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Neath Port Talbot

Ystalyfera flood alleviation scheme heading for completion

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A major part of a £700,000 drainage project in Ystalyfera which will reduce the flood risk to residents of the Varteg Estate has now been completed.

While further improvement and reinstatement work continues, a new 140 metre culvert connection is now in place and providing drainage for the estate.

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It is expected the scheme, which began in Autumn this year, will be completed early next year by Neath Port Talbot Council’s contractors for the project, Jones Brothers (Henllan Ltd).

The Welsh Government funded work, aimed at stopping surface water backing up in Varteg Road during periods of high rainfall, will not only benefit the Varteg Estate but also the surrounding community.

Cllr Mike Harvey, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Engineering, said: “We are delighted to announce the main part of this vital project has now been completed.

“The scheme in Varteg Road, where a number of surface flooding incidents have been experienced in recent years, is part of the council’s ongoing flood mitigation measures across the county borough being carried out in partnership with the Welsh Government.

“The Welsh Government’s Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) strategy, which Neath Port Talbot Council is helping to deliver locally, provides a long term vision of how we can better protect and prepare homes and businesses from flooding and coastal erosion across Wales.”

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Fostering & Adoption

Foster carer shares her 30 years experience of fostering to inspire others

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A foster carer from Neath Port Talbot has shared her 30 years of experience to help inspire more people to also make a difference in a young person’s life.

Back in 1991, Annie Lewis was married, had children of her own, two boys aged seven and eight and was working as a chef, when she contacted her local authority to become a foster carer.

But Annie’s story begins much earlier as a troubled teenager in care herself.

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Annie said: “When I was 14, I was an extremely challenging teenager. I had difficulties in my own family and was always running away. I was living in a residential children’s home where I met a young girl who was only eight at the time. I remember thinking this is wrong. I knew she shouldn’t have been there, with teenagers like me, but there were no foster carers available to have her. She latched on to me as a big sister.”

Annie later moved back home with her parents, but at that point she knew that one day when she was a grown up, she was going to do something about it. 

Fostering with her local authority in Neath Port Talbot, Annie met many inspiring foster carers. “There weren’t many foster carers back in those days. But I remember meeting other local people who fostered, who were always just a phone call away when things got complicated. I made some lifelong friends and we formed a close community.”

Annie describes fostering as an unusual way of life. “When some people say “you get paid for it” I’m afraid I lose my cool. Fostering is not an occupation, it’s a vocation. It’s a way of life, not a job.”

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Annie has cared for many different children over her 30 years, the majority being boys often with behaviour or health issues. Annie explained that a lot of the challenges were understanding what they were going though.

“It’s difficult to understand why someone would do that to a child or allow someone else to do that to a child. Some of the things that parents say to their children aren’t true. They see you as competition.” Annie who recently celebrating her 60th birthday, explains that her age now helps, as the parents see her as a grandmother figure. 

Annie’s advice to anyone new to fostering is to stay calm and not take it too personally.

“You need to vent your own anger about the situation. I take 10 minutes with a cup of coffee and look at the sea. You need to find that one thing that gives you peace so you don’t burn out. I use the social worker and other local foster carers to talk to.”

“Almost every child and young person, regardless of why or what has happened to them or why they are in care, always want to go home. You need to find a way to help them to understand why they can’t go see mum or dad. With all the complexities of each situation, you need to help the child to understand what’s happening.”

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“I was quite quiet in the beginning, but what I’ve learnt over the years is that being quiet isn’t going to help a child. You have to stand up for them. I know now what I’m allowed to say and do, if it’s what the child needs.”

“You can’t fix things for all the children, but you can fix it for one, and it doesn’t always work.”

“I had one child, in my 30 years it was the first time that things ended quite badly. And I questioned do I really want to still be doing this. I changed track and did a different type of fostering for a while. Then I met a young man, and you can’t help but fall in love with them a little bit. He’s a teenager, hopeless with money so I’m helping him to learn, he does jobs around the house and he’s going to make a very good husband to someone one day.”

“One of my fondest memories was a child who went onto a new adoptive family. We still keep in touch and he’s grown up now with a partner. I’ve done all sorts of fostering over the years, but adoption is my favourite.”

“I have an amazing family. Both of my sons are in their 30s now and I have six grandchildren. They’ve only ever known Granny having different kids in the house. My sons are such tolerant laid back understanding men because of growing up fostering and I’ve had great support from them.

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“I remember the things I went through as a teenager. I now see myself as a bridge over troubled waters, helping children from a time in their life where there is sadness, tears and rough times. I’m the person walking them over the bridge to where there’s a better future for them.”

Councillor Alan Lockyer, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Services, said: “I’d like to congratulate Annie on her 30 years of service as a foster carer, and also thank her for sharing some of her personal experiences with us.

“I’m sure it will be of great benefit to both those who are currently thinking about becoming a foster carer and those who are going through the same experiences as a carer at the moment. 

“We are always looking for new foster carers who can provide a safe and loving family home to local children and young people. I would urge anyone who is thinking about becoming a foster carer to get in touch with our Neath Port Talbot Fostering team.”

For more information on becoming a foster carer in Neath Port Talbot, visit https://www.npt.fosterwales.gov.wales or call 01639 685866.

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Lead image: Annie at Margam Park (Image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Neath Port Talbot

Planning go ahead confirmed for major Afan Valley adventure resort development

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The project – the first of a planned series of UK leisure developments under the Wildfox Resorts brand – could create hundreds of jobs and provide significant social and environmental benefits for the Afan Valley and surrounding areas.

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Conditional approval for the Salamanca Group to progress the project to its next stages was granted by members of Neath Port Talbot Council’s Planning Committee on October 12th last year subject to the signing of legally binding agreements under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act – this has now been completed.

The Salamanca Group, home to experienced investors with a proven track record in delivery, took over the Afan Valley project from previous applicants Afan Valley Ltd, which went into administration.

The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Ted Latham, said: “I am delighted that, following the successful conclusion of the legal agreement, we have given formal approval to this potentially transformational new leisure development. Neath Port Talbot Council is committed to the regeneration and transformation of the Afan Valley and we are excited about the potential of the Wildfox Resort to help achieve this.”

Neath Port Talbot Council Chief Executive, Karen Jones, added: “The members of the team behind the Wildfox Resort have firmly demonstrated to me their passion and commitment, not only to delivering a scheme which has the potential to drive economic recovery and invest in the landscape but also to creating a new generation of training and job opportunities to inspire our community and local businesses.”

Martin Bellamy, Chairman and CEO of the Salamanca Group said:  “I am delighted to have received a positive decision from Neath Port Talbot Council. This is an important milestone and I look forward to working with the council and local stakeholders to progress the project this year. We will want to work at pace to turn our vision into reality and create a new asset for tourism in Wales.”

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(Lead image: Salamanca Group)

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Health

Schoolboy’s dental transformation inspires traumatised children

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A schoolboy who lost his front teeth and suffered serious facial injuries in a holiday water park accident has had his smile restored thanks to Swansea Bay University Health Board’s Community Dental Services team.

Louis Richards, 13, from Bridgend, smashed into a slide at a water park while on holiday with his family in Antalya, Turkey. 

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Louie after his dental transformation (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

The impact forced three of his front teeth into his nasal cavity, knocking his nose sideways. He received emergency treatment in Turkey and flew back to the UK with a medical brace protecting his teeth. 

Now dramatic before-and-after pictures of Louis are being used to support other children who have suffered dental trauma.

Dr Rohini Mohan, Swansea Bay’s Clinical Lead for Community Dental Services successfully treated Louis at the Neath Port Talbot Resource Centre following the August 2019 incident – and gave him back a perfect smile. 

She took pictures of him before and after the procedure using a telemedicine app that enables dentists to take data-compliant photos of patients’ teeth. 

Dr Mohan said: “The pictures of Louis have been inspirational to show other children who have suffered a trauma that you can come through it. It helps their parents as well. The worst can happen, and you can still come out with a beautiful smile.

“Until they see it on the app, they don’t believe it’s possible.”

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Consultant Connect, the UK’s leading telemedicine provider to the NHS, launched the innovative app with Swansea Bay UHB in March 2021– making it the first region in the UK to trial it for community dentistry.

Hundreds of patients who are vulnerable because they live in remote areas, care homes or have physical or learning disabilities have been helped. 

More than 250 data-compliant photos have been sent on using the PhotoSAF function from dentists to consultants since the app was rolled out. 

Dental therapists on face-to-face appointments can seek advice from specialist consultants using the photo messaging function of the Consultant Connect App. The specialist can tell them whether the patient needs to be referred to see a consultant – or that the problem is minor and can be dealt with by the dentist on the scene.

This swift decision-making saves hospitals and orthodontic specialist sites from unnecessary referrals while also ensuring vulnerable patients with genuinely serious conditions are treated quickly. 

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The service has also been valuable in ensuring patient records and relevant medical documents are easily imported into a patient’s notes.

And it has enabled dentists in smaller clinics which don’t have specialist camera equipment to use the app to take pictures of successful treatments which can then inspire other patients, particularly children. 

Dr Mohan, Swansea Bay’s Clinical Lead for Community Dental Services (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Dr Mohan added: “I don’t know what we would do without it now. It’s been a life saver for us, a game-changer. We all count ourselves lucky that we’ve been the first area in the country to use this service in dentistry.

“It’s provided better outcomes to vulnerable patients because the right decisions are made quicker. And it’s been immensely beneficial to take pictures of treatments which can then be shown to other patients.” 

Jonathan Patrick, CEO of Consultant Connect, said: “We’re delighted to be giving such a successful service to dentists, to consultants and ultimately to patients in Swansea Bay. These are challenging times in the health service, and we want to give all patients in Wales the best outcomes possible.”

How it works

Sue Davies, Lead Dental Therapist for the Dental Transformation Programme, Swansea Bay UHB, works three days a week carrying out dental checks on some of Swansea’s 2,500 care home residents.

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Sue Davies, Lead Dental Therapist for the Dental Transformation Programme (Image: Swansea Bay NHDS)

She checks for lesions inside a patient’s mouth. If she finds any, she will use the Consultant Connect PhotoSAF function to take a picture of the lesion. 

She then types in the patient’s NHS number which links the photos to the patient’s records. She can add in notes using a Dictaphone feature or by typing them in. The photos are then saved to the secure cloud – and not to Sue’s phone. 

The photos can then be sent to a clinical lead, such as Dr Rohini Mohan, to check if they need to be referred to the maxillofacial unit in Swansea.

Photos can also be used as a reference point to check if an ulcer is improving or getting worse. 

Sue also checks areas around a patient’s nose and mouth for anything suspicious and if she finds anything of concern also sends on.

And she uses Consultant Connect to print out pictures of patients with poor oral hygiene to help with training and to show to care home managers to make sure they are aware of the issues.

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She said: “The Consultant Connect App is great. I get reassurance from a consultant that I’ve made the right decision and we’re saving time and money. I would definitely recommend Consultant Connect to other dental care professionals.”

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