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Regional SEN Transition to Employment Project Newsletter

December 2013

In this issue Introduction Merry Christmas and welcome to our December newsletter. Me and You Conference 2013 Gerraint hosts national charity’s annual conference and Hannah gives an overview of her relationships circles workshop. Impact of Real Opportunities in Merthyr Tydfil Team Manager Sian Thomas explains how the project has made a difference in Merthyr. Autism Social Group’s Launch in Swansea A new social group for people with Autism has been set up in Swansea. Leavers Lunch Eases Transition to College Neath Hub Team have been helping young people in their transition to college with social events. Training & Events A list of upcoming project training and events.

Merry Christmas and welcome to the last edition of the Real Opportunities project newsletter of 2013! Our first story in this edition includes information about the Learning Disability Wales annual conference which was hosted by Real Opportunities young person, Gerraint Jones-Griffiths. In this article you will also find information about relationship circles written by project Training Officer Hannah Cox, who delivered a relationship circles workshop at the conference. Sian Thomas, team manager for the Merthyr Hub Team discusses the positive impact the project has had in Merthyr and Lucy Harris describes some of the summer activities staff arranged for young people to develop independent living skills. The Autistic Spectrum Disorder Employment Support (ASDES) group in Swansea have established a new social group for people with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder to get together with peers on a regular basis. More information about joining this group can be found on page 6. Lastly, the Neath Port Talbot Hub Team tells us about how they are using Leavers Lunches to help young people’s transition to college. Remember you can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and find out more information about the project, upcoming project training as well as access free person centred planning tools from our website We hope you have a fantastic Christmas and we’ll see you in the New Year! Laura Griffiths, Project Information Officer

Me and You conference 2013 Learning Disability Wales, a national charity representing the learning disability sector in Wales, hosted their annual conference this year on the 20th and 21st November, and the chair of this conference was Real Opportunities participant and peer mentor Gerraint Jones-Griffiths. Simon Rose, Training and Events Manager at Learning Disability Wales, had the following to say about Gerraint. A very comfortable chair Every conference needs someone with flair and skill to keep it on track and delegates happy, and Gerraint Jones-Griffiths from the Real Opportunities project did a fantastic job at this during Me and You, Learning Disability Wales’ annual conference, this year. The theme of Me and You was friendships and relationships so Gerraint’s warm, friendly and enthusiastic approach went down a storm! He did a great job at making sure everyone knew what was happening over two very busy days and made every speaker feel welcome and valued.

Gerraint chairing at the Learning Disability Wales ‘Me and You’ conference. covering topics such as personal and sexual relationships, dating, friendships, family relationships, how to recognise abuse, social networking and how to stay safe online. Real Opportunities Training Officer, Hannah Cox, delivered a workshop based on relationships circles – a person centred planning tool widely used on the Real Opportunities project. Here she explains the purpose of relationship circles and discusses some of the outcomes of the workshop. Why relationships? Whenever I talk to young people about planning for their future, sometimes they want to talk about where they would like to go to college, sometimes about where they want to live, sometimes about the kind of job they would like. But most young people want to talk about more than this. Most want to talk about what really matters to them – people. It seems that in planning for their future young people really need to think about who is in their life – their relationships. Of course, this might come as no surprise. Most of us would probably say that people and relationships are the most important thing’s in our lives, so obviously this should be taken in to account when making plans for the future.

Positive Feedback for Gerraint via Twitter Gerraint co-chaired one day of Learning Disability Wales’ annual conference last year. His professionalism and the way he spoke so confidently and naturally at that conference made him the natural choice when they were looking for someone to chair their two day conference this year. Learning Disability Wales would like to thank Gerraint for his hard work and for his part in making Me and You really feel like a conference all about friendships.

What is a relationship circle? One of the tools that we use to help young people think about who is in their life is called a relationship circle or a relationship map. A relationship circle

The conference included a lively mix of interactive and informative workshops, speakers and drama 2

helps us to think about the people in someone’s life. A template for a relationship circle can be seen below. This separates people into 4 sections: •

The circle of intimacy or love circle is for the people that someone knows the best; the people closest to them who they trust.

The circle of friendship or like circle is for the people that someone is friends with who they enjoy spending time with and that they get on with.

The circle of participation or know circle is for anyone who that person knows in their life but they are not that close to or wouldn’t call them a friend.

The circle of exchange or pay circle is for the people in someone’s life who are paid to be there. It is really important that we are able to tell the difference between paid people and unpaid people, particularly when someone receives lots of different support. Everyone deserves to have people in their life to support them and be friends with them who are not there because they are getting paid.

Most attendees said if they were planning a big change in their life, the people they would choose to help them are people from their ‘love’ circle. Lots of people said they would feel most comfortable with people they know well and trust. This is really important for us to know as people who are supported from services sometimes do not have the choice to have these people involved in their planning; often it is only paid people that are involved.

When participants were asked to choose someone from their relationship circle who they would like to advocate for them if they were unable to communicate, again, most people in the session chose someone from their ‘love’ circle. But when we looked at whom people have to advocate them often it is someone from our paid circle.

Everyone was asked if there were people on their relationship circle that they would like to keep in contact with if they were to move somewhere new. Participants all identified people in their ‘love’ and ‘like’ circles that they would like to keep in contact with. For lots of young people, when they change schools, leave colleges or move somewhere new they don’t always have the choice who they keep in contact with. A relationship circle helps us to see the people that are important for that person to be in contact with and helps us to put plans in place to maintain those relationships if that person’s life is going to change.

Some participants in the workshop also said that doing their relationship circle had helped them to think about changes that they would like to make. One participant talked about getting back in touch with someone that they had not seen for a while. Often completing a relationship map helps a person think about things they would like to change or people they would like to see more regularly.

If most of us would say that people are the most important thing in our lives, then understanding who the most important people are seems vital to the planning process. Understanding who the person trusts with their plans for the future is key, after all it is their plan, they should be able to choose what goes into their plan, how their plan will be put into action and most importantly, who is involved in their plan and in their life.

What did we learn? Workshop attendees were asked to get creative and to do their own relationship circles thinking about who are the people that they have in their life and who are the people closest to them. We then looked at how a relationship circle might be used – what could we do with the information in it? To do this we asked a series of questions and participants answered ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and then had a chance to explain their answers. Here are some of the things that we found out:

For more information about the Real Opportunities training programme please contact Hannah Cox on 01639 635650 or at Hannah.cox@ You can also find out more about what free training is available, including person centred planning training, on our website at 3

The impact of

Real Opportunities

In Merthyr Tydfil by sian thomas, team manager

I have worked with the Merthyr Tydfil project for 3 years. I have watched the project evolve and witnessed some amazing transformations in the young people it supports. Participant numbers Merthyr project is currently supporting 112 young people. Many of the participants and their families have embraced the concept of this innovative project and immersed themselves fully into every opportunity offered. Psychology Support Feedback from these sessions has been thoroughly positive. 72 participants have been supported by the Psychology Support Worker. The one-to-one and group work covered has seen participants grow and respond, changing their thoughts and behaviours.

“I have been able to refer a number of young people to the project over the last 18 months and have been able to observe the positive impact of your work with these pupils’ confidence, self esteem, independence and work related skill”

The successful integration culminated in a weekend residential being recently hosted by MTCBC for Merthyr Tydfil’s project participants and peer mentors to look at ways of breaking down barriers that prevented attendance of Additional Learning Needs and SEN young people from regularly engaging in mainstream youth activities. In recent months, the project’s peer mentor program has offered support to the main stream youth provision staff. This has resulted in mainstream staff gaining a much deeper understanding of SEN and demystified many myths about special needs and their perceived limitations. Hub Residentials The 2 Residentials organised for all hubs have been a great success. It also gave an opportunity for Hub staff to get to know the young people in a way not always possible in home environments.

Dr Natalie O’Neill Educational and Child Psychologist

Annual Reviews This project has played a very active part in the Schools Annual Review Process. Project Staff have supported the participants and families to gain a deeper understanding of this important annual meeting and with project staff support, attendance and parental contributions has significantly risen year on year. Feedback from families has been overwhelmingly positive, with many reporting they felt “listened to.” Introduction into mainstream youth provisions One significant outcome has been the integration of the project’s participants into Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council’s (MTCBC) mainstream youth service activities. The summer camp residentials have proved unprecedented successes. In addition to residentials, other activities have been offered and all places quickly taken up by participants including day trips, visits to Big Pit, St Fagan’s etc. 4

Many of the young people had never experienced being away from their families before and this proved challenging as much for some parents as the young people themselves. However, seeing the euphoric mood of the participants returning to Merthyr, it was evident that much fun had been had, friendships made and many new positive experiences undertaken. To evidence this the Merthyr team had taken many photographs of activities and families reported being both stunned and delighted at their child’s progress and bravery to even attempt some of the physically challenging outdoor events. There is now a waiting list of participants for further activities. Mainstream School Feedback

“I really feel that the Real Opportunities Project has been the best I have worked with for supporting pupils and getting tangible results. The staff are remorseless in their endeavours to encourage pupils to achieve their

best. I have taught in Pen-y-Dre for 34 years and have always worked with disadvantaged children and this is the best project that has ever worked with our pupils.”

Lynne Jones SEN Teacher- Pen-Y-Dre Comprehensive School Lucy Harris, Peer Mentor Coordinator for the Merthyr Hub Team, gives an example of the joint working going on between the Merthyr Hub Team and the Merthyr Youth Service and shares some stories from Merthyr’s busy summer programme. Throughout the time the Real Opportunities team has been working in Merthyr the staff have been working very closely with the Youth Service to help create the best and most suitable atmosphere to integrate our young people into mainstream youth settings and to help the Youth Service train more Peer Mentors. This summer the Youth Service invited us to join them on a two day trip to Llangrannog Activity Centre to complete an OCN in Teamwork and Team Building. During the trip young people also had the opportunity to try out lots of activities such as skiing, horse riding and quad biking. Real Opportunities participants also shared bunk rooms with mainstream young people and had lots of fun.

A young person trys the harp during the Welsh Culture and Heritage Residential Throughout the summer a range of fun and exciting activities were run to support participants to develop independent living skills. Young people worked on travel, budgeting and telling the time by undergoing a variety of activities. They used the bus service around Merthyr to develop travel skills which included identifying the bus they needed, asking for a ticket and recognising the correct stops to get on and off. The young people thoroughly enjoyed using the bus and particularly enjoyed choosing new, fun destinations to travel to like Cyfarthfa Castle and Pen-Y-Dre fun day, which were two of their favourites!

The Youth Service in Merthyr also invited participants from the Real Opportunities project in Merthyr to celebrate Welsh Culture and Heritage on another two day residential at Treharris Boys and Girls Club. The group had the opportunity to try out clog dancing and play different musical instruments including guitar, harp and flute. All the young people integrated well during the residential and throughout the different activities and came together before going home to write their own songs which they sang and recorded and got to take home on a CD as a memento.

The team arranged trips to Cardiff Bay and Big Pit, which they used to run budgeting workshops. Young people developed budgeting skills, gained an understanding of why these skills are useful and how it will impact upon them in the future. They then had the chance to explore their surroundings and visit somewhere new with their peers. The last trip of the summer was to St Fagan’s, which the team used to focus on time telling skills. The young people had great fun. Each had a planner for the day identifying points of interest around the site. It was then the young person’s responsibility to record the time we arrived at each destination and state where we needed to go next. Everyone was keen to take part and give their input! All the activities were based on developing the young people’s practical independent living skills, but they gained so much more than that. It gave them the opportunity to socialise with other young people during the summer break, meet new people and make new friends. It gave them the chance to develop their confidence and have some fun and exciting days away from home. The whole program was a really positive experience.

Young people at Cyfarthfa Castle. 5

Autism Social Group’s launch In swansea Swansea has at long last a regular social group for young people with autism. The group had its inaugural meeting this month in the City Centre and was well attended by the five young people eager to learn and develop in the community and prepare themselves for training and employment. ASDES, Autistic Spectrum Disorder Employment Support, is a community interest organisation founded in 2011 by Mike Shaw. Mike said: “We set up the social group in response to demand from the young people in the City and County of Swansea”. The group is free to join and meets approximately every 2 to 3 weeks in various venues in the city centre. The first meeting was in a private room at the Tapestri Cafe and Bar (Orchard Street, Swansea) and it was a great success. The facilitator, Maureen Maunder, said “I wanted the first group to be friendly and supportive to encourage everyone to feel included and to share ownership”. Maureen, second from the left, with some members of the ASDES Social Group. Maureen went on to say, “We worked on a friendship exercise to start where everyone social group and maybe let us help them move closer wrote down their ideas about an ideal friend. This to finding a job that suits their skills and abilities”. provoked much discussion and everyone contributed well. We developed this into qualities that were not Other trustees of ASDES are: Kath Protheroe, valued in a friend and again everyone shared their Julie Ottilie-Jones, Andrew Baker, Greg Rosen and experiences. Following a tea/coffee break, we used Jonathan Hanna. ASDES can be contacted via Mike post-it notes and large sheets of paper to identify Shaw (Chairman) on 07986166522 or their website: and write up what everyone wanted to gain from the group. This developed into conversations about social events, friendships and particular skills individuals wanted to achieve. The feedback from the members was they felt that they would like to meet fortnightly and decide on future social activities after a few sessions together. Maureen concluded “I think everyone enjoyed the opportunity to meet up and we have some further ideas for future groups such as taking a coffee break in the cafe”. Maureen was assisted by her daughter, Ellen for the first meeting.

ASDES Social Group Invitation Card from Maureen, contact number 07504231115.

Mike said “I would encourage people with ASD / Autism to contact us to find out more about joining a 6

leavers lunch eases


to college

The Neath Port Talbot hub team has been easing project participants into the transition to college by hosting ‘Leavers Lunches’.

which they did successfully with minimal support. There was a large table arranged for the group, and the young people all sat down and mingled with each other, and most young people opted to sit away from the staff, taking advantage of the social opportunity with their peers. The meal was lovely to watch, as the entire group talked about how excited they were for college and discussed what colleges they were going to and what courses they were undertaking etc.

It was a lovely lunch enjoyed by all. Confidence levels improved during the meal, in which some young people who hadn’t previously met were exchanging contact details – it was an excellent ice-breaker. New and developing friendships were emerging rapidly during the lunch and it was clear that Young people at the Neath Port Talbot Leavers lunch it was a social event that all young people this September. would like to do again. Overall the lunch was an ideal social event, which allowed the college starters/students to become familiar with each other before September. All stated they had a lovely time and would like to make lunch a regular event. The Neath Hub team will support these young people to arrange regular meetings until eventually they can do so independently. It is hoped that this new social group can continue to offer support to each other throughout college.

A Leavers Lunch was held at the end of this summer for current college students, and those students that were going to be starting college in the new academic year. The lunch gave young people the opportunity to meet new friends and/or catch up with old ones, before going to college and into a new environment. The lunch was attended by 3 Neath College students, 5 Afan College students, 2 other College Students and 1 Peer Mentor who was also a former participant. The meal was organised locally to allow for all the participants to attend independently. The young people all met at the bus station first, and took the opportunity to learn the bus route so they could access the restaurant independently if they desired, which was in a central location to their colleges. The meal was pre-ordered and the young people had a chance to put their money management skills to the test, having to bring the correct monies and budget for any extra items that they would like to purchase. All the young people that attended were then given the task of ordering and paying for their own drinks,

Good friends catching up at the Leavers Lunch. 7

Training & Events To book onto any of the following training events or seminars or for more information contact the training and information team at or on 01639 635650.

Planning for the Future Network

Project Information Session

Date: 16th January 2014 Time: 10:00am -1:00pm Venue: Forge Fach Community Resource Centre For: PCP , Familiy Liaison & Independent Living Skills Workers

Date: 11th March 2014 Time: 10:00am-1:00pm Venue: Central South Consortium, Nantgarw For: All Welcome

Project Information Session

Date: 9th April 2014 Time: 10:00am-1:00pm Venue: Port Talbot Resource Centre, Port Talbot For: All Welcome

Project Information Session

Date: 22nd January 2014 Time: 10:00am-1:00pm Venue: Central South Consortium, Nantgarw For: All Welcome

Introduction to PCP

Date: 22nd May 2014 Time: 10:00am - 4:00pm Venue: Central South Consortium, Nantgarw For: All Welcome

Challenging Homophobia Masterclass

Date: 24th January 2014 Time: 10:00am – 1:00pm Venue: Bethlehem Church Life Centre, Cefn Cribwr For: 2 Places Per Hub Team

5 Day In depth PCP Training

Date: 28th & 29th January 19th & 20th February 5th April Time: 9:30am-4:30pm Venue: Port Talbot Resource Centre, Port Talbot For: All Welcome

Employment and Opportunities Network Date: 10th February 2014 Time: 10:00am-1:00pm Venue: Forge Fach Community Resource Centre For: Transition Workers, SEAs and Social Enterprise

Introduction to PCP

Date: 11th February 2014 Time: 10:00am - 4:00pm Venue: Port Talbot Resource Centre, Port Talbot For: All Welcome

To get your story in the newsletter, or for more information contact Laura Griffiths on 01639 635650 or at Submissions may be edited. Opinions expressed in the Real Opportunities newsletter are not necessarily supported by the project. Printed by 4 Colour Digital Print.


December Newsletter 2013 English  

In this issue: Learning Disability Wales' Me and You Conference 2013 Impact of Real Opportunities in Merthyr Tydfil Autism Social Group’s La...

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