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Council scheme helps Swansea people back into work and volunteering

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Swansea workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic have been given new hope thanks to a Swansea Council back-to-work scheme.

More than 200 people have been helped by Swansea Workways+ Short Term Unemployed project in the past 15 months.

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Over 100 of them are now back in work – others are completing training or volunteering.

Council cabinet member Alyson Pugh said: “We want to improve peoples’ lives – and that’s just what this project is doing.

“The pandemic has brought challenges, including the loss of jobs so our short term unemployed project can be a big help.

“As Swansea leads the way out of the pandemic, I’m pleased that we can help our communities in this way.”

The Swansea Workways+ short term unemployed project offers training and employment support opportunities to unemployed citizens aged over 25. 

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Backed by £1.2m of EU funds, the project is been supported by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government.  
 
Support includes helping people search for jobs, develop their CVs, access funded training and qualifications, build their confidence, develop interview skills, access work experience and introduce people to potential employers.  
 
Hugh Blackwood (pictured top), aged 56, Southgate Swansea, used the project to find new work at construction and regeneration group Morgan Sindall.

He said: “I was made redundant due to Covid19 and, although I had a wide range of experience in the military and in retail, finding full-time work was a challenge. 

“Officers at the short term unemployed project, with support of the council’s Beyond Bricks and Mortar Team, helped me. 

“They secured me a range of training and this led to my new role as a gates person with Morgan Sindall. 

“I’m really pleased with the support I’ve received from the project. Officers couldn’t do enough to help and the result’s clear to see.

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“I’m looking forward to the future and want to thank officers for all their help.” 

Danielle Riley, aged 47, of Killay, used the project to find new work at South Wales Auction Facilities.

She said: “After working since leaving school 15 years ago I lost my job with Arcadia Group this year when the company ceased trading.

“Due to the current employment circumstances, Danielle found she was suffering with lack of confidence, anxiety and a dip in her mental health.  She became unsure of her transferable skills and felt her lack of qualifications was a barrier to her.

“Support from the short term unemployed project was fantastic; officers were encouraging and understanding – and I can’t thank them enough.

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“I’d recommend the project to anyone who find themselves in the same position as me – they really do make a difference.”

Kathryn Hynes, aged 63, of Brynmill, used the project to secure valuable roles as a volunteer with two charity organisations and has now entered full-time employment with assistance of the scheme

She said: “At the beginning of lockdown last year I found myself out of work for the first time in 32 years.

“It wasn’t possible to walk straight into another job but the short term unemployed project has been invaluable as I look for employment.

“They’ve helped me in creating a CV, writing personal statements, filling out application forms, taking courses and have opened my eyes to the skills I have.

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“I’m now volunteering in a Local Aid charity shop and am also starting as a volunteer for Hourglass, an elderly abuse charity, as a telephone help-line advisor.

“Due to all the effort and ongoing support Workways have provided I am still improving and learning all the time but most of all I am still optimistic about my future. 

“A big heart-felt thank you to all of the team for all their continuing support.

“Due to all the effort and ongoing support has provided I am still improving and learning all the time but most of all I am still optimistic about my future.”

The Swansea Workways+ short term unemployed project has a team of dedicated employment liaison officers attached to the council’s Workways team.

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Support, using local labour market knowledge and expertise, is personalised and focused on the needs of the individual to progress into sustainable employment.

The officers have a strong working relationship with local businesses, with an network of more than 250 employers providing access to jobs not available on job search websites.

More – Workways+@swansea.gov.uk01792 637112.
Lead image: Hugh Blackwood, of construction and regeneration group Morgan Sindall (Image: Swansea Council)

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Dance

Doctors prescribe dance classes to keep patients on their feet

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet.

Five of the health board’s clusters – groups of GP surgeries working together within a geographical area – are backing the scheme as the exercise to music is proven to aid falls prevention.

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Each class is led by a trained dance teacher with participants encouraged to follow a range of routines, designed to develop their strength and balance, with the option of using a chair for support if their mobility is limited.

The Dance for Health programme is a collaboration between the health board, clusters, local authorities, and Aesop, an arts focused charity.

Alyson Pugh, Programme Manager at Aesop, said: “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the health sector to improve the health and wellbeing of people aged over 65 through the medium of dance.

“During each class participants will move to a variety of music from all around the world. The classes are fun and vibrant, increasing fitness, mobility and strength.

“Afterwards, participants will have a good chance to get to know one another over a cup of tea or coffee. No previous experience is needed, everybody is welcome.”

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So far classes are held in Pontardawe, Morriston, Seven Sisters, Cwmavon and Briton Ferry, Upper Killay, Reynoldston, Mumbles and the Waterfront Museum.

Alyson said: “The health board asked for 12 classes across Swansea Bay and funded the management side while the GP clusters are funding the delivery of the classes. They wanted it to be grass roots up.

“Anyone can walk in but they wanted the main referrals to come from the virtual wards and local area coordinators and social prescribers, a whole community approach.”

Lizzie MacMillan (Image: Swansea Bay HNS)

Dance artist Lizzie MacMillan (left), a development officer for Dance for Health, said: “It’s for older people and people who are struggling a little bit with perhaps balance issues, mobility issues as well, so we are not expecting them to foxtrot along the floor on the first class or anything like that. It builds up over the weeks.

“We start off quite gently, just seeing where everyone is in the class – I like to gauge the class first of all to see if people are having problems with balance or perhaps giddiness or joint problems. I like to get to know each person in the class so that I can look after them and know their capacity for movement.

“We use the chairs quite a lot if someone is unsteady on their feet. They can still do a variation using the chair for support. We also do a standing variation if people are a little fitter or a little bit more able to push themselves further in the class.”

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Mike Garner, Cwmtawe Cluster lead, said: “We are delighted to be participating in this programme as it fits in perfectly with our goal of improving well-being and helping people remain fit and healthy.”

One participant, Pauline Anderson, said: “I’ve been to four or five classes. I thought I would try it to see what it’s like and it’s been very good.

“As you get older you become more immobile. I’ve been struggling with my knees and joints, so I have found it helpful.

“I would advise anyone thinking about it to just come along.”

Another participant, Betty Didcock, said: “I try to keep active as much as I can. I used to enjoy dancing when I was younger. I’ve made friends here. If you’re a bit shy, it’s a wonderful place to come to get used to talking to people. I’m a quiet one. I don’t always do it right but I have a go.”

While Amber Davies said: “I thought I’d come along to see what it was like. It’s important to keep busy and remain active. It’s also a good way of meeting new people.”

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(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Swansea

Swansea’s popular land train is back – and you can even take your dog for a ride!

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Taking your family for a day out along Swansea prom? Now your four-legged friend can join in the fun too by hitching a ride on the land train!

Officially known as the Swansea Bay Rider, the 72-seater land train runs along Swansea’s prom from Blackpill Lido to Southend Gardens in Mumbles giving passengers an incredible view of Swansea Bay as they travel along.

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Run by Swansea Council, the land train has been a feature of summer holiday trips for many years – whether it’s to soak up the sights in style, or hop on for a relaxing journey after a day of fun in the sun.

But did you know that dogs are allowed on board too?

The council has highlighted the little known fact that four-legged friends are welcome to ride the land train with their owners, as long as they are wearing a lead and are under control.

With more people than ever taking their dog on holiday or on days out, the land train is another fun activity that all the family can enjoy.

The Swansea Bay Rider is also fully accessible to wheelchair users.

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The land train runs every weekend from 23 April to 4 September, and daily during the school holidays between 30 May and 3 June, and again between Friday 15 July and Sunday 4 September.

The 30 minute ride from Blackpill to Southend runs 7 times a day at 10.30am, 11.30am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm from Blackpill.

Return journeys from Southend are at 11am, 12pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm, 4.30pm and 5.30pm.

Can’t get enough of riding the land-train? How about becoming its driver!

Swansea Council are recruiting a land train driver on a zero hours contract for £19,264 per annum (pro-rata). Applications are open until 24 May on the council’s website.

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Books & Literature

Author uncovers the lost tale of Swansea fairground legend

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From Swansea Bliz survivor to fairground strongman – an author discovers his grandfather’s fascinating story as The Welsh Hercules.

In the early half of the 20th Century, Jack Lemm was a household name in Wales. As the Strongman star of fairgrounds and Music Hall, he was famed for his feats of strength, wrestling and his dangerous headlining act, The Whirl of Death.

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Times and entertainment trends change, however, and now the once-famous showman is almost forgotten.

For one man, however, the story of the strongman had special meaning. Glaswegian Steven Blockley had always thought that his Great Grandfather deserved to be better known.

“I never actually met Jack,” he says. “I grew up listening to my uncles and aunts telling fascinating stories about all his incredible achievements around the Swansea area and I always knew I wanted to write a book to bring them to a wider audience. As I dug further into his past, however, even I was surprised by what I found.”

Looking into the background of Jack, Steven and co-author David J Thacker uncovered a rich life story and the perfect antidote to our troubled times.

Steven continues, “Jack lived through some harsh years – he was on HMS Lion at the Battle of Jutland in World War 1 and was a survivor of the Swansea Blitz in the Second World War – but his focus was always to put family first and to provide for everyone at home, even if doing so took him away from them.”

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David takes up the story. “Jack came from a Greek family and his given surname was actually Lamnea, but his exploits on stage and at fairs all over the UK, including at Neath, were not always popular, especially with his authoritarian father.

“A lot of the tension in our book comes from that relationship, of a son trying to live up to the ideals of his father.”

The resulting book, The Welsh Hercules, took over a year to research and write but in doing it Steven found a kind of resolution.

“While we were writing the book, I turned 60. At that age, Jack was still doing 40 shows a day at the fairgrounds and even after he retired, he was helping roadworkers outside his house to fix the roads!

“Age really was just a number for him and I think that’s a great attitude to have.”

The Welsh Hercules tells the story of Jack, from his humble beginnings on Swansea Docks through to becoming a renowned boxing coach and fairground star. It takes him through two World Wars, as a survivor of the Battle of Jutland and the Swansea Blitz, and introduces a whole new world of showmen, acrobats and colourful characters.

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But at its heart, Jack’s story is one of family – of the challenges met, the hearts won and the enduring romance of a Showman and his wife.

The Welsh Hercules is available in paperback on Amazon priced at £11.99

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