CEREDIGION MP, Ben Lake is backing ‘Listen To Us’ – an ambitious new mental health campaign by the learning disability charity Mencap.
New research by the charity reveals that people with a learning disability in the UK are facing a mental health crisis in the wake of the pandemic, with 88% of families and carers surveyed saying their loved one was always or very often felt sad, and 82% felt lonely due to rarely being able to leave their homes.
At a parliamentary reception held yesterday in Westminster, MPs heard how people with a learning disability were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and how they continue to face barriers in reconnecting with their communities.
Attendees also discussed Mencap’s new report exploring isolation and loneliness, which was funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). People with a learning disability who were interviewed for the report described their lives as a “prison,” with limited social contact during the pandemic causing them to feel suicidal.
Speaking at the event, Brendan Chivasa, 28, a Mencap campaigner who has cerebral palsy and a learning disability, shared how he became depressed during the pandemic and is still dealing with the repercussions:
“Mencap’s report shows lots of stories like mine. The pandemic has had a huge impact on people with a learning disability because there was not enough support for us. We need the government to make sure people with a learning disability can get the support they need, like respite care and day services. Lots of day services which provide activities locally and social opportunities for people with a learning disability have still not opened fully. But we need them open so they can help people to overcome loneliness and promote positive mental health.”
Mencap’s reception was attended by MPs and peers from across all political parties alongside campaigners with a learning disability, and their supporters, from across country.
The event also comes ahead of Learning Disability Week 2022 (20-26th June), Mencap’s annual campaign to make sure the world understands what life is like for people with a learning disability.
After attending the reception Ben Lake MP said:
“Meeting and hearing stories from people with a learning disability and their families about their experiences during the pandemic shows the reality behind the shocking statistics we’ve seen around the impact of loneliness and isolation.
“I’m supporting Mencap’s ‘Listen To Us’ campaign to ensure we can combat loneliness through preventative measures such as community services and activities, alongside better support aimed at treating and managing poor mental health for people with a learning disability.
“I look forward to working with Mencap to reduce poor mental health and to enable people with a learning disability to access the urgent support they need and deserve.”
Ysgol Penglais pupil Kai Frisby shares his experience of the Rickshaw Challenge
MATT BAKER, the Children in Need crew and BBC Breakfast rolled into Aberystwyth for a momentous occasion for a local hero.
It all happened on Wednesday, October 19,
Kai Frisby, who is 16 years old and has cerebral palsy took part in the BBC Children in Need Rickshaw challenge accompanied by none other than Matt Baker. The challenge for Kai was to ride from Plascrug Leisure Centre to Capel Bangor and returning to Aberystwyth Seafront.
Kai, a pupil at Ysgol Penglais is a popular and influential member of Aberystwyth wheelchair basketball club and is an ambassador for the Mighty Ducks. Kai is a Welsh International and is often seen shooting hoops on any court across Ceredigion and beyond.
Kai has previously benefited from the Children in Need campaign and having an opportunity to participate and contribute to the 2022 challenge and fundraising was a privilege and honour for him. Kai was nominated by head coach Lee Coulson.
Lee Coulson said: “Kai has been attending the club for over 7 years and his achievement within the sport as an ambassador and a Welsh international has been outstanding. Kai has shown that no matter what disability you have, anything is possible when you put your mind to it.”
Lee continued: “The rickshaw challenge was going to prove to be really difficult, as Kai is a full-time wheelchair user and does not use his legs on a daily basis. It was an amazing experience for Kai and wheelchair basketball as we try and raise the profile of the sport. We hope it encourages people with and without disabilities to come forward and try this amazing sport. Kai found the day emotionally and physically hard but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The support locally was unbelievable with people cheering and supporting along the entire route. The route was just over 12 miles and he has never cycled that distance previously. However, he was supported by the Children in Need Team and his physiotherapist Caryl to be able to take part in the challenge.”
Kai Frisby, said: “The rickshaw challenge was a fantastic opportunity for me and I absolutely loved the experience. Initially they reached out to me because they have been long-time supporters of Aberystwyth wheelchair basketball club. I was a bit sceptical at first for the obvious reason that I’m in a chair. I wasn’t a confident bike rider. My concern rose after being told that I was going to cycle 12 miles. I had never ridden that far before. However, I think I was concerned for no reason because as soon as I started, the worry disappeared.
“It was great to see the overwhelming support, especially from the school and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Matt Baker. I cannot thank the amazing team for what they did for me, and I have made great connections with other riders. It was a pleasure to meet them and to hear their stories as well as getting to share my own. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and I’m so proud of everyone who took part. I’m looking forward to seeing how much money we’ve raised.”
Kai’s parents said: “Kai has been supported by a number of different charities over his life and when an opportunity as exciting as this one came along he couldn’t say no. It was such a great opportunity to give something back and help raise money for a charity that supports so many. We are immensely proud of you Kai, congratulations.”
Councillor Catrin M. S. Davies is the Cabinet Member with responsibility for Leisure. She said: “It’s great that Kai has achieved such an ambitious challenge. It is clear that Kai is not only an outstanding athlete but a brave individual and he is an example to us all. Congratulations to you Kai and thank you for putting Ceredigion on the BBC Children in Need map.”
A special one-off documentary will be aired on BBC One on Tuesday, 15 November which will not only share the team’s remarkable stories but also celebrate the history of the Rickshaw Challenge.
Theatr Felinfach’s Autumn/Winter Programme announced
As a new term starts at Theatr Felinfach it’s also a time to celebrate that culture is igniting again as the theatre excites to reveal their programme for the Autumn and Winter months. Don’t dishearten that the nights are getting darker because there’s an opportunity for you to enjoy and warm your souls with a bit of music, comedy and drama without forgetting the annual Christmas panto!
November is full to the brim, it’s wonderful to welcome back Mid Wales Opera to the theatre on 3 November, with their small stages tour with an evening of magical music including a performance of ‘Puss In Boots (El Gato Con Batos)’ by Montsvalvatge.
If classic Welsh language literature is your bag, an adaptation by Bara Caws, of the classic ‘Un Nos Ola Leuad’ (One Moonlit Night) will be on stage on 1 November, a novel which has captured the imagination of generations.
On 11 November there will be an evening of folk music in the company of ‘Cynefin’ (with band) which is the creative vision of Cletwr Valley native Owen Shiers which gives a modern voice to Ceredigion’s rich neglected cultural heritage.
What better way to bring November performances to an end than with an evening full of laughter. On 19 November we will have a ‘Comedy Evening’ with no-one other than Noel James from Cwmtawe returning to the theatre with brand new content and entertainment of the highest degree! Steffan Evans from Eglwyswrw will be helping Noel out who’s a comedian with a unique outlook on the world.
Tickets for the above performances are available to order now online or through the box office. The annual Christmas Panto will take place between 10-17 December this year with tickets going on sale to the public on 21 October.
There’s also an opportunity for you to become a Friend of Theatr Felinfach where you can receive regular news, early bookings for performances and lots more. You can also volunteer at Theatr Felinfach – a great way to experience being a part of the theatre world.
The theatre have also re-started participatory sessions. On Wednesday there’s a chance for individuals over 50 to socialise between 1:30pm-3:00pm. An opportunity for young people between 7-18 years to enjoy and learn new performing skills at the Performing School after school on Thursdays between 4:30pm-6:45pm. On Friday mornings at 10:00am there will be Tic Toc sessions for children 0-3 years and their parents/guardians to sing, dance and story tell.
For more information and tickets, please contact the box office on 01570 470697 or firstname.lastname@example.org between Monday to Friday from 9:30am until 4:30pm.
You can keep up with Theatr Felinfach on their social media channels; Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram on @TheatrFelinfach
Pioneering theatre company in line for top award
A pioneering theatre company which has won fans at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Green Man and other festivals is in line for a major award.
Hijinx Theatre, which has bases in Aberystwyth and Carmarthen and has created opportunities for scores of learning disabilities including autism, has been shortlisted for one of this year’s Wales Care Awards, organised by Care Forum Wales to recognise outstanding work in the care sector.
It has been nominated in the category for the Sir Bryn Terfel Foundation Award for promoting the arts in social care, which is sponsored by the Pendine Arts and Community Trust (PACT).
PACT was established by the Pendine Park care organisation to support arts and community activities across Wales.
Hijinx Theatre was established in 2006 and through its productions, workshops and community activities has helped to change people’s perception of learning disability. That achievement was acknowledged in 2019 when the company received a St David’s Award.
The company has five academies throughout Wales – one each in Colwyn Bay, Carmarthen and Aberystwyth and two in Cardiff – providing professional training for 70 talented actors with learning disabilities and autism, and some have gone on to appear in major TV roles.
The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown posed huge problems for all theatres but at Hijinx it was a particularly difficult time as so many learning disabled people faced isolation.
“We were very concerned about the impact closing our sessions could have on the people we support,” said Development Officer Greta Bettinson.
“We wanted to prevent loss of the confidence or communication skills gained through our work and maintain the professional skills of our Hijinx actors. During lockdown we continued to support over 150 participants, ensuring they were safe and connected, as for many our sessions were the only regular external contact.”
During lockdown Hijinx delivered a remarkable 550 online sessions, made over 600 submissions to casting directors, reached over 1,100 people through corporate training, made two short films which provided high-quality experience for six actors and produced five new on-line theatre pieces.
One of those webinar pieces, titled “Metamorphosis”, won awards for the best director and most innovative use of technology at the international Good The@tre Festival in 2020.
Tributes to the work have come from participants, their families and outside bodies.
Supporting the Care Award nomination, one parent wrote: “I was fearful that our daughter would go back to being completely socially isolated again due to lockdown, but she is really enjoying the group chat and it’s the highlight of her week.”
One young person who has blossomed through her involvement is “Ellen”, who joined Hijinx in 2015, having previously found it difficult to make friends and suffered with depression.
After her parents saw Hijinx performing at Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Theatre she joined the company and in 2018 was chosen to represent the company on an international tour. It was the first time she and others had been on a plane and travelled without their parents.
“I started to adapt and it was really exciting,” she said. “Once we did a performance in France at 1am! Hijinx teaches you how to be professional. They teach me to restrain my energy and put it into my work.”
A recent impact study by Milestone Tweed, who help organisations to generate and develop their income, stated: “Hijinx is clearly significantly changing the lives of the actors and participants with which it works. For many of them, it is highly likely that these life-altering and life-defining changes have happened as a direct result of their engagement with Hijinx.”
Hijinx’s success has influenced mainstream theatre and film companies to cast more diversely.
Greta proudly commented: “By making it commonplace to see actors with learning disabilities and/or autism on our stages and screens we are raising the aspirations for learning disabled people generally.”
The Wales Care Awards will be presented at a ceremony at City Hall, Cardiff, on October 21, the evening’s main sponsors being Ontex UK.
The event will once again be hosted by popular tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, best known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads and this year will be streamed live for the first time.
Mario Kreft MBE, Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the aim of the Wales Care Awards was to recognise the unstinting and remarkable dedication of unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.
He said: “The social care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation – these are people who go the extra mile for others.
“During the Covid crisis, this fantastic workforce rose magnificently to the challenge, putting their own lives on the line to do everything they possibly could to safeguard the people for whom they provide care.
“Unfortunately, it has taken a global pandemic for many other people to realise how important and how significant our social care workforce is.
“Their incredible contribution was summed up best in the powerful and emotive words of the song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, which was set to the famous tune of Men of Harlech. The message that the diolch should last forever is one that we should never forget.
“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards people need and never recognise the value of people who need care in society.
“All the nominees deserve to be lauded and applauded and it’s a real pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists.
“I congratulate all the individuals who have shown outstanding dedication and professionalism. Every one of them should be proud of their achievement.
“They are Wales’s finest.”
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