|R – L: PCSO Daryl McWatt, Community Connector Suzanne Iuppa,
Mental Health Information Officer Jackie Newey, PCSO Geraldine Jones
Llanidloes is a small market town in Montgomeryshire, North Powys. What appear to be thriving voluntary sector groups provide activities for all ages and interests. Friendly faces greet you on the streets and in pubs and cafes. There is a revitalised Saturday market. It is a hub for people living in outlying villages and on even remoter hill farms. Not a place you would regularly associate with law enforcement! But, the local police are busy. Finding out more about their day-to-day work helps throw a light on some of the social problems and issues facing small rural communities in Mid Wales.In May during Mental Health Awareness Week I met up with Suzanne Iuppa, PAVOâ€™s Community Connector for Llanidloes and District, and two local police community support officers (PCSOs) â€“ Geraldine Jones and Daryl Mcwatt. We wanted to promote sources of information and support around mental health, and decided to base ourselves in the popular Coffee Bean cafÃ© in the town. At the same time, we also caught up ourselves on some of the recurring themes affecting people locally who are struggling to cope – for whatever reason.
Police working with Community Connectors
If Geraldine or Daryl meet someone who needs support they contact Suzanne and she meets them at Llanidloes Police Station â€“ â€œsheâ€™s in before we know it!â€� They will have already gained the consent of the individual involved to pass over details. The Community Connectors (a Powys-wide team) help people (18+) and their families or carers, â€œto access community-level services and activities that will help them maintain independent lives and which help prevent their circumstances deteriorating to a point where they might need higher level health or social care services.â€�
Suzanne receives referrals from various agencies as well as families and people can also self-refer for support from a Community Connector. At the time we met she had ten clients on her caseload, having closed eight earlier in the week. â€œThe numbers are usually sitting at around twenty. There is always a mix of different cases.â€�
The PCSOs and Suzanne have made joint visits in the past â€“ â€œpeople OK it first.â€� Then it is up to the individual involved whether they take up offers of support or links with the wider community. â€œSome people are very isolated and lonely. It is quite sad.â€�
Signposting to voluntary sector services
Suzanne liaises closely with staff at the mental health charity Ponthafren Association (there is a weekly outreach session in the town) to support some of her clients. People seeking talking therapies might face a long wait for statutory counselling sessions and even a few weeks to link up with a counsellor at Ponthafren. However, Suzanne explained, if they have a specific condition such as multiple sclerosis that is affecting their emotional wellbeing, she can then call in a specialist service. This works well as often the client does not have to wait.
Loneliness and isolation in older life
In the Dyfed Powys Police Strategic Equality Plan 2016 â€“ 2020 it states that additional support and collaborative working is vital in order to ensure that the necessary support is provided to â€œelderly service usersâ€�. Older residents are much more likely to be victims of telephone scamming and other crimes and may not be regular users of social media where frequent alerts are posted about such crime.
One of the planned actions in the Equality Plan is to â€œraise awareness of the â€˜ageing populationâ€™ and the impact on individuals, families, carers, communities and the increased demand on public services.â€� So it was no surprise to find Daryl and Geraldine promoting Powys County Councilâ€™s Llanidloes pilot Home Support Scheme.
This scheme aims to â€œprovide support and practical assistance an individual may need in their day-to-day life to stay living at home, safely and independently.â€� As well as offering practical support such as shopping and assistance with prescriptions, the service can help with emotional support, including accessing local community groups and supportive networks. Itâ€™s a free scheme, but people need to sign up as a member in order to be able to access support. There are also pilots running in Llandrindod Wells and East Radnor, and a long-running successful Rhayader operation.
The Llanidloes PCSOs and Suzanne recalled instances of how the Home Support scheme had recently supported people, some with physical impairments who use mobility aids, and others struggling with emotional wellbeing and agoraphobia.
Other issues that came up – in brief
Neighbour disputes â€“ as in all parts of the UK neighbourhood disputes are fairly common in Powys, and the police work with individuals concerned to try and resolve issues. Suzanneâ€™s involvement includes finding distraction activities for people caught up in the disputes and ways to boost their emotional wellbeing.
Hoarding disorder â€“ updates were exchanged so that all were aware that whilst Powys County Council provide a deep cleaning service some people are now being offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to address the underlying issue.
Domestic abuse â€“ Suzanne has referred clients to Montgomeryshire Family Crisis Centre and the churches locally. The police are also sometimes involved in these cases.
Cultural differences and language barriers â€“ we all agreed how hard it can be to try and find speakers of foreign languages such as Bulgarian and Croatian to provide interpretation when working with some clients.
Dementia â€“ Llanidloes is working towards becoming a dementia friendly community â€“ volunteers meet regularly to move this forward as has happened in other parts of Powys. The police and Community Connectors also receive dementia friendly training through the Dementia Friendsâ€™ scheme.
Missing people â€“ individuals may end up in Powys after going missing from a community many miles away where the culture and way of life is very different. Adapting to life in a rural area can be difficult.
And with that it was time for Daryl and Geraldine to return to patrolling the streets of Llanidloes.
Suzanne, Daryl and Geraldine plan to meet up more regularly in community spaces in Llanidloes so that local people can easily get in touch and voice any concerns they have, or find out more about support services that are in place for them, their family and friends. We at the PAVO mental health team hope to join them on occasion too. If you would like to find out more you can contact Suzanne by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 01597 828649.