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Bereaved families back new drowning prevention strategy for Wales

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WELSH families who have lost loved ones to drowning have united to launch the first Welsh Drowning Prevention Strategy.

The strategy launched today by Lesley Griffiths MS, Welsh Government Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, has been drawn up by Water Safety Wales, a collaboration of individuals, communities, charities and public and private sector organisations with an interest in water safety and drowning prevention. It aims to reduce water related deaths and incidents in Wales by promoting the importance of a consistent and effective approach to water safety.

Lesley Griffiths said:‘Our coastal and inland waters are a jewel in the Welsh crown enjoyed by millions of people each year. But sadly too many people are losing their lives to water-related fatalities. We support Water Safety Wales’ belief that these deaths are preventable.

‘The impact of losing someone to a death in the water cannot be underestimated and I commend the people who have been brave enough to share their stories in support of Wales’ Drowning Prevention Strategy. I also commend the work they and others are already doing to prevent drowning in Wales.

‘The launch of this strategy is an opportunity for us all in Wales to acknowledge the problem of drowning to do what we can to prevent it in the future.’

There are around 600 water related fatalities in the UK every year and in Wales there are an average of 45 at coastal and inland waters. Almost six in 10 (58%) of people who died as a result of an accident in the water did not intend to enter the water at all, while 89% of water related fatalities are men.

Families across Wales backing the strategy include Debbie Turnbull, from Holywell, Flintshire, who tragically lost her 15-year-old son Chris after he drowned in a river at Capel Curig in 2006. Since then Debbie has educated hundreds of thousands of young people through her River and Sea Sense charity.

Debbie says:‘My work in water safety keeps my son’s memory alive. In 2021, Chris will have been gone for 15 years – as long as his lifetime.

‘Water related deaths are preventable. The more people who are educated about water safety, the more safety equipment we have in the right places and the more people we have who can pass on water safety messages in the right way, the more lives we will save.

Also supporting the strategy launch is Danni Harding, from Cardiff, whose suffered life changing injuries when she hit rocks jumping from a waterfall in 2018. Danni, 29, who ran a successful security firm prior to her accident, broke her back and now lives with a series of debilitating health problems.

She says: ‘I didn’t realise that the hot weather had made the water level lower than normal. I was having the greatest time – I’d jumped nine times, until I made that one wrong move and now I have to live with the fact that I have fits, I have a stammer, I have endless hospital appointments – now I have to live with that.

‘I went from being a 24/7 business owner and mother to being stuck in my bedroom, unable to move. It felt my life was just taken away and it was down to one mistake, one wrong move.

‘I’m lucky – I’m still here and I have my life. My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one to drowning. But If I’d have been better educated about the risks, I might have made a better choice about jumping that last time in the way I did.’

Reuben Morgan, 15, died whilst swimming at Pontsticill Reservior near Merthyr Tydfil in 2006. His mother Maxine Johnson is heartened to see organisations coming together to help prevent drowning in Wales. Also supporting the strategy are the family of Stephen Amery from Carmarthen, who died from suicide by drowning; Catherine Collins Coleman, sister of Benny Collins who sadly drowned at Three Cliffs Bay, Gower, in 2015; and Leeanne Bartley, from Ruthin, whose son Mark Allen, drowned in Gorton Reservoir, Manchester, in 2018, aged 18.

The families have all produced a small video clip outlining their thoughts on the launch of the new strategy in helping to prevent further deaths.

Statistics from the Water Incident Database (WAID) show the rate of accidental drowning in Wales is almost double that of the UK as a whole, while figures from Welsh blue light and search and rescue services show that on average there are 1755 water incidents per year that require emergency response – approximately five every day.

Dave Ansell, Chair of Water Safety Wales says: ‘Water Safety Wales believes one death is too many, we will reduce drowning if everyone plays their part. We have an aspiration of zero water related deaths in Wales and this strategy aims to enable people living and visiting Wales to be safer in, on and around water by reducing water related deaths and incidents.

‘We are so very grateful to have the support of families who have experienced their own personal tragedies and are sharing those experiences to ensure others don’t to have endure the heartache they have suffered.

This strategy recognises the wide range of fantastic water safety and drowning prevention work already making a real difference in Wales. This strategy hopes to build on that existing work and also act as a call to arms to all of us to do all we can to prevent the tragedy of drowning.’

The key aims of the strategy, which runs from 2020-2026, are to improve water incident data and intelligence in Wales and promote and develop learning to swim and water safety education. Support will also be offered to communities to develop water safety plans to understanding and mitigate any risks. The strategy aims to promote public awareness of water related risks and ensure consistent safety messages reach the right people at the right time, by promoting the promote the safe participation in water activities across Wales.

It also aims to contribute to the reduction of water-related suicide and work with families affected by water related incidents.

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Health

Give someone “the best gift” this Christmas by giving blood in West Wales

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A MOTHER who needed in-the-womb blood transfusions during her pregnancy and a man who depends on regular, lifesaving blood donations are encouraging communities across Wales to give “the best gift” this Christmas by donating blood.

The Welsh Blood Service is preparing to face Winter pressures on its services and is hoping their new Christmas campaign, “the best gift” will raise awareness about the importance of donating blood and the lifesaving difference it makes.

Last December over 900 donations of blood and blood products were needed across Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire to provide care to patients at Prince Philip, Withybush, Bronglais and Glangwili hospital. 

These donations play a vital role by supporting a range of treatments from helping recovering accident victims and patients with blood cancers to supporting mothers and new-born babies during childbirth.

Blood donations were needed during both pregnancies for mother of two, Shelley Parry. After her own life was saved during her first pregnancy, Shelley received several more blood transfusions directly into her womb to keep her youngest daughter alive.

Shelley explains: “Receiving blood is truly the best gift we have ever received. We’re forever indebted as a family to those who have taken the time to donate. Without the generosity of blood donors, quite simply, we wouldn’t be parents. Thanks to their selfless act, we can look forward to Christmas together as a family.

“It only takes one hour of your time to donate, if you can, please consider donating.”

Giggs and his daughter

Also supporting the campaign is blood recipient Giggs Kanias. Since birth, Giggs has received over 1,000 blood transfusions as part of his treatment for beta thalassaemia major, a severe blood disorder. Thanks to blood donors, Giggs is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with his family.

Giggs said: “I am so thankful to the incredible people who give blood. When I’m in hospital, I stare at the bags of blood being transfused into me and always wonder, who is the person that has helped me?

“I know the difference these people have made to my life and I’m so grateful to each and every one of them. Without their generosity, I wouldn’t be here today, I wouldn’t be a dad, or have had the opportunity to see my daughter grow up. Receiving blood is truly the best gift anyone could ever receive.”

Alan Prosser, Director of the Welsh Blood Service, said: “For patients like Giggs, receiving blood will be the best gift they receive this Christmas. It truly is the best gift you can give.

“Blood products have a short shelf life and is needed by hospitals 365 days a year, including Christmas day, to help support patients in need, which is why we can’t stop collecting.”

The Welsh Blood Service provides lifesaving blood products to 20 hospitals across Wales and four Wales Air Ambulance aircraft for use in emergencies.

Alan continues: “It is critical the service prepares. We need to build up blood stocks ahead of a potentially challenging winter, where seasonal illnesses and Covid-19 may exacerbate the usual winter pressures faced by the NHS.

“We are reaching out to communities across Wales to ask them to make a lifesaving blood donation and give “the best gift” this festive season.”

Do something amazing this Christmas. Give someone the best gift. Give blood. If you are aged 17 or over, book to give blood at: www.wbs.wales/Xmas21 or call 0800 252 266 today.

Appointments are available in Pembrokeshire on 7 December and January 6 and 20 in Tenby, 16 December and 27 January in Crymych, 20 December and 17 January in Haverfordwest, 10 January in Letterston Village Hall and 21 January in Milford Haven. 

Appointments are available in Carmarthenshire on 10 December in Pontyberum, 29 December and 13 January in Carmarthen, 28 January in Kidwelly Community Hall, 23 and 24 December and 4, 12 and 25 January in Parc Y Scarlets and 31 January in Llandeilo.

Appointments are available in Ceredigion on 14 December in Newcastle Emlyn, 14 January in Aberaeron and 18 January in Lampeter.

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The west Wales family on standby to save lives at sea this Christmas

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VOLUNTEERING with the RNLI is a real family affair for the Barbers from Cardigan, with all four family members prepared to swap turkey and tinsel for turbulent seas this Christmas.  The RNLI is calling on the public to support them and the thousands of other volunteer crew on call by giving to the charity’s Christmas appeal.

For mum Amanda and daughter Madeleine, 18, it will be their very first Christmas on call. Both have followed in the footsteps of proud dad Tony who has volunteered on the crew of Cardigan RNLI for the past 12 years and son Leo, 20, who joined the RNLI following his 17th Birthday. The family will be spending their Christmas Day at nearby ‘New Life Church’, ensuring those who are in need of a meal on 25 December have food and company. However, they will have the perfect excuse to leave the washing up should they all have to leave in a hurry to respond to an emergency at sea.

Later in the afternoon, they plan to get together and enjoy a Christmas meal at home, but with a watchful eye on their pagers.

Madeleine says: ‘I realise our Christmas may not be a traditional one and to my friends it seems strange that we may all have to dash down to the station whatever time of day or night the call may come. I don’t really give it a second thought; I’m actually looking forward to being on call for the first time this Christmas and being able to help someone in need.

‘Previously when the pager goes off, dad, Leo and I have left mum at home. She’s so proud of us all but obviously is filled with apprehension as to when we may be back. We’re thrilled she’s decided to join us too and volunteer as part of the shore crew.

‘Being part of the RNLI is something Leo and I have always wanted to do as soon as we turned 17. Hearing dad talk about successful shouts has really motivated us all to want to get involved. We’re so thankful for all the support we have from the community and it is humbling to think people give so generously to enable us to do what we do.’

I would like to thank everyone in advance who gives towards our Christmas appeal this year.

‘This year, I hope people can do what they can to support the Christmas campaign and help the RNLI to save every one.’

The family run a boat trip business not too far away from the station, which means they are all ideally placed to be close by should the pagers sound. In the winter months, Madeleine works opposite the station at a local café, Crwst, who are very supportive allowing her to leave and attend shouts whilst at work.

Amanda says: ‘With the rest of the family on the crew, I know how vital, challenging, yet rewarding volunteering with the RNLI is. After many years of watching Tony run from the house at a moment’s notice and in the years that followed Leo, then Madeleine; I no longer had a reason not to join them. Now, rather than waiting and wondering what the outcome of a shout is, I can be on hand at the station supporting them and the rest of the team together, serving the mission of saving lives at sea. This Christmas if the pagers go off at least I won’t be left home alone holding the turkey!’

Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. But these rescues would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round.

With thousands of volunteers around the UK and Ireland, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning – it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

Matt Crofts, RNLI Lifesaving Manager for Wales says: ‘With the increase in staycations and more people than ever heading to the coast, it has been an exceptionally busy year for our crews.

‘Even at Christmas, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather’s at its worst and lives are on the line.

‘We know that every time our crews go out they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.’

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Health

Council makes available wellbeing and mental health support for social care providers

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The programme will run until March 2022

IN RECOGNITION of the important work of the social care sector and impact of the Covid pandemic on social care providers and their staff, Ceredigion County Council has made available a programme of wellbeing and mental health support sessions.

The programme consists of Wellbeing and Mental health Awareness, Mental Health First Aid (Adults and Youth) and also offers facilitated support sessions.

The programme of events will run from December through to March 2022.

Any social care provider, carer or personal assistant can request more information or book a place on these sessions by emailing Dysgu@ceredigion.gov.uk

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