Ffion, Natalie and Sophie recently attended an online workshop identifying research priorities for the Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre (WCEC). The three went into individual breakout rooms and talked about the general impact of the pandemic and lockdown, and the impact it had on their health. Everyone shared their stories about how they felt at the height of the pandemic, and some people became very emotional. We will be meeting the same time next week for part 2.
During this week’s coffee morning we welcomed some new attendees and had a great time catching up and sharing our stories.
Our main activity this week was playing bingo, with the winners being awarded an Easter egg, but we also talked about what makes a good day, and what people are doing to keep themselves busy and occupied. Because of the reduced services which have been in place due to the pandemic, members can’t attend their old day opportunity and are missing friends and staff. They told us they would like a chance to connect with friends whilst taking part in activities and learning new skills. Some people have begun to travel into neighbouring county boroughs where day opportunities and social opportunities are available. This has led to people sometimes paying £70 to take a taxi to make the journey.
We have held discussions with some of our members about what they want to do in the community and what will make a better day for them. Some members told us they would like to learn how to grow their own food. This led to us contacting the Taraggan Educational Gardens project in Bargoed, and a lovely gentleman called John invited us to pop along and take a look. John showed us a plot that our volunteers/members can work on to grow their own vegetables. Some of our members decided that they would love to do this, and we have now signed a lease for a plot and can’t wait to get started!
We recently met with Chris Evans, MP for Islwyn since 2010, and the Shadow Minster for Defence since 2021. We talked in detail about the proposed changes to the Human Rights Act (1998) and the lack of consideration given to people with learning disabilities when documents are produced. Chris Evans has agreed to write to Deputy Prime Mister Dominic Raab to stress the importance of easy read documents, and the concerns people with learning disabilities have over the proposed changes to the Human Rights Act. We would like to thank Chris Evans and his secretary for taking the time to visit us and hear our thoughts.
This week we held a coffee afternoon at Libanus Lifestyle Centre, as part of our project to tackle isolation and loneliness, funded by the Caerphilly Cares Team. We were delighted to be joined by new faces, as well as some people we already know. The group had a great discussion on the effects the pandemic has had on our mental wellbeing. Some people talked about having to shield because of underlying health conditions, which made them feel extremely lonely, especially over the Christmas period. The group also talked about the lack of support for people during lockdown. A couple who attended said it was their first time being out with a group in a social setting for over two years. The event was also attended by regular Caerphilly People First members, who talked about their anxiety when using public transport for the first time in years. The next meeting of this group will be held on Monday 28th at March, again at Libanus Lifestyle Centre in Blackwood, and all are welcome to attend.
At the beginning of March, Ffion Poole and Natalie King worked alongside Cardiff People First to train medical students on how to communicate with people with learning disabilities. The training involved going into a breakout room and holding a number of interviews with students, where the conversations included what Caerphilly People First does and people’s lives and hobbies. We really enjoyed this and hope we can be involved again in the future.
We have been working with members to access GP appointments. As doctors in most surgeries are still not offering face-to-face appointments, they are recommending that people fill out an online form which asks about your symptoms, and also asks people to upload pictures if the issue is a rash etc. One of our members, Tracey, who went through the process, found some of the questions complicated and hard to understand, but was thankful that the follow up from the GP was quick.
On the 28th February Ffion, Amy, Christy and Cyril attended the 2020 Blaenau Gwent People First Conference. The first speakers were Andrew Day and Paul Swann who talked about the Gwent Advocacy Strategy, and how people with learning disabilities have been involved in the work. Andrew also stated that the GATA (Gwent Access To Advocacy) helpline is now in place for people needing information about advocacy.
The second speaker was Emma Scherpatong from Blaenau Gwent County Council who spoke about the equalities plan for 2020. The plan will be published in easy read format and will be available in March 2020.
Geraint Griffiths from the Engage to Change project was the next speaker and he explained that Engage to Change helps people ages 16-25 who have autism or a learning disability to get paid employment. To do this they help you write a CV and also prepare you for your interview.
David Arnold from Blaenau Gwent 50+ Forum spoke about places being more accessible and age friendly. He said that the next meeting of the forum will host Gwent police talking about cyber crime, internet safety and scams.
Next, David Williams from the Gwent Citizen panel spoke about what the panel does. He said that recent discussion have been around transport, public toilets and accessible areas.
Sadie Rogers from Growing Space discussed their new Travel Buddies training scheme. Growing Space are hoping to encourage people with learning disabilities to use buses and trains and become more independent.
After lunch we attended the ‘What Matters to Me’ workshop. We split into groups and discussed transport, health, housing, and relationships/friendships. Each person had to write 3 concerns they had on these topics and this was then fed back to everyone attending the conference.
The most recent All Wales People First National Council meeting was held in Swansea at the end of October, and was attended by Christy, Sharon (standing in as deputy for Ffion), and Natalie (a student nurse on placement with us).
At the meeting, elected reps from various People First groups came together to discuss issues relating to the lives of people with learning disabilities. Some of the subjects discussed included the issues people are having with renewing their bus passes and blue badges. Caerphilly People First members have also been having problems with this. Joe Powell said he would contact Transport for Wales to see if they will attend the next meeting and talk to reps about these issues. The group also talked about voting and the difficulties people with learning disabilities face when trying to vote. The next national council meeting will be held in Flint, North Wales in January 2020.