Essential Skills for Life Award Winner
Vale People First Men’s Group
Nominated by: Addysg Oedolion Cymru | Adult Learning Wales
Sponsored by: The Open University in Wales
Formed in 2012, Vale People First Men’s Group offers men in the community a safe space to learn new life skills and connect with each other.
The sessions, which run weekly from a community centre in Barry, give members the opportunity to gain qualifications, make new friends, and discuss issues that are important to them.
Ages range from 18 to 60+, and some live with various conditions, including autism, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, and depression. With the weekly four-hour session becoming so popular, a waiting list was started, and a second group formed to accommodate demand.
The group is run jointly by tutors, Liz Marriott and Joanne Price. Joanne explains: “We start each session with a quick check-in, talk about good news or any problems then move on to different subjects.”
Some of the topics covered include anger management and coping with emotions, budgeting, recycling, food preparation, digital support and other life skills such as time management.
Many group members have seen huge boosts to their confidence from attending the sessions, and some have gone on to start volunteer positions or have learnt to read and write. Sessions are not only used to discuss vocational topics, but the group also provides an environment for the development of social skills and friendships.
Joanne said: “A lot of the men suffer with loneliness, so coming to the sessions means they get out of the house and talk to people, it gives a sense of companionship and a safe space. We often have other organisations come in and discuss different topics such as men’s sexual health – help which they might not seek on their own. One of the main skills we teach is writing and one member recently learnt how to write a capital A, and his sister’s name is Ashleigh, it can be the smallest things that can make a big difference.”
Mark Tierney couldn’t read or write when he first joined but has since learnt and is now employed as the group’s health and wellbeing officer. He said: “I have been a part of Men’s group from the beginning, and I love it. I can read and write now, and I have a job with the group. You are never too old to learn and it’s better when you can have fun at the same time. I used to feel miserable, and I used to moan a lot but now I’m always happy.”
Moving forward, the group plans to carry on exploring new topics and encourages learners to suggest subjects they’d find useful. Time is also set aside for unaccredited courses, such as setting up a pretend shop to put the men’s money management, food preparation and social skills into practice.
Joanne says: “I absolutely love the group. We laugh until we cry during our sessions and it’s so nice to see first-hand how people’s skills can improve.”