Sweet success for jamjar at annual PR awards

By Carys Bryant,

Creative communications agency jamjar has been crowned ‘Outstanding Small Consultancy of the Year’ at the 2021 Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Cymru Wales PRide Awards.

The Cowbridge-based agency received five awards during the virtual ceremony, recognising its outstanding achievements and accomplishments during the last year.

jamjar’s campaign for Vale of Glamorgan Council – Shop Vale of Glamorgan, Shop Safe – encouraging local residents to support their local high street won two gold awards at the event – Public Sector Campaign of the Year and Regional Campaign of the Year.

Its work on the inaugural Wales STEM Awards, in conjunction with Grapevine Event Management, was also recognised with a gold award in the STEM Campaign of the Year and a silver in the Best Event category.

Since it was established in 2012, jamjar has built up an impressive reputation for delivering creative, multi-platform campaigns on behalf of clients in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. Over the last nine years, the agency has won over 20 awards for its work. 

This success follows a record year of growth for the agency, which has seen it work on flagship campaigns for Wales including the Welsh Government’s National Forest for Wales launch and Public Health Wales’ Vaccination Saves Lives

Managing director, Lyndsey Jenkins, said:

“We’re thrilled to be crowned Outstanding Small Consultancy of the Year from the CIPR. In a difficult climate, we have continued to grow the business, while juggling working from home. All of the hard work from my dedicated team has paid off and I’m truly grateful to them for all that they do.

“As a Cowbridge-based business, the work that we have been doing to encourage people to support local high streets in the Vale of Glamorgan has been really important to us, so it was wonderful to see it recognised with two gold awards.

“It was great to get our work recognised by industry peers and celebrate with the team during the virtual awards ceremony.”

jamjar is a creative communications agency specialising in PR, social, digital, marketing, branding and graphic design.

Warrior Women Collective launches crowdfunding campaign to boost growth plans

By Raspberry Jim,

A popular female empowerment group has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support the expansion of its events and online offering.

Warrior Women Collective, which supports, empowers and celebrates women through events, content and its community, is looking to raise £5,000 to scale up its offering so that it can reach even more women across the UK.

Through the Natwest crowdfunding programme, Back Her Business, co-founders Charlie Morgan and Amy Holland have teamed up with a number of female-run businesses to offer rewards in return for financial support.

The funding will be used to expand its events to more locations, and to grow its online event offering.

Launched in 2017 with the aim of creating a space for women to share their experiences and be empowered and inspired by other like-minded women, Warrior Women Collective has grown in popularity.

Its monthly events have seen a 290% increase in attendees over the past year, with events selling out, and over 87 expert female speakers taking part so far.

This year, the duo has expanded their offering through taking their events online, launching a podcast, and scaling up their website to provide relevant, educational and inspiring content, which gives a platform to hundreds of other female founders. Ms Morgan said:

“This year has been really exciting for us at Warrior Women Collective as we continue to diversify and develop our offering.

“We are now looking to take our vision to the next level to build Warrior Women Collective, giving a platform for women to feel inspired and grow together. 

“As part of this, we are aiming to expand our events into even more locations and to grow our online offering even further.

“To give our plans a boost, we have launched this innovative Crowdfunding campaign in a bid to raised £5,000.

“We’d urge everyone to have a look and get involved and help us to reach our goal. Those generous enough to donate can choose from an array of invaluable rewards found through the donation page with everything from artwork to photoshoots, jewellery, and even venue hire up for grabs.

“All rewards have been kindly provided by some of our talented female business owners and entrepreneurs, and we can’t thank them enough for their support.

“Warrior Women Collective really is making strides in uniting and championing women and highlighting the invaluable contribution of women, and female-run businesses, across all areas of society.

“With this funding we can reach even more women, and encourage them to pursue their passions, speak up and become more confident, and become part of a unique Wales-wide network unlike any other.”

Click here to find out how to support Warrior Women Collective through its Crowdfunding campaign

Warrior Women will be hosting its next event on October 15th which will explore the theme of Women Disrupting. For more information and tickets visit https://warriorwomencollective.co.uk/events

Survey reveals 95% of Welsh women polled experience Imposter Syndrome

By Raspberry Jim,

Around 95% of Welsh women surveyed suffer with Imposter Syndrome with work identified as the biggest contributor, according to research from Warrior Women Collective. 

The findings reveal that an overwhelming majority of women feel inadequate either professionally, personally, or socially and undeserving of their accomplishments, according to the women’s networking initiative. 

The survey found that 85% downplayed their success, while 88% found it difficult to take compliments. 

Despite this 58% of respondents felt they deserved their success, which could show that women don’t want to appear to be “bragging”, according to Charlotte Morgan, co-founder of Warrior Women Collective. 

The main factors which were cited as contributing to feelings of Imposter Syndrome, include work and work meetings, being around other wives and mothers, after being isolated for longer periods, when talking to friends, and social media. 

Warrior Women Collective, which runs empowering, thought-provoking, female-focussed networking events , carried out the research ahead of its next event on September 17th

The event, which will be held online, will explore the issue of Imposter Syndrome and feature a host of successful female speakers. These include Hanna Andersen from career coaching and leadership training practice As We Are, Yvadney Davies from mothers’ lifestyle blog Mums That Slay, and Sinead Kennedy Krebs from motivational podcast The Imposters Club. 

All three women will be sharing their own stories and experiences to over 100 attendees on Zoom, in a bid to inspire, champion, and engage with women from various backgrounds. 

Ms Morgan said:

“We thought it was really important to delve into the issue of Imposter Syndrome for our next event, as we know a lot of women can relate to this. 

“The fact that 95% of those surveyed had experienced this didn’t shock us, as we knew it was a wide-spread issue. However, we felt the results provided a really revealing look into how women approached their successes and ultimately celebrated them. 

“We felt that it was encouraging that those surveyed felt they deserved their success, however they were likely to downplay it in a bid to avoid appearing arrogant.” 

Co-founder Amy Holland added: 

“Through Warrior Women Collective it is our mission to build a strong, supportive, empowering network of women from all walks of life, who can uplift and inspire each other. 

“We believe that this event will be absolutely crucial to helping women to re-evaluate their feelings around success. 

“Whether they are going for a promotion at work, raising amazing children, starting a passion project, or simply comparing themselves to others in social situations – we want women to overcome these feelings and celebrate their amazing achievements.” 

Warrior Women Collective aims to empower and celebrate women through their series of female-focussed events. The uplifting, inspirational, and empowering  events aim to engage women in thought-provoking and positive discussions.  

They have featured speakers including some of Wales’s leading businesswomen and entrepreneurs, including Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, and Hannah Pycroft co-founder of Spectrum Collections, while also shining a light on thriving female-run businesses.  

Their popularity has soared over the past three years, with up to 1,000 women attending their 12 events last year and a 290% surge in attendees from the previous year.  

‘Transformed’ Nantycaws Filling Station nears completion

By Raspberry Jim,

An Oil 4 Wales filling station in Nantycaws which has been “totally transformed” is nearing completion leading to the creation of vital new jobs in the community. 

The filling station near Carmarthen, which has been undergoing extensive building and redevelopment works since 2018, is set to be completed in October. 

Anticipation for the launch of the new site has been mounting, as it will generate jobs, and create a new community hub, shop, and restaurant. 

Ten additional staff will be recruited across the site, adding to nine roles which have been created over the past year. 

The new development will see the existing site along the A48 completely transformed, with a new restaurant built under Oil 4 Wales’s restaurant brand Hollol Gymraeg, offering views of the Black Mountains from its balcony and serving Welsh produce. 

Alongside this, its on-site shop will offer a wider range of essential goods and Welsh products, with staff providing bilingual services. The inside design of the new site has been overseen by Ministry of Furniture.

The facility is also set to host meet and great evenings with Oil 4 Wales’s rugby ambassadors including Ken Owens, Jonathan Davies, and Go Compare opera star Wynne Evans along with many others.   

The new development from Oil 4 Wales, which provides oil and fuel supplies to 90,000 customers nationwide, has been created thanks to significant investment from the family-run business. 

Director Sally Owens, whose father Colin founded the company in 2010, said they were delighted to finally be launching the “unparalleled community asset”. She said: 

“The Nantycaws Filling Station has been a project that we have been keenly developing over the past two years, so we are delighted to be approaching completion. 

“We believe that we have created a genuinely unparalleled community asset for the people of Carmarthenshire, and we can’t wait for everyone to see it. 

“Our relaunched Nantycaws Filling Station has been totally transformed and will feature a host of new features. 

“We are launching an entirely new restaurant offering a varied menu, serving up locally sourced Welsh produce, ales and wines. Our shop has also been transformed and now offers all the Welsh produce, gifts and shopping essentials you could need.  

“We are also looking forward to hosting special events and meet and greets with our Welsh rugby ambassadors, which we’re sure everyone will enjoy. 

 “Our mission has always been to work with the community, and for the community, and through this development we feel we’ve truly achieved that. 

“As ever we are dedicated to providing value, both at the pumps, and via our bulk oil distribution service as the only Welsh company covering the whole of Wales.  

“The journey which we began at Nantycaws in 2010 has been amazing and this development is a tribute to the passion and commitment of our company to the county, and also the commitment shown by every member of the wonderful team at Oil 4 Wales.”  

Traveline Cymru ‘delighted’ to be shortlisted for two Wales Transport Awards

By Raspberry Jim,

Traveline Cymru is “delighted” to have been chosen as a finalist in two categories at this year’s prestigious Wales Transport Awards.

The Welsh Government’s travel information provider has been shortlisted in both the Customer Care Award and Women in Transport Award categories.

Traveline Cymru, which is part of umbrella organisation PTI Cymru, was recognised in the Customer Care category thanks to its dedication to providing millions of pieces of up-to-date information, advice, and support to travellers in Wales annually.

In May Traveline Cymru’s contact centre reported an overall satisfaction rate of 94% from the previous 12 months, thanks to the service’s ease of use and helpfulness, with customers rating services highly.  

It also delivered over five million pieces of transport information with a suite of bilingual services in 2019.

Traveline Cymru has also excelled this year when faced with flooding and the coronavirus pandemic with staff going “above and beyond” to aid travellers and provide the latest information, all while adapting to new ways of working and receiving rapidly changing information.

While Managing Director Jo Foxall has been recognised for her tireless dedication to the organisation in the Women in Transport category.

Ms Foxall has been shortlisted after working unremittingly for PTI Cymru since joining 16 and a half years ago.

Over the last year, she has led the team to even greater success and soaring industry and customer satisfaction ratings.

She has also overseen teams through a turbulent first quarter and supported them to adapt to agile working in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Traveline Cymru being shortlisted in two categories, Ms Foxall said she was delighted that their continued dedication was being recognised. She said:

“We are delighted that Traveline Cymru has been selected as a finalist in two categories of this year’s Wales Transport Awards.

“Our dedicated staff have gone above and beyond once again over the past 12 months to keep travellers across Wales up-to-date with all the latest information. They have also faced unprecedented challenges this year, and adapted seamlessly to home working without affecting customer service.

“I am also thrilled to have been recognised in the Women in Transport category alongside some of the industry’s most driven and successful leaders.

“I’d like to thank the judges for recognising our continued commitment to supporting coach, bus, and rail passengers nationwide, and we look forward to the awards ceremony later this year.”

Traveline Cymru provides a ‘one-stop-shop’ for travel information in Wales. The not-for-profit company is based on a partnership between the Welsh Government, public transport operators in Wales and Welsh local authorities. It provides route and timetable information for all bus, coach and rail services in the country via a bilingual website www.traveline.cymru, its Freephone telephone service (0800 464 00 00) and a suite of services for mobile phone users, including a bilingual app.    

Champion High Street says town digital transformation ‘key’ to post-coronavirus recovery

By Raspberry Jim,

Creating thriving digital high streets and towns is “key to driving Wales’s economic recovery after coronavirus”, Adrian Emmett chair of the Treorchy Chamber of Trade has said.

Mr Emmett, who recently led Treorchy to victory in the ‘Great British High Street Awards’ campaign run by the UK government in partnership with Visa, is speaking out following the Welsh Government’s announcement of a £9 million fund supporting economic recovery in town centres.

While he welcomed the announcement, which includes £5.3 million to make town centre adaptions supporting traders and improving public safety, he urged the Welsh Government to ensure their plans include the digital transformation of towns as lockdown eases.

On the announcement Mr Emmett said:

“We welcome today’s significant investment into the recovery and support of town centres across Wales as they adapt to life with coronavirus measures in place.

“While we recognise that supporting high street businesses to attract custom and footfall back to town centres is absolutely crucial, we would also call on the Welsh Government to prioritise the digital transformation of towns and local authorities.

“Supporting towns to adopt and utilise digital technology to enhance and promote their physical presence, will be fundamental to enabling them to recover in the coming months as consumer confidence remains stalled and shopping habits are altered irreversibly.

“As our independent stores, local shops, national chains, and all others emerge from this devastating pandemic, we’re beginning to see the extensive impact of this crisis on our retailers.

“Lockdown has seen many retailers transition their offering online overnight in a bid to retain their essential customer base and survive.  But while significant strides have been made in digitising the high street, we mustn’t halt progress now that lockdown measures are easing and we must support digital longevity.

“Digital towns are the key to driving Wales’s economic recovery out of coronavirus, and we’d urge the Welsh Government to make this a consideration as they support economic regeneration.”

Mr Emmett has previously championed successful digital transformation, with Treorchy, which claimed the UK-wide award in 2020 and set a standard for recovery in post-industrial towns, now acting as an example of successful digital adoption to local authorities across Wales.

Alongside Treorchy, Crickhowell was named the Great British High Street Awards’ UK-wide Champion, while Cowbridge claimed success for its Digital Innovation thanks to support from Welsh-based TownTech solution NearMeNow.

Mr Emmett has been working on a roadmap for the digital towns of the future with acclaimed entrepreneur, Victoria Mann, founder of NearMeNow, to bring its vision for digital towns to fruition.

Mr Emmett said:

“Wales is in prime position to lead the way on the economic recovery of towns from this pandemic. However, it’s crucial that we listen to town leaders and high street businesses, and that technology and digitisation is prioritised in every aspect of these vital recovery plans.”

The digitisation of high streets has come to the fore in recent months as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Figures reveal a surge in online shopping during the pandemic and subsequent lockdown in March.  According to e-commerce company Wunderman Thompson Commerce, online shopping rose to 62 percent during lockdown, compared with 43 percent before the pandemic struck.

As a result, embracing digitisation has “never been more important than now”, said Ms Mann. She said:

“Now, it is more important than ever that we build on this framework and create truly united, digital local authorities, towns and high streets which will drive sales, and ultimately will be the key to Wales’s economic recovery.

“We are thrilled that the Welsh Government has announced this fund to support the recovery of pandemic-hit high streets, however we think it’s vital that digitisation is considered within their plans to support local authorities in successfully adopting towntech.”

Phase One of NearMeNow’s solution was trialled in Cowbridge and won App of the Year at Wales Online’s Digital Awards, was highly acclaimed at the national Pitch@Palace Awards and has been recognised by Retail Insider as a Top 60 Global Retail Innovation.

NearMeNow was also recently highlighted in the Welsh Government’s Delivering Economic Transformation for a Better Future of Work report, which identified it as a potential solution for the Foundational Economy, helping to “strengthen the presence of the physical shop front both on the high street and in the community”.

The tech solution is now partnering with the UK Champion High Street and working with three local authorities in a bid to drive digitisation in their towns. The team is in discussions with key stakeholders across the Cardiff Capital Region and Welsh Government to inform digital integration.

On NearMeNow’s innovative plans, Ms Mann said:

“We’re delighted to be supporting local authorities across Wales to introduce meaningful and lasting change to their digital high street infrastructure, which will enhance their profitability and prosperity going forwards.

“As a TownTech which has been working tirelessly on digitising Wales’s high street for a number of years, we are ideally placed to offer support to local authorities looking to secure business futures.

“Digital high streets have a fundamental role to play in this unprecedented, challenging retail economy, so it is imperative the Welsh Government prioritises this in their recovery plans.”

‘Rising star’ trainee solicitor claims Junior Lawyer of the Year Award

By Raspberry Jim,

A Cardiff trainee solicitor, who helped set up a homeless pro-bono advice service and created a new source of income for law firm Watkins & Gunn, has won a top industry award thanks to his “tireless determination”. 

Trainee solicitor Jonathan Williams, who is due to qualify in January, has claimed the Cardiff & District Law Society’s Junior Lawyer of the Year Award. 

The 32-year-old received the accolade thanks to his innovative thinking and dedication, which has “made a real difference to Watkins & Gunn and expanded its client offering”, according to managing partner Clive Thomas. 

Since joining the award-winning firm in January 2019 as a trainee solicitor, Mr Williams has worked across numerous departments, including Personal Injury, Employment Law and Public Law, and hopes to qualify into the Disease Litigation department. 

However, the Swansea University graduate has set himself apart by helping to establish a new Disease Litigation Department at the firm, and supporting the creation of Cardiff Lawyers Care, a pro-bono advice service for the homeless and people facing the prospect of homelessness.  

Alongside this he’s also supported numerous military charities through the firm, and has previously served as a Trade Union Representative and Branch Secretary for the GMB. 

On his win, the dedicated trainee solicitor, said the past year has been “non-stop but worth it” and that all the hard work had “paid off”. He said:

“I’m totally over the moon to have won. It’s always nice to get recognition from your peers when you’ve worked so hard.  

“Everyone at the firm sent lovely congratulatory messages. There’s a real family feel at the firm and everyone is always supportive and pleased when one of us succeeds, which means a lot. 

“My supervisor Lyndsey Gordon-Webb has been incredibly supportive and I’d like to thank her for nominating me. A particular mention also has to go to Clive Thomas – he’s been incredible. He’s put his faith in me and given me a lot of autonomy and it’s paid off. 

“It goes to show trainees can come to Watkins & Gunn and get whatever they want out of it, if they put in the hard work.  

“It’s been non-stop – but worth it. And I’ve loved every minute of it.” 

Mr Williams has now been entered into The Law Society Excellence Awards, which will take place in October. 

On the prospect of winning those awards, Mr Williams said: “It would be incredible to win. I’m a new dad, so the last 12 months have been amazing – if I won the national award as well as the regional award, that would be the cherry on top.” 

On his achievements and dedication to the firm over the past 12 months, managing partner at leading firm Watkins & Gunn Mr Thomas, said he was “incredibly proud and pleased” for Mr Williams.  He said:

“We’d like to congratulate Jonathan on his very well-deserved award win.  

“He really has gone above and beyond since joining us last year, not only has he spent every spare minute working to support our clients , he has helped to strengthen and expand our offering to ensure we provide added value across the firm. 

“He shown exceptional professionalism, knowledge, and sheer dedication, and we are excited to see how his career progresses when he qualifies with us next year. 

“There is a no doubt that he is a legal star in the making, and we wish him every success in the national awards in October.” 

Watkins & Gunn offers a wide range of legal services including Accident Claims, Medical Negligence, Wills and Probate, Employment and HR services, Education Law, Public Law, Business Law, Divorce and Family Law, Childcare Law, Criminal Law, Road Traffic Law and Property.  

Art awards give people with learning disabilities a creative output during COVID-19 pandemic

By Raspberry Jim,

A UK-wide art awards originally launched in 2011 is making a welcome comeback to provide a creative outlet for those with special education needs struggling to cope during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Create! Awards have been brought back by popular demand by organisers Beechwood College following a four-year hiatus.

Attracting thousands of entries from across the UK and overseas, as well as winning its own UK Award for Autism Best Practice, the originally titled Create! Art for Autism awards proved to be hugely popular amongst the autism community.

Now known as Create! to reflect wider inclusivity, the awards have been opened up to individuals from six years of age upwards with any special education needs, an autistic spectrum condition or a learning disability.

The theme for the awards this year is ‘Dreams’ with three categories to enter: 2D or 3D Art, Digital Media, Poetry or Short Prose. Each category is divided into age groups that include 6-10 years, 11-19 years and 20 years+ and there are prizes for winners and runners up in each age group and category.

Judge, Mahlia Amatina, who is an award-winning conceptual artist on the spectrum and one of the ‘Top 50 Influential Neurodivergent Women’ as voted by Women Beyond the Box, said:

“I am delighted to sit on the judging panel for Create!. I’m really pleased to see the creative ability of those with autistic spectrum conditions and special education needs showcased throughout the UK.

“Having a creative outlet in these difficult times is extremely beneficial for everyone. It’s a great opportunity to focus the mind on something positive, I really can’t wait to see all of the entries!”

Kelly Hull, Principal at Beechwood College, said:

“We are thrilled to be able to relaunch Create! this year. The awards proved to be a huge success in previous years, and it seemed the perfect time to bring them back. Many people with special education needs have been struggling with the uncertainty that the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has brought, and we know the competition will provide a much-needed creative outlet.

“We are looking forward to seeing all of this year’s entries and we hope that Create! will give everyone an enjoyable opportunity to channel their energies into expressing their creativity and letting their imaginations run free.”

The Create! Awards will see the return of previous judges Anna Kennedy OBE – founder of UK autism charity Anna Kennedy Online, artist and former art teacher Steve Knapik MBE, photographer and founder of autism advisory service ‘Accepting Behaviour’ Aaron Yorke and artist and former teacher Neil Burridge. They will be joined by new judges visionary artist Mahlia Amatina, Director of Hijinx Theatre Ben Pettit-Wade, Liam Ashworth, an artist and learning mentor, Director of Autism Wellbeing Rorie Fulton and founder and CEO of the Autism Directory, Nadine Honeybone.

Entries will open on the 1st July 2020 and close on 31st August 2020. To enter visit www.createart.org.uk 

Beechwood College in South Wales is a specialist day and residential service for young adults between the ages of 16 and 25 with an Autism Spectrum Condition.

Loteri Cymru earmarks ‘unprecedented’ £40,000 for pandemic-hit Welsh charities

By Raspberry Jim,

Struggling charities across Wales are set to benefit from an “unprecedented” donation of £40,000 thanks to the all-Wales lottery, Loteri Cymru.

The lottery, which was established to support Welsh charities, has earmarked the sum to offer vital financial assistance to local causes affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes after it was reported by the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) that charities expected to see their voluntary income plummet by 48% due to lockdown measures, while demand for their services continued to increase rapidly.

In a bid to offer a lifeline, Loteri Cymru has earmarked £40,000 to support charities across Wales this year, of which £10,000 has already been donated to Carers Trust Wales.

The funds will be split between the most vulnerable organisations which have been significantly affected during the pandemic, according to Phil Gerrish, marketing manager for Loteri Cymru. Mr Gerrish said:

“Lockdown has been an extremely challenging time for many of us, and for charities which provide invaluable services to millions of people, this concern has been even greater.

“Despite facing hugely concerning funding challenges due to social restrictions, they have continued to provide a vital lifeline to people in need.

“We wanted to show our gratitude to these dedicated charities with a donation of £40,000, which we hope will enable them to continue the life-changing work they undertake.

“We’re grateful to our lottery players who have made this donation possible and to the charities in Wales for their endless dedication.”

Loteri Cymru supports numerous Welsh charities annually, including LATCH – the Welsh Children’s Cancer Charity, Welsh Hearts, The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, Youth Cymru, and North Clwyd Animal Rescue (NCAR).

For just £1 a week, players can help raise vital funds for charities in Wales, as well as try their luck at scooping the £25,000 weekly jackpot cash prize.

Play today at www.loteri.cymru

COVID-19: Top tips on communicating with people with learning disabilities

By Raspberry Jim,

With updates on the Covid-19 pandemic provided daily, the sheer volume of information has been challenging for most people to digest, but more so for those with learning disabilities.

However, as communication is a basic human need and right, despite the many challenges of communicating this complex information, it’s important that people invest the time to make sure everyone has the opportunity to fully understand what is happening around us.

Communicating the changes effectively with those who have learning disabilities is essential to maintaining their mental health during this worrying time.

Dr Hayley Thomas, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Pinetree Hospital, a specialist care provider for those with learning disabilities, behaviours that challenge and complex mental health needs, explained that the changes in routine and the sheer amount of information to process can prove traumatic for those with learning disabilities.

In a bid to support families, carers and professionals, Hayley has offered her expert advice during Learning Disability Awareness Week on the challenges being faced and how to effectively communicate complex information and support those living with learning disabilities during the pandemic.

What are the communication challenges people with learning disabilities face and how has COVID-19 exacerbated these?

The challenges largely depend on the level of learning disability the person has. We have people at Pinetree Hospital who have mild disabilities and are able to use and understand verbal language and written communication methods pretty well. But, we also have service users who have significant communication impairments and struggle to process information and understand new situations.

One of the biggest challenges people with learning disabilities have faced is the change to their routine and predictable, familiar day. In particular, people with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) find it hard to adapt to, and understand new situations; so being told overnight that they couldn’t go out or follow their normal routine was difficult for them to comprehend.

Another challenge of COVID-19 has been the complexity of the information being distributed. A lot of what is coming from the Government is very technical, so we’ve had to simplify it quite significantly. The challenge has been in explaining information in the simplest terms without losing its meaning or undermining the significance of the situation.

PPE and face masks have also had an impact on communication, particularly non-verbal communication. Some individuals rely heavily on being able to see someone’s facial expression to interpret emotions; whilst others might rely upon lip reading due to hearing impairments. All of which is made more difficult when those supporting them are wearing a face mask.

During the pandemic there has been some complex information to communicate, how have you gone about this? What tools, tactics, programmes have you used?

We have been using easy read guides provided by Public Health Wales and Public Health England, along with developing material specific to our service users.

We’ve created a lot of our own bespoke material that specifically meets the individual’s particular needs and circumstances. For some of our service users, we use packages such as Photosymbols, which uses pictures to supplement simple text. For others, we use augmented communication systems which are picture-based communications rather than speech or text to support their understanding. In order to ensure everyone is supported to be able to access the same consistent messages, we’ve needed to have the same information in a number of different formats.

We have also used a lot of Social Stories which are short stories created to illustrate certain situations and problems and how people deal with them in order to help our service users understand the changes to their particular routines. We’ve also put together a set of frequently asked questions, which we keep adding to, to ensure that we maintain a consistent message.

As restrictions start to lift, we’re still in a state of flux, what are your top tips for communicating with someone with a learning disability during this time?

The first thing would be to check the information that you are giving out.  While this may sound simple, there’s so much misinformation out there it’s important to check your sources to ensure what you’re communicating is accurate, up-to-date, and relevant to where you live. Also, it is important that it is communicated in a timely manner to avoid individuals seeing or hearing it elsewhere and misinterpreting it. Any confusion or misinterpretation could add to anxieties. 

The second tip would be tailoring your communication method to suit the individual and making sure the information is really clear and concise. For a parent or family member, use whatever method works best for the person you’re communicating with. For professionals, it’s about having the same information in multiple formats so that it’s accessible for all.

Thirdly, be open-minded in the way you share information. From videos to symbols, there are lots of different communication methods out there. Think creatively about how you can share the information in a way that is understandable to the individual.

Finally, whether you are a carer, family member or part of a professional team, have joint discussions about what information you actually need to share. It’s about knowing what’s important to the individual and what may cause them distress. People with learning disabilities have the same rights as everyone else to have information. So always share information, unless you have a really good reason not to.

Despite the complexity and uncertainty of the situation, we find ourselves in don’t shy away from communicating with people with learning disabilities and making sure they’re up-to-date with what’s going on. Like everyone else, it’s crucial for their mental and physical health to understand the new world around them.

Dr Hayley Thomas works at Pinetree Hospital in Cardiff, which is part of the Ludlow Street Healthcare Group.

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