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Barnardo's Cymru Community Connections Service

Young people from Blaenau Gwent celebrated their new skills acquired with the help of Barnardo’s at a special event in Tredegar.

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Barnardo’s Cymru Community Connections Service based in Ebbw Vale helps around 50 young people aged 14-21 with learning disabilities to be independent, take part in social activities and reduce their isolation.  The young people have built new confidence and made new friends outside of school through a variety of group activities and individual support.  

At the celebration event, attended by Blaenau Gwent’s Mayor and Mayoress and new Children’s Commissioner Sally Holland, a number of young people were given the opportunity to tell the audience about how the service has helped them turn their lives around.  Young people who benefited from the Big Lottery funded project took the responsibility of planning and organising the event, chairing the conference and sharing their personal journeys.

A number of young people now feel more able to make decisions in their lives and keep friendships that they may make.  15 year old Megan Roberts said:

I am so glad I have joined Barnardo’s because they helped me with my confidence’.

Jared Hathaway, 15, from Tredegar said:

I have learnt a lot about independent living skills and personal safety and become a lot better at household chores at home!  Before Barnardo’s I would never dream about standing up and talking to an audience as I did today.”

Owain Harding who has a diagnosis of autism has overcome his condition to become a valuable member of the team at his local cinema in Brynmawr.  Owain said:

I have learnt so much and I am thankful for the support I have received. Now I can look after myself and I believe I can be a role model for other young people who need help. I will encourage them and they will do it themselves.’

Many of the parents struggled to find something for the young people to do outside of family and school before the service started and were concerned about how their children were coping in their communities.  

One of the parents from Ebbw Vale said:

Since we have been with Barnardo’s we have learnt that there are options. I can see things are improving. My children now have confidence to do things themselves. We can see light in the tunnel.’

Another parent said:

He’d come home from school and just sit in his room. There was nothing for him and no one around him. This is the best thing that has happened for young people with conditions like my boy in Blaenau Gwent.’

The Big Lottery funded project has worked with local groups and provided free training.  Barnardo’s Cymru Community Connections regularly meets with local services through a steering group consisting of social services, youth service, health, Careers Wales, advocacy services, Families First and the voluntary sector.

Joanne Harper, Barnardo’s Cymru Community Connections team leader said:

The legacy of the service will mean increased awareness of issues facing disabled young people and helped create a growing confidence among community groups who now feel more able to welcome disabled young people to their activities.'

Young people who receive support from the service have the opportunity to undertake supported work placements in an environment that mirrors their employment aspirations. Following the supported work placements many of the young people have continued to volunteer without support and one young lady has progressed in to paid employment.'

At Barnardo’s we are all proud of the young people and their achievements.’

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