and friends to attend if they wish.

If appropriate and timely support isn’t provided to new mums what could happen? 

Deborah: I see this programme acting as a prevention as well as an intervention of support to help mums feel stronger in their own well-being. This programme has already prevented some mums going onto anti-depressants and their postnatal depression escalating. I am coming across mums who are still suffering from anxiety and depression some years on from when they first started suffering with these symptoms after giving birth to their child. This programme may have prevented these symptoms escalating into a longer-term health problem so timely intervention is of the utmost importance to mums in their postnatal period. Also, fathers can suffer with postnatal depression too. This programme raises mental health awareness and knowledge also to fathers and carers and other family members.

Tracy: If mums don’t get the support in which they need then depression can take hold and mothers can withdraw completely from all social activities and services that they may need and all relationships will suffer.

If it became clear a mum was experiencing severe postnatal depression what would happen? 

Deborah: I would in discussion and permission from the mum share this information with her GP and health visitor and encourage a referral onto the Community Mental Health Team where there is a specialised perinatal team. I would also refer onto any other services which meets any other identified needs.

Tracy: I would refer that mother back to her health visitor and doctor and help her to seek the professional help that is needed and discuss any other pathways that would help her with her recovery.

Does Mind support continue once the 6/8 week course is complete? Alternatively, what support networks can you recommend to mums? 

Deborah: The mums are encouraged in the 7th & 8th week; which is more of a social meet up with their babies to discuss how they are going to continue supporting each other. My mums from the first programme formed a very strong trusting bond and have a message group chat and plan to set up their own baby/toddler group in September for mums who are experiencing very similar experiences so they can share the realities of being a mum in a supportive, ’good-enough’ environment.

I also refer on to other services for continued support if needed such as counselling, Action for Children amongst others. They also have an information pack. I am also still there for mums to contact me post-programme for any further additional information and sign posting if needed.

Tracy: After 6 weeks there is another meeting in 3 months for the mums to come together with myself to see how everyone has been getting on. There is also a questionnaire to fill out to see which tools the mums have been using and if they are still in contact with each other. Mid Powys Mind also offers counselling, arts and crafts, training and a volunteer programme with information about the Mid Powys Mind services. There are also lists of playgroups, parent and toddler groups and other agencies which the mums may need in their packs.

Tell us what a “Mums Matter Powys” looks like to you personally 

Deborah: I am so thrilled that Brecon Mind has had this opportunity to deliver this programme and I feel privileged to be part of it and I get the opportunity to work with so many wonderful mums. The mums I have worked with so far are amazing and inspirational. I hope this 2 year project can demonstrate to funders and the local government that this is an essential part of the perinatal service provision in Powys for mums and their families.

Tracy: Mums Matter is a programme running in different areas in Powys to help mums who are feeling low and anxious and need some support and tools to help with their mental health at this moment. Mums can talk openly and honestly about how they are feeling without being judged and will feel excepted and not alone.

What are the main challenges of the role? 

Deborah: I hope the word gets about across all the services in Powys that play a part in supporting mums in their prenatal and postnatal period of their lives. I have done my best promoting and advertising and attending service team meetings to-date but there is still lots to do on that.  Also, I would like to see an increase in the referrrals from GPs, I hope they can see and get to know of the benefits. I do get some self-referrals but I think it’s also important individuals know they can refer themselves and contact me direct for a friendly chat to find out more about the programme.

Tracy: Finding available rooms and crèche space and also letting mums know the programme is running and how it can really help.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done at Mind so far

Deborah: The biggest reward I had was hearing and seeing the progress and achievements of the mums who attended the first programme in believing in themselves as a mum; they were even using the ‘I am’ statement. They left a lot stronger individuals and even accomplished drinking a ‘hot cup a tea’ daily which I was very proud of. Their feedback is the most rewarding and they did it themselves I was just there!

Tracy: Running my first group and seeing the mums bond and support each other whilst learning to grow in confidence was very rewarding.

When you are not working for Mind, how do you enjoy spending your time?

Deborah: I’m a mum of 2 grown up children and a grandmother of 3 gorgeous little ones so my days of running around teenagers have been replaced by choosing when I want to run around after my grandchildren. This has left me with some spare time to indulge in walking coastal paths and cycling. I love our wet and windy land and try and spend most of my time out in it. My husband and I share a passion for classic cars and go on many classic rallies with our restored classic car. My vocation is practicing Reiki in my other spare spare spare time! I love my cats and peace and quiet when I get it, that might mean me just hiding in a corner somewhere for a while.

Tracy: I am a farmer’s wife so I enjoy getting outside and helping my husband and 3 boys on the farm. I also enjoy playing netball and badminton and having a glass of wine with my friends. 


Feedback from some mums who have attended Mums Matter: 

  • Amazing idea and support for those who are worried, feeling down or suffering with post-natal depression. There is no need to suffer in silence, there are others too. It was the best thing I ever did. 
  • I feel more confident in myself and around people. 
  • I could moan and share my feelings without judgment and in a safe place. 
  • The creche gave me time to myself to focus on the course… I feel so much better! 
  • I never left my baby before, was nervous but he enjoyed it and I enjoyed my space and new-found friendship with lovely mums, felt less alone & more myself. 
  • I loved how the course gets you to look at being a realistic mum and not have to stress about being a perfect mum all the time. It’s okay to be a ‘good-enough’ mum! 
  • I’ve decided not to take anti-depressants as this course has made me feel so much stronger, confident and happier… I now walk my dog regularly, relax with colouring and drink HOT tea!! 
  • The course helped me put things into perspective, the past & the present. Things make more sense now. My heart melts now when I see my kids and that’s not happened in a long time.