Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Mwy na Geiriau ac y Cynnig Rhagweithiol / More than just Words and the Active Offer

Helo sumai! Gwern dwi, y Swyddog Datblygu’r Iaith Gymraeg newydd yma’n PAVO. Un o fy nyletswyddau yw cefnogi’r iaith Gymraeg o fewn y drydydd sector a thu hwnt ym Mhowys. Rwyf am ffocysu ar ambell i faes, yn cynnwys Iechyd Meddwl.

Ehangwch ar eich rôl

Byddaf yn gobeithio cyflwyno’r Cynnig Rhagweithiol fel strategaeth i geisio cynyddu defnydd y iaith Gymraeg o fewn y setctor.

Beth yw’r Cynnig Rhagweithiol?

Mae’r Cynnig Rhagweithiol yn un o egwyddorion allweddol ‘Mwy na Geiriau…’ sydd yn fframwaith strategol ar gyfer iechyd, gwasanaethau cymdeithasol a gofal cymdeithasol a gyhoeddwyd gan Llywodraeth Cymru er mwyn cefnogi gwasanaethau Cymraeg yn y meysydd hyn.

Sut allith hyn fod yn fuddiol i ddefnyddwyr gwasanaeth iechyd meddwl ym Mhowys?

Wrth drafod materion personol gall defnyddwyr gwasanaeth iechyd meddwl deimlo’n fregus wrth drafod y materion hyn yn eu hail iaith. Dylent allu derbyn gwasanaeth yn eu mamiaith heb orfod gofyn amdano, ac mae’r cynnig rhagweithiol yn galluogi hyn.

Ydy’r Cynnig Rhagweithiol yn hanfodol?

Mae rhaid i fudiadau ar draws y drydydd sector a thu hwnt cydymffurfio â gofynion cyfreithiol a statudol Mesur y Gymraeg (Cymru) 2011 sydd yn ffocysu ar sefydlu hawliau, creu safonau a sicrhau y gall siaradwyr Cymraeg dderbyn gwasanaethau yng Nghymraeg.

Sut byddwch yn gweithio gyda mudiadau i hybu defnydd yr iaith Gymraeg?

Byddaf yn cyflenwi mudiadau yn y drydydd sector gyda gwybodaeth, hyfforddiant a chefnogi unrhyw angen arall ynglŷn â’r iaith Gymraeg. Gwelaf newid agwedd tuag at yr iaith Gymraeg fel blaenoriaeth, felly rwyf yn gobeithio ymwneud â’r mudiadau ar lefel personol fel bod fy angerdd at yr iaith a’r diwylliant yn gallu dylanwadu arnynt i ystyried bod cynyddu defnydd a pharch tuag at yr iaith yn gallu gwneud byd o wahaniaeth.

Beth ydych chi’n mwynhau gwneud tra boch chi ddim yn PAVO?

Tu hwnt i PAVO, fy mhrif ddiddordeb yw cerddoriaeth! Rwyf mewn band gyda fy mrodyr ac rydym yn gigio’n aml. Ein henw yw Casset ac rydym yn canu’n Gymraeg fel arfer ac rwyf yn dilyn y sîn roc Gymraeg. Dwi hefyd yn gweithredu systemau sain, creu celf pan dwi’n gallu ac rwyf yn weddol hyderus yn fy sgiliau coginio.

Ac yn olaf...

Does dim dwywaith amdani fod gennai lot o waith i wneud ond cam dros y trothwy yw hanner y daith ac rwyf yn gobeithio creu newid go iawn yma ym Mhowys!

Os hofffwch ddarganfod mwy am y cynnig rhagweithiol, cysylltwch a Gwern trwy email: neu ffoniwch 01597 822191.

Helo sumai! I’m Gwern, the new Welsh Language Development Officer here at PAVO. One of my responsibilities is to support the Welsh Language throughout the third sector and beyond in Powys. I shall be focusing on a number of areas within the sector including Mental Health.

Tell us more about your role

I’m hoping to introduce the Active Offer as a strategy to try and increase the use of the Welsh Language within the sector.

What is the Active Offer?

The Active Offer is one of the key principles of ‘More than just words...’, a strategic framework designed for health, social services and social care that was issued by the Welsh Government to support Welsh services in these fields.

Why could this be beneficial to people using mental health services in Powys?

Mental health service users might feel vulnerable whilst discussing personal matters in their second language. They should be able to receive services in their mother tongue without having to ask, and the active offer enables this.

Is the Active Offer essential?

Organisations across the third sector and beyond have a responsibility to comply with legal and statutory requirements of the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 that focuses on creating standards and rights being established that will ensure Welsh speakers can receive services in Welsh.

How will you be working with organisations to increase use of the Welsh language?

I shall be supplying third sector organisations with information, training and any other need they have regarding the Welsh language. I believe that changing attitude towards the Welsh language is a priority and so I hope to engage with these organisations on a personal level so that my passion for the language and the culture can inspire them to think more about how increased use and respect for the language can go a long way.

What do you like to do when you’re not working at PAVO?

Outside of work, my main interest is music! I’m in a band with my two brothers and we gig regularly. We’re called Casset and we sing mainly in Welsh and I’m an avid follower of the Welsh music scene.

I also operate sound systems, delve into art as much as I can and I’m quite confident in my culinary skills.

And finally...

No two ways about it, I’ve got my work cut out for me, but every journey begins with a single step and I hope to make some real changes here in Powys!

If you would like to find out more about the Active Offer then do get in touch with Gwern by emailing: or ring 01597 822191.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Supporting families – Brecon & District Mind

Jessica Cocozza-Clack is the new Family Support Worker for Brecon & District Mind.

I chatted to her this week to find out more about her role, which grew out of the popular Mums Matter programme.

Tell us about your role at Brecon & District Mind

I work in and around Brecon offering support to pregnant mums and mums with children that need a little bit of extra support. My role was initially developed to work alongside the Brecon and District Mind Mums Matter Programme, an amazing 8 week course for mums with mild to moderate worries, anxieties and post-natal depression.

As my role has developed, I now provide one on one support for mums that have attended the programme/are attending the programme. I also get referrals from the midwifery team, the health visiting team and the community mental health team for those mums that are experiencing poor perinatal mental health and just need extra support.

What brought you to this role?

My background is in women’s human rights and more recently I worked as a palliative care nurse. I am very passionate about communication and feel that if we all had a chance to say how we feel a bit more, in a safe and non-judgmental environment, we would all be a little happier. There is an increased acknowledgement about the equal importance of addressing mental health issues alongside physical health issues. I value the opportunity to do a job that reflects that growing understanding of how important our mental health is.

What geographic area do you cover and where are you based? 

I am based in Brecon but can travel a bit further afield such as areas around Hay-on-Wye, Talgarth, Crickhowell and Sennybridge. I make home visits but also meet with mums at the Brecon and District Wellbeing Centre on Free Street in Brecon (behind Morrisons).

Can mums self-refer and if so how?

Absolutely! If mums come across my name and they need extra help, they can contact me for support via the Brecon and District Mind office. So far all my referrals have been from the midwifery team, the health visiting team, the community mental health team, from my colleagues at Mind and from the Mums Matter Programme, but I would welcome self-referrals.

Tell us more about the new group and how it was set up

We run a fortnightly support group at the Job Centre in Brecon. 

Some of the mums on the first Mums Matter course came up with the idea of having a mum and baby group with a focus on support. Both as a social meetup but also as a way of bridging the support gap once the mums had finished the course. After some amazing fundraising by the mums, ‘For Mums By Mums’ started in November 2018.

We now meet every two weeks between 10am – 12noon, normally on Tuesdays, in a lovely warm room at the Job Centre. It is for all mums, including expectant mums with babies and toddlers up to 2 years. It is an opportunity to get together with other mums for peer support, tea/coffee, chit chat and cake!

Following dates booked in are:

Tue 5th February, Tue 19th February, Mon 4th March, Tue 19th March, Tue 2nd April. 

What kind of things are mums struggling with? 

As I see mums antenatally as well as postnatally there are all sorts of things mums struggle with. Pregnancy is a major life event and as lovely as it can be, it can also be a difficult time. It can bring up past traumas from previous births, or past life traumas that haven’t been dealt with. Mums with young children can struggle with feeling isolated, managing societal expectations, juggling work and everyday life. Transition to parenthood can prove to be a big learning curve with no manual.

If mums did not receive the support you offer what might happen to them?

Sessions with me are really an opportunity for mums to offload and release stress or pressure, and also to help them find out what issues really matter to them. In identifying what matters, I am also then able to signpost to the relevant agency/organisation. Without accessing this extra support mums could be left feeling increased isolation, increased anxiety or worry, and also not be able to find out about practical solutions to problems.

Is there any support for dads?

During the mums matter programme there is a supporter session for dads and they have requested a programme for themselves. Debs the facilitator is now working in partnership with the local heath board to explore the options of co-producing a tailored programme with dads.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

It would be nice to have a magic wand and make people’s problems go away! Unfortunately, I don’t have one and sometimes it is hard to not be able to fix things. That said, it is amazing how an hour to offload can help people feel more positive and help people identify what issues are causing them problems and how to move forwards.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done in your role so far

It has been lovely to support mums as they have gone through Mums Matter. It has also been wonderful to help work through past issues that have been affecting mums, seeing them work through it and come out the other side. I like the opportunity I have to work with other agencies and organisations. I find it rewarding being part of a stronger, wider net that can stop people from falling through the gaps. So, if you work with mums that you think could do with some extra support please get in touch with us at Brecon and District Mind.

When you’re not working how do you enjoy spending your time?

I spend time with my family, love music, I enjoy walking and probably bake and eat too much cake!

Many thanks to Jessica for telling us all about her new role. To find out more about her work contact Jessica by emailing or ringing 07535 385 512.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Rural stress – working together to support the agri sector in Powys

PAVO brings together people representing agricultural and mental health sector organisations across Powys
“It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to do something that you hadn’t done, because if we don’t do those things, we never grow.”  The DPJ Foundation

On Tuesday I attended a packed first meeting of what looks like a new PAVO network. It was organised by my Engagement colleague Sue Newham, and facilitated by Freda Lacey (Senior Officer Health & Wellbeing PAVO) to look at how organisations can better work together to address the worsening issue of mental health distress and stigma in the agricultural community in Powys.

Men in particular, but also women working in this sector, such as farmers and vets, are vulnerable to high levels of stress due to many factors beyond their control including the weather, isolation, animal disease, farm succession, and, even as I write, who knows what future Brexit holds….?

In our team we had been conscious of the issues for some time, alerted by our colleagues in the health board that this community was not so readily accessing mental health services as other people in Powys. However, after recognising some of the barriers in reaching out to this community ourselves (as detailed in Farming and mental health: the challenge) we realised that it was essential to collaborate closely with other key groups for us to make any kind of impact.

The BIG issue we identified at Tuesday’s meeting

Men working in the agri sector in Powys are still reluctant to ask for help when they need it. There could be hundreds of support services available, but if help is never sought it will make absolutely no difference to that person. The real challenge is encouraging men that “it’s OK to say” – as recognised by a Farmers’ Union of Wales event at the Royal Welsh Show in 2017.

Share the load

Emma Picton Jones lost her husband Daniel when he chose to end his life in 2016 after struggling with mental health issues. She subsequently set up The DPJ Foundation to support the agri sector in Pembrokeshire, and attended Tuesday’s meeting with her fellow trustee Sophie Adams. 

After a successful first year providing free counselling sessions and training for the sector in south-west Wales, the charity is now extending into Powys. 18 volunteers staff the telephone / text helpline. New Powys counsellors have been recruited who can provide the first counselling session within a week at a mutually convenient location in Welsh or English.

If you, or someone you know, would like to talk to someone confidentially then call 0800 587 4262 or text 07860 048 799. The helpline service is available 24/7. 

Man to man

Tracy Lewis, a farmer who also works for Mid Powys Mind in Radnorshire, told us about a new initiative the organisation is piloting to encourage men to talk to and support each other. It is aimed at all men, but she is visiting markets in the area and encouraging farmers to “take the Pledge with a friend”. 

As part of the Pledge the men agree that if they are struggling they will tell their friend that they need help, particularly if they are feeling suicidal, and contact support services. Friends also pledge to listen to each other without judgment, to ask directly if they think they may be suicidal, and support each other to seek appropriate help.

Tracy Lewis of Mid Powys Mind with Owen Griffkin, Participation Officer Mental Health - PAVO

Numerous other organisations attended on the day, bringing massive expertise and experience into this new network. They included Age Cymru Powys, Brecon & District Mind, Care & Repair Powys, Dementia Matters in Powys, the Farming Community Network, the Farmers’ Union of Wales, the National Union of Farmers, Ponthafren Association, Powys Teaching Health Board, and the local Young Farmers’ Clubs. Two PAVO trustees with extensive experience in the field - Trish Buchan and Ian Charlesworth, joined them.

Many of these organisations already provide support services for people in the agricultural sector struggling with stress or low mood. The challenge now is to work collaboratively to provide the best possible support to those that need it.

Some of the challenges & proposed approaches

These points / questions were raised during the meeting:
  • Do we focus on normalising mental health issues with young people now in college so that in twenty years they will be better equipped to deal with what life throws at them, or, support those in their 40s and 50s who are struggling now? Or both? 
  • It is no one person’s job to help support people working in the agri sector. We need to tap into the whole community – we all have contact with farmers. (I do. My cat goes on holiday to a cattery – a diversification scheme - on a farm). 
  • Mental Health First Aid training, tailored specifically for the agri sector, is key. Vets, feed merchants, market staff, farmers’ union staff, the list goes on… The DPJ Foundation provides this training and raises awareness about how to spot the first signs of mental health struggles and what support is available. 
  • Powys Teaching Health Board is looking at a more integrated approach, so that people can seek support about both their physical and mental health issues at the same time. In Pembrokeshire The DPJ Foundation will be trialling a mobile unit which will go to markets, shows and even farms. A blood pressure check, a bit of an all-round physical MOT, and a chat. 
  • Ambassadors in the community who can speak about their own experiences can be very powerful in sowing the seed – that “it’s OK to say” and support is available. The DPJ Foundation invested a huge amount of time giving talks in the early days and people would ring for help – some several months later. 
  • Clarity around what support third parties can give (families, friends and neighbours) is needed. So often it is down to the individual to make that first contact (or not) which leaves others feeling helpless and hopeless. 
  • Sustainability is also key: 20 years ago following the Foot & Mouth crisis a number of initiatives were set up such as the Rural Stress Helpline, but ultimately they ended as funding ceased. We need to try, together, to embed support within the community not just in short-term services. 
This post is just a brief summary of a much wider and deeper discussion about the current situation and fuller notes will be available to anyone interested in joining this network. You can find out more by contacting Sue Newham, tel: 01597 822191 or email

The next meeting of this network (which has yet to have a name!) will be in May after the lambing season.

The Mid Powys Mind Pledge sign-up 
For me the key message I took away from this valuable session was that we all, as Powys people, need to work on raising awareness, and normalising asking for help, amongst the agricultural community.

“It’s OK to say”. 

We would be very interested to know your thoughts – please comment below or contact us in the Health & Wellbeing team at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Welsh Ambulance Service on mental health - Keep Talking

This New Year we start by promoting the theme that talking is vital when our mental health is low and particularly when we feel things are heading out of control and into crisis. Sometimes we forget that staff working in the emergency services, and intervening to help people in the middle of a crisis, may well be struggling with their own mental health issues. 

Here at PAVO Mental Health we honestly believe that any of us, not just 1 in 4 of us, could potentially struggle with mental health issues at any point in our lives. But that aside, we agree with everything else Steve tells us, and are particularly keen to share an extremely powerful film. It features WAST colleagues speaking out about their own mental health struggles, and explaining what really helped them, when life's challenges began to feel too overwhelming. Over to Steve at WAST:

I’m Steve Clarke and I’m Head of Mental Health for the Welsh Ambulance Service. I joined the Welsh Ambulance Service in April 2018, having previously held positions in London mental health trusts, and in mental health charities, and I was previously Deputy Director of Mental Health for England. 

Steve Clarke, Head of Mental Health, WAST
As Head of Mental Health for the Welsh Ambulance Service, my role entails the delivery of the Mental Health Improvement Plan for the Welsh Ambulance Service, which has three broad areas: 
  1. The mental wellbeing of our staff. 
  2. Our mental health practice. 
  3. Our mental health pathways. 
This involves ensuring that our staff have access to the right treatment and the right care at the right time, ensuring that they are equipped to deal with people that have mental health problems in whatever environment they are working in, and to make sure that we work in concert with our partners in the health boards to make sure that we’ve got referral routes-on for people so we don’t just convey them to an Emergency Department. 

Since joining WAST I have been working to raise awareness of mental health problems within our workforce, and in particular to highlight the importance of talking about our mental health as an important step in de-stigmatising the subject. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lives, and many of the people we work with every day will be experiencing mental illness, crisis and distress. However, some of us find it difficult to talk about our own experiences, for fear of being judged or that our employment will somehow be affected. 

Our staff made this film to try and break through some of these challenges. Talking frankly about their own experiences, people from across the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST) wanted to let others know that talking to someone really helps, that support is available and your colleagues, managers and families will support you. You can view our film below – please share it, encourage others to watch it, and above all listen....

Steve's piece was originally published in the Winter 2018/19 edition of Network News, the Welsh Ambulance Service's Patient Engagement & Community Involvement team newsletter.

Read more about mental health and the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust in a post by Isobel Jones, who works for the WAST Patient Engagement & Community Involvement team.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Handmade gifts for Christmas

Xmas decorations handmade by Kay Vernon

"Be Creative & Give" (Number 5 of the Five Ways to Wellbeing)

This year colleagues at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations, plus a couple of invited guests, tell us why they like to make gifts to give at Christmas. 
And never fear, if you’re short of ideas, they have plenty to try! 

Sarah Dale – Mental Health Individual Representative 

Knitted toys & crafts 

Art and craft are a huge part of my life. Creating beautiful things and pictures that inspire other people and bring a smile to their face is awesome! And is a productive use of my time which would otherwise be spent overthinking and worrying about various things in my life. Art and craft to me as a coping mechanism is a way of life :) 

I spend most of my time at home watching tv and knitting. This year I have knitted 6 animal toys to sell for the Samaritans. I also knit cat toys for the Cats Protection every year. Apart from knitting I love my Art. It a way of expressing myself in a nonverbal way as sometimes I struggle to do so. In one of my Art and Craft courses at Ponthafren Association run by Esther I made these cute and effective tea light holders. Drawing the trees on the tissue paper was one of the most relaxing experiences. In my papier mache class I have made some Christmas cat balls just because! It was an interesting but successful experiment! Ready for the ultimate cat Christmas! 


Annie Watkins – Admin Support Officer

Christmas socks 

I love to knit. It is my happy place. After a long day there is nothing better than to sit down with my knitting, whether I am making something for me, or a loved one, it gives me joy. The possibilities of working with yarn are endless, the colours, weight and types of yarn means that it is impossible to resist. It is completely absorbing and helps me focus. 


Kay Vernon – Senior Finance Officer 

Decorations & gifts 

I like to handmake Christmas presents for family and friends each year. It’s just so personal. I get a lot of fulfilment out of making pressies! I start in January ready for the next Christmas and make a lot of decorations too. Crafting is really relaxing – it keeps me busy and my mind occupied throughout the year. My favourite crafts are card-making, crochet, knitting, parchment craft, art and drawing. A good way to find out ideas and tips for presents and decorations is to join one of the many Facebook groups out there dedicated to your particular craft. 


Janet Radford – Senior Officer Internal Services 

Pickled cucumbers 

I love to make presents for people for several reasons - the first one is that I think about the person when I make their gift – it’s bespoke to them - a gift of time as well! The second is that I worry about the impact we are having on the environment - homemade gifts are more sustainable and generally don't have much plastic and the third is related to consumerism and misplaced values - so many people worry about having to buy things they cannot afford and get into debt - homemade gifts by-pass all that completely. Recipe here


Sue Newham – Engagement Officer, Health & Wellbeing team 

Caramelised red onion relish 

I really enjoy making jams, chutneys and relishes as gifts for people. At this time of year, Caramelised Red Onion Relish is superb with all those Christmas cheeses and cold meats. I used this recipe but adapted it, by leaving out the chilli and adding a glass of red wine too. You may have to cook it for a bit longer because you've added more liquid. Use your computer to design and print a nice looking label, and if you want to dress it up even more, cut a circle of fabric and use a rubber band to fix it to the top of the jar. Your friends and relatives will really appreciate this. Recipe here.


Freda Lacey – Senior Officer, Health & Wellbeing team 


I try to make chocolate truffles at Christmas time for friends, family and neighbours. It’s so simple, and yet can be full of adventurousness in creatively adding things in! One year, I made all my family gifts instead of buying things. At the time, I was unemployed and didn’t have a lot of money. I told them they were getting chocolates and/or other things I’d make so asked them what they liked (particularly flavours of chocolate). 

I had requests from chilli chocolate to rum and raisin, to salted caramel… The beauty of this recipe is that anything can go in and hopefully turns out! My family loved them and in an inexpensive box, it made the gift unique. Recipe here


Sketch for the Aberdyfi painting

Louisa Kerr – Mental Health Partnership Manager, Powys Teaching Health Board 


Being creative and giving is one of the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ and having learnt how following the ways can improve wellbeing I have been giving them a try. Thanks to the 5 ways I have rediscovered a long buried passion for being creative so I’m painting a landscape of Aberdyfi for my mum who was born and grew up there. I have really enjoyed painting for someone and whilst my original sketch felt like it could be a difficult task, it’s going well so far – but I know whatever it looks like in the end she will appreciate it. I can’t wait for her to open it! 


Jen Hawkins – Information Officer (Health) Health & Wellbeing team 

Bath bombs 

Making your own bath bombs at Christmas can be a lovely way to share a gift of wellbeing. Ingredients for bath bombs are easy to find, all you need is some citric acid, bicarbonate of soda, some flower petals of your choice, a selection of essential oils and a lot of patience! Bath bombs as well as being wonderfully fragrant are a good way to ease any seasonal stress and tension and can help us relax. 

Essential oils of Lavender, (Lavandula angustifolia) Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) and Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) not only smell wonderful but have specific properties that help us to unwind and relax, promoting a healthy, balanced peace of mind and sense of wellbeing. 


Sophia Bird – Principal Health Promotion Specialist, Powys Public Health team 

The triangle of giving 

This year I am encouraging my children (teenagers) to think about this triangle when planning their Christmas present buying for me. I have suggested they aim to give me a pledge to make a memory with me or make me something. Luckily they are both quite ‘crafty’ and artistic and I think it appeals to them because their money can go further. It appeals to me for the obvious reason – I get something meaningful from them.


Parchment bookmark by Kay Vernon

Monday, 3 December 2018

Connected Generation project

Connected Generation project staff meet the Community Connectors

Zandra Pitt is the Project Officer for this new lottery-funded project - Connected Generation -  in which five organisations work together with people over 50 in Powys.

I met with her recently to find out more about how Age Cymru Powys, Citizens Advice Powys, Credu, Disability Powys and the Royal Voluntary Service are supporting people to build on their strengths and enjoy a greater sense of wellbeing.

How did your involvement start?

I have worked in a variety of roles over the years, in England and Wales, including women’s aid and homelessness charities, a children’s legal centre and various community advice services. I studied law as an older student.

I was the Advice Manager at Cardiff University Student Advice Service for nearly seven years and saw a major increase in mental health problems whilst I was there.

Where did your interest in the project stem from?

The fact that it involves five partner organisations, each bringing their own scope of what they can offer, attracted me. That, and the person-centred approach of the project, really interests me. The project will raise a lot of the challenges that people over 50 have but also the opportunities that are available to them.

Tell us more about the project and your role

The Connected Generation project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund People & Places programme for three years. Of the five partners, Credu (formerly Powys Carers) is the lead organisation. As Project Manager I am based with Credu, along with two Outreach Workers. Then we have two Outreach Workers with Age Cymru Powys, another two with Disability Powys, one Adviser with Citizens Advice Powys, and the Community Development Worker and assistant with the Royal Voluntary Service.

The project is committed to working with people with the aim(s) that they will:

  • Feel more connected to other people and less socially isolated. 
  • Feel more able to shape the services that impact on their lives and feel more listened to, valued and respected in their relationships with services that matter to them. 
  • Feel that information, advice and support is more coherent and enable them to make informed choices. 
My role involved pulling the project together initially. I look after the reporting and monitoring, and raise awareness working with all the partners,

Which organisations do what?

When people are referred to the project the Outreach Workers from the relevant organisation (Credu, Age Cymru Powys or Disability Powys) will aim to build trust and rapport and have a conversation about what matters to them most over time. The outcome is around what that person wants. The workers may have to pull in others rather than signposting or referring on. We operate an “any door” approach. There is no central hub. Rather than turn people away the individual partners will make internal referrals so that people are not put back on the merry-go-round, constantly trying to find the right route in for support.

If reducing isolation is an outcome, then we would look at who or what that person wants to be connected to appropriately.

The staff have received training in “Circles of Support” and “Effective Collaborative Communication”. It is about listening and having the conversation at what matters to someone at a given time.

The client may want to pursue other interests. For example, Credu runs carers’ groups, whilst Age Cymru Powys holds regular crafts and social groups.

We meet regularly with Clair Powell, the Senior Officer Community Connectors at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations. The Connectors refer clients in to the partner organisations for support.

Citizens Advice Powys has a caseworker dedicated to the project and can be pulled in by the outreach workers. She provides advice on a range of issues including benefits, debt, and housing.

The volunteer support element is led by the partner, the Royal Voluntary Service, whose community development worker recruits and trains volunteers to become companions.

Connected Generation get together

Who is the project for?

People in Powys who are 50 + who need support. We aim to create long-term self help and support to build personal resilience for the future. If they require more specialist support, say round their mental health, we will pull in another organisation/service.

What kind of difficult life challenges do older people experience in Powys?

There are many examples. Some of the most common include:

  • The cared for and the carer. 
  • Coping with illnesses. 
  • A need for information and advice in order to move forward. 
  • Wanting to carry on meeting up with friends once a week when there are rural transport and/or mobility issues. 
  • Maintaining own home. 
  • Physical and/or mental health issues (including clinical depression/bipolar disorder/dementia). 
  • Feeling lonely and isolated. 

How does it support people struggling with their mental health?

We will provide support but may also look at pre-existing networks to refer to other specialist support such as Ponthafren Association or the nearest Mind centre as appropriate.

How does the project make a practical difference?

"Many thanks for your kind help and the information you have provided, really useful. I’m going to call Llanidloes Home Support in my lunchtime and I am working from home tomorrow, so if she could visit then that would be great, I’ll stay in touch."

"Carer phoned outreach worker a few weeks later and expressed his thanks again for all the help, his stepson’s anxiety levels were much lower and this makes his caring role more manageable."

"Just speaking to the outreach worker and getting the information he needed, M felt that he had lifted a big weight from his shoulders."

"By this time they were both overwhelmed that someone had stepped in and offered them information and support – ‘No one’s ever done anything like this for us before'."

"Somehow we have been listened to and heard and helped."

"Thanks for the visit. It is time for me to reassess my work / life / caring balance, so your contact couldn't have come at a better time."

How is the project influencing policy and practice at a national level?

We want to influence local government, the health board, National Government and hear the voices of older people to make changes to policy and improve services. It is about enabling the individual and collective voices to be heard in the right place.

Some of the groups come together with other stakeholders to inform and give evidence to various inquiries and consultations.

We’re aiming to work in a coproductive way. I attend the Older People’s Partnership Board along with Gail Hamer, the Chief Officer at Age Cymru Powys. The project started in January 2018 and we are already reviewing how it goes and learning all the time.

At the same time the five partners are all continuing to feed into their national networks.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

As I am new to the area – getting to know it better, as I’ve not worked in Powys before. Developing essential networks and understanding the scope of the organisations and other services. Ensuring that we keep true to the people centred approach.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done on the project so far

Meeting an incredible group of committed people. Myself, I’m a step away from working with individuals, but I’m very aware of the work they do in the team. They are very supportive to people who have powerful stories to tell.

When you’re not working how do you enjoy spending your time?

I like art, socialising with family and friends, and walking. I recently completed a three-day course on stained glass, which was really good. 

Many thanks to Zandra for telling us all about this exciting new project. To find out more about the Connected Generation project contact Zandra Pitt by emailing or ring 07971 637 447.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Meeting the Farming Community Network in Powys

Mark Suthern, Chairman of the Farming Community Network

Earlier this autumn Freda Lacey (Senior Officer Health & Wellbeing team) and I joined the Farming Community Network for a Harvest Service of Thanksgiving and AGM at the Royal Welsh Showground near Builth Wells. This was the prelude to a 2-day national conference for the charity’s volunteers, staff and trustees.

Christopher Jones MBE founded FCN (then known as the Farming Crisis Network), in 1995. This followed two decades of falling farming prices in the 1980s and 90s, which led to a rise in the number of farmer suicides. Unfortunately, suicide cases in the farming community are still some of the highest recorded in the UK, and today the charity is increasingly called upon to support members of the farming community across England and Wales.

The PAVO mental health team first worked with David Williams, the FCN Regional Director for Wales, and himself a farmer in Monmouthshire, late last year. We hosted Ramble with a Big Cheese, a farming engagement activity in Powys, where we listened to people close to, or working within, the farming community to hear first-hand some of the current issues. Our aim is to make sure that people, not just farming families but support organisations, know where they can best access support and help around their mental health if they’re based in Powys.

Photo © Farming Community Network
Walking with farmers

FCN has a network of over 400 volunteers across England and Wales, many of whom are involved in farming, or have close links with agriculture, and therefore have a great understanding of the issues that farmers, farm workers and farming families regularly face. These volunteers provide free, confidential, pastoral and practical support to anyone who seeks help, regardless of whether the issue is personal or business-related. They will "walk with" anyone who seeks support and help them find a positive way through their problems - for as long as it is needed. Issues range from financial difficulties, animal disease, mental health and family disputes.

In addition to local groups of volunteers, FCN runs a confidential national helpline and an e-helpline, which is open every day of the year from 7am - 11pm (tel: 03000 111 999).

David welcomed us to the first FCN conference in Wales. He said, “We can live in our own bubble in the farming world and think that we are the only one with issues. But you will find that a lot of people are suffering and need the help that we supply.”

Dr Christianne Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales

The FCN has its roots in Christian theology and ethics. One of the Mid Wales volunteers, the Reverend Ifor Williams (“I used to milk cows”) led the harvest service, whilst Dr Christianne Glossop, the Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, spoke about the importance of faith to agricultural and rural communities.

FCN Chair, Mark Suthern, described a “period of history repeating itself.” First there was the agricultural revolution, when pioneers set about farming for the first time following centuries of a hunter-gathering lifestyle. During the Industrial Revolution many farmers were displaced by machines and switched to factory work in rapidly expanding urban areas. More recently there has been a Green Revolution, with new pesticides impacting on agriculture. And now we are in a digital and agri-tech led revolution – another massive period of change for the farming community.

The farmer of today has to be a finance expert, a frustrated engineer, a soil scientist, a stockman, a vet and an environmentalist all rolled into one.

Mark asked, “how do we help those frightened by a period of change? We need to harness our strengths and support people through this.” He talked us through the current challenges for FCN, gave a summary of last year’s casework, and highlighted in more detail some of the problems presenting.

David Williams, FCN Regional Director for Wales, addresses AGM guests

Planning for the future

Two of FCN’s vital tasks for the coming year are:
  • To expand the helpline services.
  • Training people to have confidence to engage in those important conversations with farming families.
Mark concluded by saying: “it is about transferring our values and beliefs to listen to farming families and help them through this long transition period where there are opportunities but also challenges.”

Powys FCN Volunteer Coordinator Pat Borland speaks at the Harvest Service

Farming Community Network volunteers

It was an excellent opportunity for us at PAVO to meet and find out more about some of the work that FCN volunteers are doing to support farming families. Some volunteers, with experience of farming and their own mental health issues, now give talks to local farming groups to raise awareness and reduce the stigma.

Whilst at the AGM I also met Mid Wales Volunteer Coordinator Pat Borland, who will be writing a separate blog post about the work she does supporting volunteers across Powys. Earlier this year Owen Griffkin, (Mental Health Participation Officer) went to the Farming Community Network’s Powys volunteers’ event and met with the people who deal with enquiries from farmers in crisis in Powys.

Some of the enquiries the volunteers receive can be wellbeing related and they said it would be good to have more information about specialised services in the area. Owen worked on an information pack specifically for the volunteers, with a handy info sheet with lots of local organisations featured. The idea is that the volunteers can have it ready-to-hand when on a call with somebody, so that they can quickly find the right help. We also collated leaflets from all the local groups (such as Ponthafren Association and the Mind centres across Powys) to help the volunteers find out more details about each organisation and what services they offer. 

We handed over the completed packs at the FCN’s AGM so that the volunteers can start using them straight away. David Williams, Wales’ Regional Director of FCN said, ‘I am sure this will be a very useful tool for the Powys group.’

If you want to find out more about volunteering with FCN in Powys then contact David by emailing:

If you need support, then ring the helpline no: 03000 111 999 (7am – 11pm daily) or email: