Posts From August, 2020

Autism Wellbeing (Carmarthenshire CC) 

Autism Wellbeing is a not-for-profit social enterprise set up in May 2018 and run by a mix of autistic and non-autistic directors. Their aim is to increase the wellbeing of autistic people and to reduce their experience of distress.

Autism Wellbeing provides a range of services to autistic people and their families, all of which are informed by the principles of Responsive Communication and Sensory Attachment Intervention. They also provide a compassionate, knowledgeable telephone helpline for autistic people and parents of autistic children – 07393664048. In addition, Autism Wellbeing operate two online peer-to-peer support groups, one for autistic people and one for parents of autistic children. These groups are safe spaces where group members can share experiences and ideas as well as give and receive support.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Autism Wellbeing received a grant from the Carmarthenshire Covid-19 Community Response Fund, supported by Carmarthenshire County Council, to produce a Covid-19 Support Pack for Families with Autistic Children. This pack has proven hugely popular, and has been shared energetically by allies such as the National Autism Team via social media. The pack contains 17 information sheets on topics including each of the eight sense systems as well as ideas to support parents, children and families to regulate themselves and each other – C-19 Free Resources.

Autism Leads Covid-19 (All Wales) 

There are currently 29 Autism Leads in Local Authorities across Wales which forms a network of shared practice and engagement. Throughout Covid-19, the network has continued to support and engage with their local autistic communities. Some examples of their innovative practice:

  • Continued one-to-one ‘virtual’ support of vulnerable adults, or those with very high needs in Blaenau Gwent.
  • Zoom “coffee mornings” with autistic adults in Monmouthshire.
  • A virtual VE Day party to keep the community connected in Wrexham.
  • Storybooks explaining Covid-19 to young children, including autistic children provided in Flintshire.
  • A “card” developed to provide autistic people with improved communication mechanisms with emergency services during lockdown in Denbighshire.
  • A virtual “forum” for young autistic adults developing skills for life in Cardiff & Vale.
  • A thorough “lessons learned” evaluation throughout the lockdown period, resulting in a re-designing and re-shaping of some services in Torfaen.
  • Ten “hubs” opened during lockdown to support families in Pembrokeshire.
  • Engagement with autistic adults and those with a learning disability through the lockdown period in Gwynedd.

The National Autism Team (NAT) have continued to facilitate the quarterly National Autism Leads network meetings virtually, and introduced regional “Hwb” meetings, to encourage strong engagement across the specialism and to provide an opportunity to share good practice on a national, regional and local level. The attendance levels have been record-breaking via this new format, as more Leads are able to attend with the absence of travel time.

The Leads continue to play an essential role in disseminating information from the NAT locally, and informing national policy and guidance through local networks and engagement in a grass-roots approach. The network continues to ‘sign-post’ the people they support and professional colleagues to the NAT Covid-19 Information webpage, and Facebook and Twitter pages.

Virtual Autism Team Wales Covid-19 (All Wales) 

A “Virtual Autism Team Wales” was established by the National Autism Team (NAT) at the beginning of Covid-19 lockdown, and its meetings continue to be facilitated and led by the National Autism Professional Lead. The Group includes autistic people, professionals from Health and Social Care, voluntary organisations from across Wales and the NAT. The Group has been meeting weekly to discuss “live” issues facing the autistic community and to prepare useful resources to support autistic people and their families and carers during Covid-19.

The resources are then shared to the NAT’s Covid-19 Information hub webpage and published to the NAT’s Facebook and Twitter pages. All resources that the Group produce are available in Welsh and English, and include, but are not limited to:

The meetings take place virtually, which allows psychologists and psychiatrists from across the country to attend, who would otherwise not be able to due to travel time constraints. As lockdown restrictions continue to ease in Wales, the Group will meet less frequently, but continue to develop useful advice and guidance regarding issues such as transition back to school, transportation and vaccination.

“Virtual” Model for delivering Youth Services (Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC) 

Rhondda Cynon Taf’s (RCT) Youth Engagement and Participation Service (YEPS) is committed to supporting young people aged 11 to 25 to improve their resilience to deal with current and future challenges, supporting their well-being and their positive engagement in and contribution to the communities in which they live.

The new ‘Virtual’ delivery model has been swiftly developed and rolled out which in addition to instant messaging services, virtual youth clubs on zoom and instagram Q&Q sessions etc, includes WICID.TV, for young people not engaged in education, employment or training, which features instructional videos on a range of topics, such as applying for a job, STAR techniques, virtual job interviews and more videos are being added on a weekly basis. The Employment, Education & Training (EET) section also includes links to apprenticeships on offer in RCT, Career Wales support, college virtual open days etc. In partnership the Council were also able to offer the first virtual work experience week in RCT, which encouraged many post 16 young people to go on-line to source careers advice, etc.

School catering initial response to Free School Meals (FSM) (All Wales) 

Following the announcement from Welsh Government that statutory education would be suspended from mid-March 2020, one of the biggest concerns was how to provide for those children eligible for FSM during this period. In the first few weeks Local Authorities (LAs) provided school packed lunches to be collected from schools, local hubs or delivered to the homes. However, take-up was low and waste was high therefore not sustainable in the long-term.

Welsh Government generously announced that £7M was to be made available for LAs to provide FSMs to eligible pupils during the Easter holidays and a further £33M up until the end of the summer holidays. In response, WLGA hosted and managed online national and regional meetings with LA caterers and Welsh Government to track and share information about school catering response and issues. These meetings contributed to the FSM Guidance issued by Welsh Government.

During this initial period LAs developed and refined their provision in line with their local need and demand and offered the following options: direct payments (17), food delivery (10), food vouchers (8) or a pick-up service (1). However, the majority of LAs offered multiple options, which worked well and demonstrated the importance of a local approach to support their local communities.

The WLGA developed and issued each LA with Making the most of your FSM food vouchers or payments leaflet for distribution to parents, providing useful tips on planning, shopping and preparing nutritionally balanced food, along with a suggested shopping list. Data Cymru also collated data on the response of LA’s to providing FSM during this period.

Further information on the initial response can be found in the ‘Overview of FSM responses to COVID-19 in Wales’ presentation

Support for Monmouthshire’s Foodbanks during the Covid Crisis (Monmouthshire CC) 

Monmouthshire County Council work closely Trussell Trust and Ravenhouse Trust food banks in the county. At the point of lockdown many of the food bank volunteers, often elderly or at risk could no longer support the food banks directly and there were challenges of social distancing in the smaller units.  In addition, there was an increased request for food vouchers from Social Services, Sure Start and Housing Associations.  Many of the support agencies had to move to remote working which proved difficult for some to access information and support in the normal ways of working, which included the closure of the Council’s Community Hubs which was a referral method for individuals to access the food banks systems.

Together with the food banks, a number of access initiatives were established including  a digital referral system – mirroring the “voucher “details which captured all the information required by all food banks;  a cross departmental, dedicated council team working with food banks managers, acting as a liaison  between individual, agencies and transport /delivery with safeguarding measures etc.

The generous support of the Reuben Foundation provided 8 weeks of food supplies - @£32k food. Most has now been delivered but that which could not be stored locally is held at Chepstow Racecourse.

Video link of Chepstow Racecourse/Reuben Foundation and Monmouthshire County Council food banks support partnership

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NZQRnBN4eI&feature=youtu.be

Supporting Food Banks (Powys CC) 

The Powys County Council Regeneration Team, Grow in Powys helped the Powys foodbanks to manage the challenges and changes brought about by COVID19.  The team managed the Food Poverty Grant from the Welsh Government, distributed by the WLGA. The revenue grant of £11,602.08 was split between the seven food banks in Powys. The additional Capital funding grant of £13,477.00 was to support organisations access, store and distribute extra supplies of good quality food, by purchasing equipment such as freezers.

During lockdown the food banks had the funding to purchase smart phones or laptops to enable agile working. Due to the shortage of chest freezers, under the counter freezers were sourced in one case. The Llandrindod hub noted a 300% increase in demand. Cwmtawe Action to Combat Hardship could store substantial stocks of bread and baked goods in its new freezer. Through the engagement with communities in the areas of Ystradgynlais and Hay-on-Wye, additional outreach food banks were set up.

The Newtown Food Bank, funded by the Salvation Army said: “We have had to close our shop and along with it, the chance to continue raising our own funds through sales of our goods. We immediately turned to your funding to help us.”  

Using solar interest payments to support food banks (Carmarthenshire CC) 

Food banks in Carmarthenshire are being gifted £42,300 in food vouchers  will receive a share of the money in vouchers from income generated from rooftop solar panels on Carmarthenshire County Council buildings. Each food bank, which has seen a significant rise in demand since the coronavirus pandemic, will be given a list of suppliers they can obtain their goods from. The donation represents a value of approximately £70,000 for every mega-watt of solar installed, which is the highest single payment per megawatt of installed solar for any community benefit society, commercial solar farm or portfolio in the UK.

The council’s executive board member for resources and director of Egni Sir Gar Cyfyngedig an energy community benefit society established by the Council in 2015, Cllr David Jenkins, said: “Now more than ever people are having to use the foodbanks to put food on their table. It’s a challenging time for everyone as this coronavirus pandemic continues. By recycling our solar interest payment will help towards those that are struggling and cannot afford the essentials of life.”

Connect Carmarthenshire (Carmarthenshire CC) 

Residents and businesses across Carmarthenshire are showing remarkable community spirit by helping and supporting those in need in their communities during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. A number of voluntary groups have been set up to help wherever they can, offering both practical and emotional support. Connect Carmarthenshire has been created to bring communities and individuals together – a place to offer or request help to / from neighbours and the wider community. This platform is available to anyone who lives in Carmarthenshire.  Users to the website can sign up to  SirGâredig – Sharing Carmarthenshire’s Kindness, a regional campaign to encourage more people to be kind to each other. The Council’s website has lots of helpful information on the various support groups that have been set up and how  to volunteer. Town and community councils are also co-ordinating volunteers in their areas and working closely with local groups.

Local suppliers help with food packages (Carmarthenshire CC) 

Carmarthenshire County Council is working with local food suppliers to provide essential food packages to residents in Carmarthenshire who are shielding and have no other means of support. It means the parcels, which are delivered weekly, will contain some local produce as well as other basic food and household items. The council has taken over the supply and delivery of the food packages from Welsh Government and is working with Castell Howell and other local suppliers to put the packs together. The Council’s staff and  SirGâredig – Sharing Carmarthenshire’s Kindness  branded vans have been have been used for the delivery of the parcels.  Everyone receiving the package will get the same supplies, although the aim is to vary the contents as much as possible each week.

Council Leader Emlyn Dole said: “I am delighted that the council has been able to take over the management of the food packages for extremely vulnerable residents in Carmarthenshire who are shielding. “It means we are able to work with local suppliers and source local produce for the packages which is very important as it supports our local economy, as well as providing fresh, local food for our residents.”

Integrated Autism Services Covid-19 (All Wales) 

There are 7 Integrated Autism Services across Wales.  They are a partnership between all 22 LAs and 7 Health Boards – each mirrors the Health Board footprint.  The services have a dual role of undertaking adult autism diagnostic assessments and offering support, advice and guidance to autistic adults, parents and carers, and professionals.  Covid-19 has resulted in all services adapting their practice and developing innovative solutions, such as:

  • Virtual drop in information and advice sessions
  • Online post diagnostic courses for autistic adults
  • Virtual training sessions
  • Digital information gathering to inform diagnostic assessments
  • Holding sessions in a safe space e.g. in the garden
  • Utilizing ‘Attend Anywhere’, ‘Zoom’, and ‘MS Teams’ to offer advice, guidance, and support sessions
  • The development of online yoga sessions
  • The development of online peer support

Research has been built into many of the projects to examine the effectiveness, long term impact and the viability of developing an ongoing blended approach.  The initial feedback from many autistic people has been very positive as, especially in rural areas, it has reduced the anxiety of accessing venues, offices etc.  The outcome of the research will feed into the long-term development plans of both the IASs and autism services generally in Wales.

Monmouthshire’s Youth Council - Engage to Connect (E2C) (Monmouthshire CC) 

Engage to Change (E2C) is Monmouthshire’s Youth Council, responded to the Covid-19 situation quickly by scheduling on-line weekly meetings. The aim of these sessions is to ensure that the voice of young people in Monmouthshire’s needs continue to be heard and supported.   

Initially, E2C discussed the experiences, issues and emotions that they and their peers were having in the early stages of lockdown and invited Dr Sarah Brown (Clinical Psychologist, Gwent Community Psychology, Aneurin Bevan Health Board) on how young people could develop resilience. As result, young people helped generate content for the Youth Service’s daily stories on Facebook and Instagram, including on the service’s ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’.  Young people were involved in trialling social media platforms that were used by the Youth Services’ digital work offer for on-line youth and lunchtime clubs and drop-in sessions. 

E2C has maintained contact with the South East Wales Regional Forum and currently progressing the Ucan project as part of the Welsh Government’s Additional learning Needs Transformation Fund. Working regionally has enabled E2C share experiences with young people from other geographical areas, developing relationships and support networks, as well as confidence and self-esteem.

Recently E2C have started to host weekly Q&A sessions with decision-makers to discuss issues identified by young people, such as mental health, transport, education and Monmouthshire’s priorities identified in the British Council Make your Mark consultation.

Targeted Outreach Project (Caerphilly CBC) 

Gwent Police were having a number of issues with young people not following lockdown rules and contacted Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Youth Services for their support in engaging with young people. It was agreed that police and the Council’s youth outreach staff would undertake joint patrols to engage young people about COVID–19 safety precautions. This also enabled youth services and police to check on their welfare and provide additional support if required. Youth Service staff have been out with police 2 – 3 times per week, working with different neighbourhood policing teams across the borough.  The patrols focused on areas where anti-social behaviour has been identified or where groups of young people have been seen. There were a few initial difficulties as some young people were not so keen to talk with talking to police, but this was overcome due to youth worker being with them and encouraging the young people to engage. There has been a reduced level of anti-social behaviour across the borough, and there have been less sightings of young people, which has led to the amount of support required by police being reduced.

“Great partnership work...supporting young people during this time...we must be proactive...and not just wait for issues to be raised...being visible will provide reassurance and encourage young people to reengage with us...” Chief Constable Pam Kelly, Gwent Police @GP_PamKelly

Using data in a more insightful way to target support for those most vulnerable (Blaenau Gwent CBC) 

As part Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’ s response to supporting the most vulnerable during the pandemic, virtual locality response teams mapped local assets and support, such as community groups, businesses etc. in a locality to enable the community to support itself. The Council also collected data to identify those who may have needed more support, such as those on the shielding lists. Councillors were a vital contributor to the collection of this data given their local knowledge of residents in their ward.  The Council were able to match volunteers to individuals to provide the support they needed.  It has also helped them better understand resident’s life experience, some of whom have fed back on how they welcomed the interaction in this way. The Council are working on remodelling the next phase of the service linked to existing delivery such supporting people and community connectors. 

Supporting local communities (Ceredigion CC) 

Councillors in Ceredigion County Council have taken a lead role in setting up individual support teams in conjunction with local groups and individuals, including community and twon councils, Young Farmers and Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) .

A comprehensive list of all support groups are available on the Ceredigion County Council website: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/coronavirus-covid-19/resources/list-of-resources-in-ceredigion/ together with details of the businesses that have adapted to provide delivery services, details of support available those that are vulnerable or shielding, food banks, grants etc.

Some Councillors who are shielding themselves, are telephoning vulnerable members of their community on a regular basis, others have provided hands on support with one Member in conjunction with the local RNLI delivering food and medicine to over 90 residents in the New Quay area on a daily basis.  They have also been contacting local businesses in their wards to direct them to the advice, support and grant funding available via the council, and they also took a lead role in encouraging tourist accommodation to close prior to the official lockdown.

At the beginning of lockdown, Councillors asked how they could support the services provided by the Council, and 3 Members with appropriate experience volunteered to manage a temporary resting centre.  Training was provided including as assessment for driving 4 wheel drive vehicles, however we’re pleased to confirm that this facility was not required.-19 

Coaching for Councillors (Gwynedd C) 

Gwynedd Council has a well-developed coaching programme for both staff and councillors. The WLGA provides coaching to councillors as part of this programme, using a hybrid coach/mentoring approach supporting councillors’ work in communities and the council. During the pandemic, this coaching was conducted virtually through Microsoft Teams. One of the participating councillors said “In general I believe that the coaching I have received from the WLGA has played a critical role in my development as a cabinet member and councillor.  Since the lockdown we have continued the sessions and if anything, I think the digital element has improved things.  It’s logistically a lot easier and involves a lot less of my time and travel.  I don’t believe it has changed the dynamic of the coaching relationship, the only possible scenario that I can imagine where a physical coaching session would be preferable to a digital one, would perhaps be the initial session/s.  I had already developed a working relationship with my coach before the switch from physical to digital, and perhaps a face to face conversation is important in the initial stages.  I would like to carry on with the digital sessions even when “things get back to normal”.

Learning from remote coaching during COVID, the WLGA will now offer remote coaching, with, if possible, a face to face introductory session.

05 August 2020 14:54:00 Categories: COVID-19 COVID-19 (Councillors - Workforce) Governance Gwynedd

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