All Wales People First Adfest 2023

On June 19th and 20th Ffion, Christy, Gethin, Sam, Sophie, Natalie and Claire attended the All Wales People First Adfest 2023 (titled ‘Our Right to Human Rights’) in Cardiff. We travelled to Cardiff on Monday morning and had a little catch up with everyone before the conference started. Chair Tracy Austin and Vice-Chair Samantha Hall opened the conference, followed by Joe Powell, Chief Executive of All Wales People First, with housekeeping.

The first speaker was Sanchita Hosai, Chief Executive of the British Institute of Human Rights, who spoke about the Human Rights Act and the easy-read version they have produced of this document. Next was the ‘Rights Round Robin’, as part of which Ffion and Lisa from Innovate Trust asked attendees about what rights they think people with learning disabilities should have when it comes to relationships. Some of the answers they received included: having the right to live together, go on holidays together, get married, have same-sex relationships, to be single, and to have a child and receive the right support to look after and keep the child.

After lunch we had a drum session with David Powell from UpBeat Music and Arts to wake us up after our food. We played instruments and made up some tunes, which was really fun! Ffion and Lisa then did workshops on relationship rights, what the barriers to relationships are, and how you can overcome them. As part of the workshop, the group took part in a ‘Who Wants to Be a Relationship Millionaire’ quiz. Other workshops that were conducted included ‘Right to Assembly’, ‘Right to Fair Treatment’ and ‘Mindfulness’. We then reported the results of the workshops to everyone, and the people attending Ffion and Lisa’s workshops gave excellent feedback.

After the first day’s activities, the evening meal was followed by the Mirror awards, awarded to recognise achievements over the past year. Well done to everyone who won an award. After the awards we had a chance to have some photos taken in the photo booth, following which some members chose to go the Moonclub with Gig Buddies, and other members went to Mary’s nightclub, with the evening ending in chippy lane (of course).

The second day began with the opening of the exhibition stalls from organisations including Gig Buddies, Learning Disability Wales, BILD, Welsh Ambulance Service, Conwy Connect, Drive, Mirus Wales, and TRAC. The organisations were also available to discuss their activities in the speaker’s tent. This Adfest was amazing and all our members really enjoyed it. We can’t wait for the next one!

Showing Resilience through COVID 19 Conference

At the beginning of December, Ffion, Nat, Hannah and Amy – supported by Christy – attended the ‘Showing Resilience Through the COVID 19 Pandemic’ conference at the University Of South Wales. Jenny from Cwm Taff People First opened the conference by sharing the agenda for the day. She was followed by Edward Oloidi from the University of South Wales who talked about the COVID research he did during the pandemic.

Caerphilly People First members Ffion, Amy, Nat and Hannah spoke individually about their experiences of COVID, including vaccines, lockdown and coming out of lockdown. They were followed by student nurses Laurie Wood and Jade Savage who talked about working in a vaccine centre. Attendees then took part in workshops titled ‘Living with COVID’ and ‘Loss & Bereavement’ (the latter was facilitated by Caerphilly People First). We then headed back into the main conference area where Cwm Taff People First talked about their work on the Health Champions project. Attendeed then took part in another workshop, where they talked about ‘What is good health care? What can I expect from health services? and How can I keep myself healthy?’

After lunch we headed back into the main conference area where Cwm Taff People First showed their ‘My Day My Way’ film and Ffion talked about the Caerphilly People First Reconnect Focus Group which we run every Tuesday.  The last workshop of the day was called ‘Hopes & Dreams for the Future’. The event closed with Martin and Sarah from the University Of Wales talking about the project they have recently been involved in with TRAC members. It was an amazing day and we were glad to be part of it.

University of South Wales Conference

On Friday 16th September, Ffion Poole and Christy Taylor attended the Student Learning Disability Conference at the University of South Wales, the theme of which was ‘It’s Good To Be Back’. The conference began with Professor Ruth Northway’s presentation on ‘How Learning Disability Nurses Can Contribute to the Welsh Government Learning Disability Strategic Action Plan (Including COVID Recovery)’.

This was followed by Ffion and Lynne from TRAC, along with two student nurses – Marie and Lisa – talking about what the TRAC (Teaching & Research Advisory Committee) team does. TRAC is a group of people with a learning disability which meets monthly to share their knowledge, thoughts and feelings about key issues that affect them daily.  Ffion said that she was very nervous before giving her presentation, but was proud of herself once it was completed.

After the break, six student nurses talked about their experiences of their nursing course, and the challenges of studying during COVID. We also heard presentations from the University of South Wales Nursing Society, the Hiraeth Team from the Aneurin Bevan Health Board, and Dr Ruth Wyn Williams, a nursing officer for the Welsh Government. 

The morning finished with Professor Ruth Northway presenting The Paul Wheeler Award to learning disability nurse Clair Gabbidon.  This is an annual award given to a third year learning disability student, in honour of Paul Wheeler, a senior lecturer who passed away in 2008. 

All Wales People First Adfest 2022

This year’s All Wales People First conference, otherwise known as Adfest, was held on 21st and 22nd June in Conwy, North Wales.  The theme of this year’s event was ‘Reconnecting’, and ‘celebrating the place of people with learning disabilities in Welsh society’.  This was the first in-person Adfest since 2019, and Christy and Ffion attended as representatives of Caerphilly People First. 

On day 1 the keynote speech was given by Stuart Todd of the University of South Wales, who talked about the Covid impact study he has carried out.  He was followed by Joe Powell, Chief Executive of All Wales People First, who engaged the group in a session called Devil’s Advocacy.  This involved Joe asking questions like ‘should people with learning disabilities be the first to lose their jobs during Covid?’ and inviting attendees to give their views.

Ffion and Christy attended two workshops on day 1: ‘Health and wellbeing’, hosted by Carmarthenshire People First, and ‘Holding on to your rights’, hosted by the British Institute of Human Rights. This was followed by attendees giving feedback from all the workshops being hosted.

After this, it was time to relax.  Some people had a swim, some went for a walk, and some just caught up with friends they had met over Zoom during Covid.  After sitting down for our meal, the evening ended with a disco hosted by DJ Gerraint, which was great.

The morning of day 2 was spent enjoying the ‘Speakers’ tents’ where various organisations – including Welsh Ambulance Service, Gig Buddies, North Wales Together, Practical Pilates, and the Through our Eyes photography project – gave presentations about the work they do.  It was especially great to meet Victoria and Rachel from Gig Buddies, after having only spoken to them previously on Zoom.

Other organisations, such The Ambition Party Project, Rainbow Gogs yr Enfys, Conwy Connect, Improvement Cymru, Cheeky Pants, and Rainbow Gogs yr Enfys, had exhibition stalls where they provided information (and sometimes goodies).    

Also on day 2, All Wales People First held an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) where members voted on proposed changes.  The conference ended with the Mirror Awards, which are presented in celebration of the great work done by self-advocates and groups over the past year.  Well done to all the people and organisations who won an award!

It was a brilliant few days away in North Wales and great to be back meeting face-to-face.  The Quay hotel, where the conference was held, and where most people stayed, was excellent.  The staff was very helpful, the views were beautiful, and the food and the service was outstanding.  We can’t wait to see you all next year in South Wales when we’ll do it all again!

Blaenau Gwent People First Conference

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.