During the pandemic the West Wales Friend in Need initiative was introduced with the help of funding from Age Cymru. The projects aim was to improve the ability for formal and informal volunteers to digitally connect with people across West Wales, in doing so reducing social isolation and loneliness. A regional project group was established for organisations to work together, the membership of the group consisting of Age Cymru Dyfed, Pembrokeshire County Council, Ceredigion County Council, Carmarthenshire County Council, Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services, Carmarthenshire Association of Voluntary Services and Ceredigion Association of Voluntary Organisations. A total of eleven community and voluntary groups received funding from the grant resulting in over 1,100 individuals benefitting from the initiative with 155 volunteers spending 1,975 hours working within their communities.
<span data-contrast="none" xml:lang="EN-GB"><span data-ccp-charstyle="Hyperlink">Ceredigion County Council<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB"> have created a new online <span data-contrast="none" xml:lang="EN-GB"><span data-ccp-charstyle="Hyperlink">Winter Well-being Hub<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB"> to support <span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB">the wellbeing of <span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB">Ceredigion residents<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB"> over the<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB"> autumn and winter months.
<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB">A<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB">ctivities and events that would normally take place during this time of year are no longer possible due to the pandemic. <span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB">So,<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB"> the <span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB">Hub provide<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB">s<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB"> a range <span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB">of activities<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB"> to undertake on-line and includes <span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB">information and<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB"> videos on a range of topics<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB"> such as available support, health and wellbeing, young <span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB">people<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB"> and learning.
<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB">The Winter Well-being is in line with the Council’s <span data-contrast="none" xml:lang="EN-GB"><span data-ccp-charstyle="Hyperlink">Winter Strategy<span data-contrast="auto" xml:lang="EN-GB">, to protect the health and wellbeing of our most vulnerable, including care services for the elderly and those whose medical conditions make them particularly at risk from COVID-19.
In Bridgend, considerable effort has been made to ensure carers have the support they need during the pandemic.
The Council’s existing Carers Wellbeing Service provided a 24 hour helpline to support carers during Lockdown. The service received a high level of calls and proved to be of high value to carers during the challenging period.
The council’s carer services have developed/introduced a range of ways to communicate with carers during the pandemic, including posters and information, direct telephone calls to check on the wellbeing of carers, regular emails, using video technology such as zoom and using social media.In addition, services such as counselling sessions and advice have been provided over the telephone to support carers.
Arrangements have been made for carers in Bridgend county borough to be provided PPE in line with the national guidance.
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council’s service for young carers has needed to adapt to a new way of working during the pandemic, to meet young carers needs and support their safety.
Assessments are now undertaken via digital means or via socially distanced garden sessions.
Group sessions, such as the young carers choir, are now undertaken via zoom. There has also been a move to digital and outdoor one to one sessions.
The council makes contact with all young carers weekly, during which emotional and practical support is explored. Practical support includes help with tasks such as shopping, an activity which may previously have been supported by an extended family member. Supporting young carers to engage in educational sessions and access digital learning has been an area of support the young carers service has worked with education colleagues to achieve.
The council has also frequently provided young carers with activity and resource packs.
The high level of contact maintained with young carers during the pandemic has allowed the council to adjust to their support needs, whilst working in a manner that adheres to government guidance.
In Monmouthshire, challenges associated with COVID-19 have been met with an incredible and collective response by communities and organisations- over sixty volunteer led community groups with over 1000 volunteers mobilised overnight. Monmouthshire Council’s strategy was to tackle COVID-19 with communities and to support the volunteer groups in every way they could.
The council coordinated a ‘virtual community network’, with a clear collective purpose- to protect life and support communities, with no gaps and no duplication.
While the community groups were able to develop fast, local solutions that changed people’s lives during lockdown and shielding, the council could provide structure through partnership working. Social Workers professionally and efficiently screened all individuals to ensure it was appropriate for a volunteer to support them and then allocated the support in a timely manner.
To supplement the virtual networks, the council launched an online community- Our Monmouthshire, providing an alternative structure for people to ask for and offer help.
Aware of the potential in communities, the council delivers the Community Leadership Programme, which offers a suite of training, learning and personal development opportunities for community volunteers, for example- Successful Grant Writing training for volunteer groups exploring next steps after COVID-19.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.