For the fourth of the six events we have set up to tackle isolation and loneliness, we headed to the Fleur De Lys Community Centre in Blackwood. We were delighted to be joined by ten people, some of whom we were meeting for the first time. Everyone seemed very positive as we talked about our experiences of Covid, and how we have all coped. Thankfully, individuals are now increasingly going out into the community and attending events. After the discussions we had a great time playing music requested by individuals, and we also hosted a quiz that was all about Easter. Congratulations to Sophie and John who won the quiz and got to share the Easter egg.
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.
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.
Ffion and Natalie recently attended a workshop run by the British Institute of Human Rights where people discussed the changes the UK government has proposed making to the Human Rights Act. They want to change the laws that were in place in the UK when we were part of the European Union. Caerphilly People First is one of the many organisations concerned by this because we believe that it will lead to people in the United Kingdom having their rights weakened. The UK government have opened a consultation to get the views of people on the proposed changes, but unfortunately this isn’t available in an easy-read format. This consultation is available until 8th March at:
Our Chairperson Ffion says: We are worried about this as we have not had a say or had any easy read documents explaining why and how they are going to change things. We feel like we are invisible as people with learning disabilities.
As part of Cardiff People First’s Winter Wellbeing programme, they held a period party event at the Grange Pavilion in Cardiff, which was attended by Caerphilly People First members, Ffion Poole, Natalie King and Hannah Thomas. They also invited the Cheeky Pants company to attend via Zoom, to answer any questions people had about their products, and also to advise them on how to make their information accessible for people with Learning Disabilities. There were lots of brilliant ideas and questions during this discussion. It was great to see everyone face- face after a very long, challenging time, and we’d like to thank Cardiff People First for the invite.
At the beginning of March, Amy Jones, Cyril Luke and Christy Taylor attended the Gwent Citizens’ Panel meeting. The first speaker was Matthew from MIND Monmouthshire, a mental health charity. He spoke about the project and all that they do to help people with mental health issues. The next speakers were Sian and Grant from Aneurin Health Board talking about building stronger communities together. They also spoke about the Health Board giving physiotherapists and other health workers work experience in doctors’ surgeries.
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.
Caerphilly People First has been very closely involved with TRAC (Teaching and Research Advisory Committee), which is based at the University of South Wales. At the end of October the members attended a TRAC meeting at the University where members of TRAC delivered a presentation on communication. After the presentation we spent an hour chatting in groups with the student nurses about our lives and personal experiences. Each student will now design a poster based on the comments of individuals from the People First groups, which people will read and rate for accuracy.
There was a further meeting in November where TRAC members talked about delivering training in 2020/2021, and discussed the new curriculum. The group also talked about the modules for year 3 students. TRAC has yet to have any involvement with year 3 students and look forward to helping them with their ‘Communication and Complex Needs’ module.
Also in November, Ffion and Kath were at the simulation ward in the University of South Wales, helping to train year 2 students. Kath played the part of a patient with asthma who needed to learn how to use the asthma pump. Also on the ward were people playing other roles, including someone having a panic attack and someone suffering from dementia.
The most recent Caerphilly People First county meeting was held in Bargoed YMCA at the end of November. At the meeting we were joined by Anwen, Stacy, and Liz from the Caerphilly County Borough Council Equalities team. The ladies were at the meeting to gather the views of our members on the 7 equality objectives the council have written, with the aim of making Caerphilly County Borough a fairer place to live and work.
The objectives are to:
- Understand and remove the barriers people face when getting services (such as health, transport, housing).
- Improve education for everyone.
- Help create communities that are strong and include everyone.
- Make sure people who live in Caerphilly have a say in how services are run.
- Make sure people can get services in Welsh.
- Have a workforce that includes all the different types of people who live in Caerphilly.
- Lower the pay gap between men and women.
Members gave their views on the 7 objectives, and these will be included in the report that is due to be published in April 2020.
At the meeting we were also joined by another guest speaker, Adam from Pride Cymru. Adam explained that Pride is an organisation which works to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or ability. Their aim is for the LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans) community to be valued and accepted in their community, and to be free from hate crime, discrimination and prejudice.
Adam also talked about Pride Cymru’s Big Weekend (attended by Ffion and Sharon from Caerphilly People First in 2019), which Pride would like to make more accessible for people with disabilities. Adam also stated that 180 Pride event volunteers have attended learning disability awareness training, to prepare for the annual Pride Big Weekend.
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.