Thursday, 2 March 2023

Shared Power - the training

How to use your lived experience to help in the planning and delivery of 
health and wellbeing services in Powys

Late last year the Health & Wellbeing team at PAVO launched Shared Power - An Introduction, an animated video, as a training tool for individuals who want to use their experiences of health services to help shape future services. The film delves into the different types of power, and how they interact with each other, when service user and carer representatives attend partnership board meetings in Powys.

The film is also aimed at those working in services so that they can avoid some of the barriers to co-production. Co-production means service users and carers work together with health professionals to design future services that work better for everyone. We received some excellent feedback about the film at the time.

Then, just a few weeks ago, came the perfect opportunity to show the film again - at the latest Shared Power face to face training session at our Ddole Road offices in Llandrindod Wells. Delivered by Owen Griffkin (Mental Health Participation Officer) with support from Sue Newham (Health & Wellbeing Engagement Officer), the training aimed to build the confidence, knowledge and skills of participants. Some of those attending were already volunteering as citizen or individual reps, and the training aimed to help them participate effectively in the planning and reviewing of services with public bodies.

Citizen reps volunteer their time, energy and passion to make a difference for others and to the services we receive, and are helping influence change at local, regional and national levels. Some of the participants are citizen reps on the Powys Mental Health Planning & Development Board and the Talk to Me 2 (Suicide & Self-Harm Prevention Forum), whilst others regularly sit on the Powys Regional Partnership Board.

Learning opportunities on the day included:
  • How to influence positive changes in health and wellbeing services in Powys.
  • Understanding the theories underpinning service user and carer involvement in planning services.
  • Gaining practical experience of how partnership boards work with service users and carers in meetings.
  • Recognising barriers to participation and how to overcome them.
  • Finding out about current opportunities and how to apply for them.
  • The opportunity to learn from current service user and carer representatives who sit on Health and Wellbeing Boards about their experiences.
  • Learning assertiveness techniques and how to prepare for meetings.
  • How to share personal experiences and avoid ‘trigger points’.

Here are some highlights from the day’s training.

Co-production demystified 

As a citizen rep, you are an equal partner with other professionals in the room. You are an expert by experience. But how do you gain the experience of other people and take their stories to a partnership board?

Owen updated the group about the work of the current mental health representatives, who regularly go out into the community at Meet the Rep events to listen to people’s voices about mental health services.

One of our experienced reps, John, spoke about how important it is to find out what is happening in the rest of Wales and about being aware of current mental health legislation. “Preparation is key! Ask yourself what are some of the key messages you want people to hear.”

John also described some of the resources available to people who want to engage in a co-productive way. The Co-production Network for Wales is a good starting point for finding out more.

And volunteering as a rep is a two-way street! We regularly hear that taking on the role “does improve confidence and help with personal recovery.”

Meetings - with remarkable people

Even introducing yourself at a meeting can be hard when in a room full of strangers, especially when most of them are there in a professional capacity. “A few years ago asking who I am would have been a really distressing question as I thought I was a nobody!”

Participants were introduced to Imposter Syndrome - it might feel daunting to be at a partnership board meeting, but as a rep you probably deserve to be there more than anyone else. “You are the most valuable person here,” someone was told at one meeting.

Everyone in the room is equal. Those working as heads of service for the NHS, or other statutory bodies, may be constrained in their work roles as to exactly what changes they can bring about and when - but they are people too. They may have a mother with dementia, a nephew who needs care, a friend struggling to access services…

As someone pointed out, “Town councils, health boards and councils are slow moving, which can be discouraging, but once they get going in the right direction they are hard to stop!”

Assertiveness is key - and learning the difference between being passive, aggressive and assertive an important skill. As a rep you need to think about being:
  • Proactive about what you want to say.
  • Confident and engaged.
  • Self aware and aware of others.
  • Sure your needs are met and that you are heard.

Hotspots, triggers & flashpoints

Participants spoke about their own triggers. These included being talked over, being told that there was not enough money, “mansplaining" and not being listened to.

One said, “I used to get in a tizz when people didn’t listen and I would storm out crying, but nothing good came from that!”

“You need a strong assertive Chair so that the meeting does not go off track and any problems can be shut down.”

“There will always be quiet people - it’s about managing a meeting to let all voices be heard.”

Dealing with difficult conversations

There was some very interesting group debate amongst the participants about what to do around some specific tricky scenarios which Owen had set up.

“Health staff are there for you. It’s about having the confidence and assertiveness to say, ‘I respect your views but I don’t agree with them.’”

“Ground rules are important to set the tone for the meeting.”

If there is a lack of respect someone suggested saying: “I have respect for your professionalism, so please have respect for my lived experience.”

The mock meeting

To round off the training session, Sue chaired a mock meeting designed to put into practice all the learning from earlier in the day. It turned out to be an extremely interesting and valuable exercise.

All those attending agreed that they had benefitted hugely from Shared Power training, both from the learning and also the opportunity to network with others with a similar role.

And finally…

Would you be interested in joining these citizen reps to take grass-root views and opinions to local board meetings where service providers can find out what is working and what needs to change? For further information about becoming a citizen rep, in the field of mental health or health and social care, just get in touch with us by emailing or ringing 01597 822191.

The next Shared Power training session will take place on 13 September 2023. 
Do get in touch with Owen if you would like to sign up.

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Mamwlad - reaching out to support Powys farmers

Photo by Joseph Reeder
It was November 2020 when we first heard about a brand new project called Mamwlad which had been set up in Powys to support farmers and was run jointly by two local organisations – Care and Repair Powys and Age Cymru Powys. Mamwlad means Homeland or Motherland in English.

At the time client data from both organisations had demonstrated a disproportionately low take up of their services by older farmers. The farming community are naturally independent and reluctant to seek out support, but as their needs change as they grow older their personal needs increase and both social and physical isolation makes matters worse. Jointly CRP and ACP planned to use their experience and knowledge of supporting older people to identify solutions to difficulties, working collaboratively with others in the wider agricultural community, public and voluntary sectors.

The Mamwlad project has worked hard over the last couple of years, despite the challenges of the Covid pandemic in the early days, to reach out to and support the older members of the farming community. Today we hear about a client from south Powys and how the project has supported her. Lesley Price, a caseworker with Care & Repair Powys working on the Mamwlad project, tells us more.

Photo by Helen Davies

Menna lives on a farm near Llanwrtyd Wells, a small market town in south west Powys. She was referred to Care & Repair via Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth after a stay there following a fall in which she unfortunately broke her hip.

The farmhouse where she lives had enough rooms to move her bed downstairs as she is unable to climb stairs (she is is hoping to get back to full fitness with the help of an exercise plan she received from the hospital).

A Health Occupational Therapist had made a referral to Minor Adaptations for a stair rail to be fitted.

One of the Mamwlad caseworkers arranged to visit Menna to carry out a Healthy Homes Check. Menna had a number of concerns about other areas in the house that may cause her problems, particularly as she had lost her confidence since her fall. The caseworker took the time to listen to Menna’s concerns and make suggestions for some further minor adaptations to reduce the risk of falls. The caseworker is a Trusted Assessor for Minor Adaptations and able to make direct referrals for works to be carried out.

During the Healthy Homes Check the Mamwlad caseworker discusses support options with the client, looking at isolation and loneliness that can have an impact on a person’s mental health. It may be appropriate to refer someone to project partners such as Age Cymru Powys for other services such as befriending or to explore benefit entitlement.

We also network with other organisations such as The DPJ Foundation, who specialise in mental health within the farming communities. From our evaluations the impact of introducing minor adaptations to a home on clients’ mental health is positive. They have increased confidence and independence leading to reduced anxiety and worry when they are receiving the support they need.

In this instance the two entrance doors to the house both had small steps, so the caseworker agreed that grab rails would reduce the risk of falls. The caseworker also identified small steps leading into the utility room and the hallway as potential trip hazards and agreed to fit grab rails in these areas.

The caseworker drew up a set of recommendations, which she forwarded to the Care & Repair Minor Adaptations Team. The work was carried out by an in-house Minor Adaptations Officer within 10 working days of the referral.

Menna is extremely pleased with the finished work and tells us that the rails have increased her confidence and independence. She has also had three more grab rails fitted in the bathroom to provide support when showering and using the bath.

Menna has since referred a family member, and a farming friend, to Care & Repair for support and advice on falls prevention and fire safety.

If you know anyone in the farming community who would benefit from similar support, then please get in touch with Care & Repair:

North Powys: Amy Peter, email:

South Powys: Lesley Price, email:

Or telephone the Care & Repair Office at the Newtown base: 01686 620760.

Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

The Mamwlad Project is funded by the Welsh Government. The two partners are:

Powys Care and Repair works to help keep their clients safe, warm and secure in their own homes. They run a variety of programmes including the Rapid Adaptations Programme for those 50+.

Age Cymru Powys provides essential support to people over 50 and their families in Powys. The organisation works to sustain and improve the quality of life of vulnerable older people in Powys. It believes that older people should be respected and valued as individuals in terms of their dignity, status, personal autonomy, diversity of needs, aspirations and expectations.

Thursday, 9 February 2023

Children's Mental Health Week 2023 - how to maintain good mental health in school

Children's Mental Health Week 2023, 6 - 12 February, is all about making a difference to the lives of children and young people across the UK. The awareness week is organised and promoted by the charity Place2Be. The theme this year is "Let's Connect." 

Today, as part of our week-long celebration of Children’s Mental Health Week, we are pleased to introduce a young guest author. Lucy is a member of the Junior Start Well Board* in Powys, and writes about her life as a high school pupil here in Mid Wales.

Maintaining good mental health may come as a struggle and is a constant balancing act. However, it does not always have to be a difficult and negative experience. 

As a teenager (I’m 15 years old) I can really appreciate how complicated our continuously changing lives are and living in the moment allows me to relate to and understand many problems teenagers are facing currently. Whether that would be post COVID struggles such as social anxiety and work overload, or simply exam stresses to friendship and relationship problems. 

All the listed above are completely understandable and relatable issues for many at the moment, and it would be inconsiderate not to address them. If you find yourself in any one of these situations where you’re not sure how to balance your head with your heart and maintain a sensible level of emotion, don't be afraid to reach out to others for help.

It is not often thought about, but we all have a mental health, and almost 100% of what we do will impact that mental health some way or another. Be it good or bad. This is where the balancing comes into practice. 

Changing lives and changing emotions, will mean a changing headspace. Here is what appears scary. Uncontrollable thoughts and feelings will arise, that will weigh you down like the devil and angel. None of which can be predicted. Way to dramatise, right? But that is how we feel. 

Finding ourselves can be a daunting experience; social image and acceptance are crucial in a young person’s life, however much they tell us that it doesn’t matter. Of course, it’s built into society, and no amount of preaching will fix that problem. On the one hand, having something to work toward, and maintain yourself for, is always an asset in life. On the other hand, don’t be fooled into a negative mindset of focusing on others’ opinions of you.

High school is like juggling balls of fire. You take your eye off the ball, and all hell breaks loose. Of course, in reality it’s not that deep, but try telling me that when friendships are broken, and secrets are spilled the day before I have an important exam. So how do we cope with stresses like this?

The simplest answer: Take a chill-pill. Sit down and just think. Remove any social device from your presence and commit to a full connection with your emotions. Ask yourself, how am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way? Is this a normal feeling? Or a new feeling? What is the best way to get rid of this feeling?

A feeling of overwhelm and confusion is best dealt with in a way which works for you. Be it, writing it down on a piece of paper – and burn it later if you want - (this works best for me), messaging a friend or family member to let out your emotions, and have a little rant, even recording a voice note and then deleting it after. Any way you can use to release your emotions is beneficial for your mental health. Even the smallest of things. Imagine wringing out a dirty wet sponge. All that weight and dirt and grime has built up until you can take no more. The only way is out.

All being said, the best way to aid a situation like this, is to avoid it all together. As I mentioned, High School is an unpredictable place, where we can be dragged into all sorts of issues that are beyond our control. But let’s back up and take a look at what is within our control.

Having a healthy work / life balance is wildly important for anyone, and in school it’s just the same. Attitude going into classes will determine how the teachers view you and your values. And remember; respect goes both ways. The best way to enjoy school is to be honest, open, and caring to all around you. That will make school life easier. In turn this should take stress off exams, as you will start to enjoy your classes. 

As for friendships and relationships, they will fluctuate with time, so don’t let that put you off. We can’t hold on to something that is not meant to be. And to be honest, try and avoid being petty. Life’s too short to hold a grudge.

The main person in control of your emotions is you. So do things that make you happy, have friends that make you happy, and go places that make you happy.

Having experienced many of the things above myself, I hope this advice will act as an understanding of what we go through as teenagers. From one to another.

*Junior Start Well Board is a group of young people aged 11 – 17 years of age who meet every month to talk about the issues affecting young people. The purpose of the group is to listen to the views and the opinions of their peers and provide a voice for young people in Powys, so that they can feedback and contribute to decisions that affect them. Based on these conversations, they ask to meet with the services in Powys who are best placed to listen and respond or look at setting up any new projects in response to need.

Photos from unSplash - Nick Fewings

Wednesday, 8 February 2023

Wythnos Iechyd Meddwl Plant - Gweithredu dros Blant | Children's Mental Health Week - Action for Children

Prosiect Bownsio’n Ôl - Gweithredu dros Blant
Bouncing Back project - Action for Children

gan | by Chris Dunne

Arweinydd Iechyd Meddwl Gweithredu dros Blant

Action for Children Mental Health Lead

Fel drigolyn balch Powys ac arweinydd iechyd meddwl Gweithredu dros Blant yng Nghymru, mae Wythnos Ymwybyddiaeth Iechyd Meddwl Plant (6 – 12 Chwefror), yn amser pwysig i asesu’r gwaith gwych sy’n digwydd ym Mhowys ac ar draws Cymru yn y maes iechyd meddwl plant. Er gwaethaf yr holl heriau sydd wedi'u dogfennu'n dda gyda CAMHS (Gwasanaeth Iechyd Meddwl Plant a'r Glasoed), mae lles meddyliol pobl ifanc yng Nghymru yn parhau i fod yn brif flaenoriaeth i lunwyr polisi ac elusennau fel ei’n gilydd.

As a proud Powys resident and mental health lead for Action for Children in Wales, Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week (6 – 12 February), is an important moment to assess the great work going on in Powys and across Wales in the field of children’s mental health. Despite all the well documented challenges with CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services), the mental wellbeing of our young people in Wales remains a top priority for policy makers and charities alike.

Mae rhaglen ymchwil ddiweddar a ariannwyd gan lywodraeth y DU wedi canfod bod chwarter merched a bron i un o bob 10 bachgen yn dangos arwyddion o iselder yn 14 oed, mae’r amodau hyn sy’n cyfyngu ar fywyd ac yn wanychol yn dod yn fwy a fwy cynhenid yn nhirwedd bywydau ein plant.

With a recent UK government funded research programme finding a quarter of girls and nearly one in 10 boys show signs of depression at the age of 14, these life-limiting and debilitating conditions are becoming more and more ingrained in the landscape of our children’s lives.

Mae rhaglen llythrennedd iechyd meddwl y Guide ym Mhowys a drost Cymru wedi bod yn rhan allweddol o’n dulliau iechyd meddwl. Roeddwn yn falch iawn o gyhoeddi’r dull arloesol hwn yn 2018. Wedi ei ddatblygu yng Nghanada, mae'r Guide wedi gael ei anelu at fyfyrwyr blwyddyn 9 ac mae'n darparu set gyflawn o adnoddau ar-lein sydd wedi ei phrofi i gynyddu dealltwriaeth o iechyd meddwl ac anhwylderau meddwl, i leihau stigma salwch meddwl ac yn cynyddu'r gallu i geisio cymorth, ymhlith myfyrwyr ac athrawon.

The Guide mental health literacy programme in Powys and across Wales has been a key component in our mental health approaches. I was very proud to launch this innovative approach in 2018. Developed in Canada, The Guide is aimed at year 9 students and provides a complete set of online resources proven to increase the understanding of mental health and mental disorders, decrease the stigma of mental illness and increase the ability to seek help, amongst students and teachers.

Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) prosiect | project

Mae’r cynllun wedi ei gydnabod a’i gefnogi ar lefel Llywodraeth Cymru ac roeddwn i wrth fy modd ein bod ni yn arwain y ffordd o ran gwella gwybodaeth ac ymwybyddiaeth iechyd meddwl myfyrwyr blwyddyn 9 pan fydd hyd oes diagnosis o anhwylderau iechyd meddwl yn dechrau cynyddu’n aruthrol. Yr allwedd yma yw addysgu llythrennedd iechyd meddwl i myfyrwyr a staff.

The scheme has been recognised and backed at Welsh Government level and I was thrilled we were leading the way in enhancing the mental health knowledge and awareness of year 9 students when the lifespan in which diagnoses of mental health disorders begins to increase dramatically. The key here is teaching mental health literacy to both students and staff.

Mae gwybod beth yw’r ffordd orau o gael a chynnal iechyd meddwl da, a beth i’w wneud os ydyn nhw, fel llawer o bobl, neu eu ffrindiau a’u teulu yn profi anawsterau, yn gadarnhaol nid yn unig am eu cyflawniad addysgol presennol ond hefyd am eu bywydau yn y dyfodol y tu hwnt i gatiau’r ysgol. Mae’r galw wedi bod yn uchel iawn am y gwasanaeth hwn, ac roeddem yn falch iawn o gymerud y gwasanaeth hwn, am ddim, ar-lein i weithwyr proffesiynol a chymunedau yn ystod, ac ers pandemig Covid a waethygodd yr heriau emosiynol ac iechyd meddwl i’n pobl ifanc.

Knowing how best to obtain and maintain good mental health and what to do if, like many people, they or their friends and family experience difficulties, is positive not just for their current educational achievement but also for their future lives beyond the school gates. Demand has been very high for this service, and we were very proud to take this service, free of charge, online for professionals and communities during and since the Covid pandemic that exacerbated the emotional and mental health challenges for our young people.

Hefyd ym Mhowys, mae ein gwasanaeth Anghenion Ychwanegol Cymunedol Powys ar gyfer plant gydag anableddau wedi bod yn gweithio gyda’r URC lleol i ddarparu sesiynau chwaraeon cynhwysol i bobl ifanc yn “Welshpool”, gyda grŵp ychwanegol wedi cychwyn yn y “Newtown” yn ddiweddar. Mae'n rhan o bartneriaeth gyffrous sy'n datblygu rhwng URC a Gweithredu dros Blant a fydd yn gweld llawer mwy o'n pobl ifanc yn elwa drost Cymru yn y blynyddoedd i ddod. Mae ymateb y bobl ifanc sy’n cymryd rhan wedi bod yn wych i’w weld ac mae bellach yn rhan werthfawr o’r wythnos wrth iddynt elwa’n fawr o ymarfer rhyngweithiol gyda’u ffrindiau.

Also in Powys, our Powys Community Additional Needs (PCAN) service for children with disabilities has been working with the local WRU to provide inclusive sports sessions for young people in Welshpool, with and additional group recently starting up in Newtown. It's part of an exciting developing partnership between WRU and Action for Children that will see many more of our young people benefit across Wales in coming years. The reaction of the young people taking part has been brilliant to see and it’s now a cherished part of the week as they benefit hugely from interactive exercise with their friends.

Felly, mae Gweithredu dros Blant yn darparu gwasanaethau iechyd meddwl arloesol yng Nghymru. Rydym hefyd yn darparu Rhaglen y “Blues” ar draws Cymru mewn ysgolion uwchradd gyda pobl ifanc yn eu harddegau sy’n dangos arwyddion cynnar o broblemau iechyd meddwl. Mae'r rhaglen wedi cael ei dderbyn yn dda iawn, ac mae'r galw gan ysgolion unwaith eto wedi bod yn uchel.

So, Action for Children really is at the vanguard of providing innovative mental health services in Wales. We are also delivering the Blues Programme across Wales in secondary schools with for teenagers who show early signs of mental health problems. The programme has been very well received and the demand from schools has again, been high.

Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) prosiect - Trallwng | project - Welshpool

Yn ogystal â llwyddiant y Blues, mae rhaglenni ‘On Target a Bouncing Back’ (Bownsio’n Ôl), sy’n cynnwys ymarfer corff yn y sesiynau dosbarth, wedi bod yr un mor boblogaidd ac effeithiol, maent yn dangos llwybr trwy gyfnod a gall fod yn heriol iawn. Mae cael ein pobl ifanc i deimlo’n gyfforddus i siarad am eu hemosiynau ac rhoi’r wybodaeth, y sgiliau a’r offer iddynt i ddeall a rheoli eu hemosiynau’n well yn hanfodol.

Such has been the success of the Blues, sister programmes On Target and Bouncing Back, that incorporate physical exercise into the classroom sessions, have proved equally popular and effective while showing a path through what can be very challenging times. Getting our young people to feel comfortable talking about their emotions and equipping them with the knowledge, skills and tools to better understand and manage their emotions is essential.

Mae'n bwysig dweud nad ydym byth yn anghofio rhieni a'r teulu ehangach yn Gweithredu dros Blant. Yng Nghymru, mae ein gwasanaeth Parent Talk Cymru yn drysorfa o adnoddau i rieni, ac iechyd meddwl a lles yw’r cynnwys mwyaf poblogaidd ar y wefan. Yn ogystal â’r deunydd cynhwysfawr ar y we, mae sgwrsio ar-lein un-i-un ar gael gyda hyfforddwr magu plant profiadol. Maent ar gael yn y Gymraeg ag yn Saesneg, mae’r gwasanaeth gwych hwn i gyd am ddim, ac nid oes unrhyw bwnc yn rhy fawr, rhy fach, nac yn gwilydd i’w drafod.

It's important to say we never forget parents and the wider family at Action for Children. In Wales, our Parent Talk Cymru service is a treasure trove of resources for parents, with mental health and wellbeing the most accessed content on the website. In addition to the comprehensive web material, there is a one-to-one online chatting facility available with an experienced parenting coach. Available in both Welsh and English, this brilliant service is all free, and no topic is too big, small, or embarrassing to broach.

Mae Wythnos Ymwybyddiaeth Iechyd Meddwl Plant yn llwyfan perffaith i danlinellu ein hymrwymiad i iechyd meddwl a lles ein plant, pobl ifanc a’u teuluoedd. Rydym benderfynol o ymgyrchu dros newid a gweithio gyda Llywodraeth Cymru i sicrhau canlyniadau gwell gan ein bod yn delio gyda materion cymhleth sy’n effeithio ar ein teuluoedd o ddydd i ddydd. Mae hwn yn waith eang a chynhwysfawr ac nid ydym byth yn sefyll yn llonydd.

Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is the perfect platform to underline our commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of our children, young people and their families. We are driven by campaigning for change and working with Welsh Government to secure better outcomes as we are in the front line dealing with a range of complex issues affecting our families day in and day out. This is work is wide-ranging and comprehensive and we never stand still.

Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Children’s Mental Health Week 2023 – a young person’s view from Powys

Children's Mental Health Week 2023, 6 - 12 February, is all about making a difference to the lives of children and young people across the UK. The awareness week is organised and promoted by the charity Place2Be. The theme this year is "Let's Connect." 

as part of our week-long celebration of Children’s Mental Health Week, we are pleased to introduce a young guest author. Ffion is a member of the Junior Start Well Board* in Powys, and writes about her life as a young person here in Mid Wales.

Life is a cage, which constantly suffocates me. The labels have become a cage - student, carer, daughter, sister, anxiety, traumatised, sad, lonely, different. But when I read I am transported, it's like the key to my cage. I feel free. It’s my lifeline, I relate to aspects of characters and their stories so, if even for a moment, I feel less alone. Less Different. I feel valid.

“I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.” 
Veronica Roth, Divergent. 

This empowers me. It reassures me that even if I’m not the bravest, I am scared of spiders and I am too scared to stand up for myself, I have to be selfless because of being a Carer. Despite never being put first or me putting myself first, it gives my life meaning and purpose. I feel less alone, more normal. I feel kind, empathetic and selfless - which makes me brave. Less alone. I feel invincible.

“As long as you can find yourself, you’ll never starve.” 
Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games. 

This resonated with me the first time I read it. Then the second. Third. Fourth. And countless other times. Life is miserable. It's a fact of life I have experienced more than some. But in life, there's beauty in doing what you love, and in finding what you love you can find yourself. Being yourself is one of the greatest joys in life, and it gives me joy. It’s how I’ve tried to live my life for the past three years while picking my GCSEs, A Levels and I hope while going to university. It makes me feel mature. Less inferior. I feel wise.

“I told you to hide your heart once. You should have listened.”
Victoria Aveyard, Red Queen.

I've been hurt. More times than I can count. And every time a similar thought goes through my head. Then, I think back to this book and how when Mare opens up her heart to others, she finds her power. That's why I will never stop. I will cry with others, I will love others, and I will trust others with my heart. Closing off my heart would make me cold, unfeeling and I can't imagine life that way. Part of who I am is my empathy, my kindness and my generosity. By reaching out to those around me, I have stronger relationships, and I feel less lonely. I feel loved.

“It’s always the fear of looking stupid that stops you from being awesome.” 
Kiera Cass, The Selection. 

Part of my anxiety is the constant fear of everything going wrong around people and being laughed at and mocked. I lacked confidence. In high school, it meant that I feared a misstep so I stayed quiet, and didn’t speak out. I felt oppressed by my anxiety and lack of confidence. But when I went into sixth form, instead of a year group of 140 people, it was 20. And the smaller group meant that I became less scared. I gradually built up my confidence and I applied for head girl. In high school, I would never have dreamed of doing anything like that out of fear of failure. But failure is how you grow and learn. I learned to face my fear so I feel less afraid. I feel confident.

The connections I feel to these books, these characters, these storylines have helped me grow as a person. I’ve learned to respect my differences, and they are actually what makes me stronger. I've learned that fear is a tool, and using it will open doors and help me get places. I’ve learned that empathy and kindness isn't a weakness, you have to lose some things to help you find better ones. Life is a cage, which constantly suffocates me. My key was reading, it has helped me deal with the pressure and changed my life for the better.

*Junior Start Well Board is a group of young people aged 11 – 17 years of age who meet every month to talk about the issues affecting young people. The purpose of the group is to listen to the views and the opinions of their peers and provide a voice for young people in Powys, so that they can feedback and contribute to decisions that affect them. Based on these conversations, they ask to meet with the services in Powys who are best placed to listen and respond or look at setting up any new projects in response to need.

If you would like more information on how to join please contact

Reading Well for teens suggests recommended reading and digital resources to help you understand your feelings and boost your confidence.

Photos from unSplash - Anna Meshkov, Gaelle Marcel, Kimberley Farmer, 
Sincerely Media & Olga Tutunaru.

Thursday, 26 January 2023

Warm Spaces for Wellbeing

The Hanging Gardens, Llanidloes

Is getting cold getting you down this Winter?

Powys County Council has created a directory of Warm Spaces. It is made up of libraries, community centres, churches and other places, including mental health charities, that are opening their doors to anyone who needs them. This network of Warm Spaces offers support to anyone struggling with the cost of living this winter. Each Warm Space has its own opening hours and facilities. The one thing each has in common - a warm big welcome to all!

We asked some of the people generously sharing their Warm Space with their community to tell us more about how it’s working in their area, and a few PAVO colleagues gave feedback from their visits also.

CARAD - Community Arts Rhayader & District

At CARAD in Rhayader, we decided to run a weekly warm spaces activity day to support those who needed to cut down on their energy costs and risked being in a cold house over winter. We employ a facilitator, funded by Comic Relief, and have a volunteer present so that we can welcome people, have a chat, make a them a cuppa and biscuits or toast and guide activities. We have general activities in the morning and a more organised free workshop in the afternoon. This latter preferably needs booking as we need to make sure we
have enough materials to cover those who come. We chose a day when the library was closed and have also produced a flyer about other warm spaces in Rhayader.

Simply coming down to somewhere with nothing to do isn’t an option as, if you can’t put the heating on, you may not be feeling too good about life. Sitting in a warm room but feeling in the way, lonely or depressed won’t improve that.

Being welcomed to an organised activity makes all the difference. Because any visitor is welcome, you are not signalled out as different for attending. For that reason, we stress the activities rather than the warmth!

We really didn’t know what to expect but find that many of those who come through the doors are facing challenges. These might be around caring, health or other circumstances. There have been many positive benefits. Simply having some company has made a big difference to some, enjoying new activities has very obviously impacted others with a lot of laughter coming from the space and repeat visits. The benefits of those activities - lowering stress, having time out, and feeling accepted and safe (and warm) are also really positive for staff to see.

Catherine Allan, Chair of Trustees, CARAD

Ceri Williams, PAVO Health Promotion Facilitator 
& (inset) Melanie Taylor of Llanidloes Library

Llanidloes Library

Ceri Williams, our new Health Promotion Facilitator (North Powys) at PAVO visited the Warm Space at Llanidloes Library on 11 January. She spoke to Melanie Taylor who has worked there for about 7 years. The library staff welcome anyone who wants to use the Warm Space.

The library is located in the former town museum at the side of the Town Hall. There is a children's area and computers are available to use free of charge. Melanie said "this space is nothing new, we have been offering a warm environment for many years. We welcome new users to the library."

Hanging Gardens, Llanidloes

The following week Ceri visited the Hanging Gardens in Llanidloes (photo at top of post):

I walked in to laughter and went to talk to three adults playing board games. They told me: "It’s a fantastic environment - such a welcoming space. All the crafts and plants growing. It's what we had before everyone owned everything. Kevin and Fran (of The Wilderness Trust) had a vision and worked 12 hours a day to make it happen."

Local childminder Sammy shares an allotment plot with other childminders which enables them to feed their charges fresh veg (funded by the Co-op). She attends the Thursday singing sessions with her young charges.

Louise Evans, who works there, mentioned the Art therapy group and the Celf Able group which is a mobile art group that comes once a month.

All the activities are on the Hanging Gardens website.

Knighton & District Community Centre

At The KDCC Hub we have two sessions per week which are dedicated to offering ‘Warm Spaces & more’. The sessions are available on Tuesday 10 - 1pm & Thursday 10 - 2pm, both have access to the Cafe, our Advice from the Hub service, volunteer support, television, radio and reading material.

On a Tuesday the Cafe offers a hot drink and a piece of homemade cake at £1; on Thursday we offer hot drinks from 10 - 12pm free of charge, and from 12pm we have soup, sandwiches and homemade cake which are all free.

At the Tuesday Warm Space Cafe we also have with us staff from other organisations, such as POBL, Powys Housing and an Energy Efficient Advisor funded through Citizens Advice. The third Tuesday of the month RNID Hear to Help hold their hearing aid repair clinic at the centre 10 - 12pm (no appointment needed) and on the 4th Tuesday Credu's Leanne has a carers' support coffee morning in the Cafe.

Thursdays we welcome Hayley Lloyd, our PAVO Community Connector, to the building. Hayley has a drop-in from 10 - 12.30pm, we also have District Nurses in the Reynolds Room offering a Leg Clinic 9.30 – 12pm.

Alongside all the Community Centre Hub has to offer customers also have access to the Library and our new Digital Hub project. The Library is open on Tuesdays from 10.30 - 1pm and 2 - 5pm; Thursdays 10.30 – 1pm; 2 - 6pm. Booking is essential for the Digital Hub which is open on Tuesdays 9 - 5pm & Thursdays 1 - 6pm.

A recent customer survey highlighted that our customers very much enjoy coming to both of our Warm Space activities, and for many different reasons. Some of our older single attendees, who have limited contact with others, come so as to have the opportunity to socialise either with each other or our happy and friendly volunteers and find the human contact they engage with both uplifting and refreshing. Our younger customers come so as to have a change of scenery, and meet up with people of their age and circumstances (i.e. being mums), most come as they are finding it challenging “to make ends meet” so not having to worry about warming their home a couple of times a week takes immense pressure off them, and the welcome addition of either reduced Cafe prices or free lunch is more than an incentive in these hard times.

All customers are very positive about all of the other services/activities we offer, and really appreciate the fact that help, support and advice is available from services like The Advice from the Hub or PAVO Community Connectors. One very frequent comment is that people really value the Warm Space sessions, and are very keen for them to continue as all users find the services invaluable and of vital importance to their wellbeing.

Annie England, KDCC Hub Coordinator

Mid Wales Arts

Mid Wales Arts centre has a large Artshed that has been completely rebuilt for exhibitions and events. It is well insulated and has underfloor ground source heating, which means it's lovely and warm and not harming the environment.

We have set up an area of the shed as a 'Warm Space' with a table, chairs, books, newspapers, drawing materials and of course tea, coffee and a kettle.

It's an inspiring and uplifting place to be, you can enjoy the art on the walls and the wonderful views, garden, farm, peacocks and you never know who you might meet.

It's a good place for groups who wish to take part in an activity ...knitting, book clubs, philosophy, writing etc.

The shed has wifi and charging points. There is a cafe on site.

The space is open from 10 - 4 Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and you are most welcome. Just come along and check in at the barn cafe. Any queries: or tel: 01686 688369.

The space is much appreciated. 'It's a space where you can enjoy the art and the warmth, it's lovely and friendly.'

Today we have had quite a few visitors and they have been inspired to start a 'Tai Chi' Weekly club starting on Wednesday 1 February, 12 - 1pm followed by a new discussion group 'Artspeak' 2 - 4pm where members can focus on selected artworks from the current exhibition.

Cathy Knapp, Creative Director

Councillors Carol Robinson and Julie Arnold with Rotarian, Tony Harvey, waiting to 'warmly' welcome members of
Welshpool Community to join them at the Welshpool Winter Warm Hub

Welshpool Town Hall Assembly Rooms

Pauline Chapman-Young, the PAVO Community Connector covering Welshpool and Llanfair Caereinion, called in to this Warm Space in Welshpool recently, and provided the following feedback:

The Warm Space has much more footfall now as its offers of free 'light lunches' have increased the interest from attendees. It is hard to judge the numbers as the hall is huge and people seem to drop in rather than stay all day.

Local Town Councillors are very supportive and are actually cooking some of the food and collecting donated food themselves. The councillors, including Nick Howells, are also working hard to bring in funding to enable them to keep the Warm Space going and have a 'healthy float' for additional supplies.

Printed material (leaflets) is available to offer help and support from many organisations including Community Connectors’ support. Volunteers from the community are visible and engaging with visitors. Overall there is a good vibe.

We hope you are keeping warm this winter. Let us know what you think about the Warm Spaces scheme in Powys in the comments below - we love to hear from you!

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Shared Power training - your chance to make a difference!

Sarah Dale, John Lilley & Rhydian Parry - Mental Health Individual Reps

Do you use health wellbeing services in Powys? Do you ever think about using your lived experience to make a positive difference to the way these services are designed and delivered?

If the answer is yes, but you’re not sure about how to get involved, you could well be interested in a full day of free training around this important area. Our Shared Power training will run on Wednesday 8 February at our Llandrindod Wells office.

We spoke to PAVO’s Participation Officer Owen Griffkin about why Shared Power training is important and the opportunities it may bring to people who attend.

Who is the Shared Power training for?

It’s for anyone who uses health and well being services in Powys and feels like they could use their lived experience to help plan and deliver these services.

What will people who attend get out of the training?

We will be looking at how health and wellbeing services are planned in the county, and the importance of the voice of the people who use these services in helping to make sure the services are run in the best possible way.

People might not know that their experience can be massively important in helping to make health provision better and there have been some big changes over the last few years that have been made because of what issues people have raised.

It can be quite daunting for people to share their stories, which can sometimes be traumatic, so we will look at how to share their experiences. There will be lots of practical exercises, and also we will talk to some of the current service user and carer representatives who sit on the partnership boards responsible for making decisions around health and wellbeing.

What can people do with the knowledge they learn?

A lot of the subjects covered will help with people’s everyday lives. We will have some assertiveness training, and look at how to prepare for meetings and confidence building. We will also look at discussing difficult subjects that can be quite personal to someone.

There will also be a chance to see what current opportunities there are in Powys for people to get involved and make a difference straight away. We try to have as much fun as we can whilst learning, and we will make sure there are lots of practical activities to try out what we are teaching.

Why is this training important?

The Well-being of Future Generations Act in 2015 made it a requirement for Welsh public bodies to involve the people who use, or who care for those who use, health and well-being services. The more people who feel confident in getting involved in this decision making, the better the services will be for anyone who has to use them.

People who have attended previous training sessions have gone on to help make really positive changes in Powys and Nationally as members of health and well-being partnership boards , volunteers for Powys Patients’ Council and leading awareness sessions for social care staff on issues important to them.

There are many more opportunities now to get involved than there were before COVID, and health services are always looking for people with lived experience in lots of different roles.

The people we work with in participation at the moment all say how much it has improved their own well-being because of their increased confidence and self-worth so I can really recommend getting involved and this training will be a great place to start!

If you want to find out more about the Shared Power training you can email

Or, you can book your place online HERE.

You can read more, and watch a video, about the concept of Shared Power, 
on our recent blog post Shared Power - an Introduction.