United Welsh programme transforms life of Brynmawr man

For eight years Mark Davies lived in secure psychiatric hospitals in Newport and Abergavenny. The 43 year old has mental health illnesses impacting how he sees the world, his ability to communicate and form relationships. Struggling to make eye contact and conversations without becoming distressed, Mark, who is from Brynmawr, turned to substance abuse to help manage his emotions and behaviour. He became isolated from his family, subsequently affecting his parents’ mental health.

In 2015, Mark was offered a route out of his existing arrangement, and an opportunity to begin a new life where he could learn new skills, live independently and forge new friendships.

Along with four other people, he was offered a home in Brynteg Road, a five apartment supported housing scheme in Blaenau Gwent. Delivered by United Welsh in partnership with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB), the scheme helps transition patients living in long-term hospital ward placements back into the community.

Comprising of a living and kitchen area, a bathroom, a bedroom and access to 24-hour support from United Welsh staff, Mark’s apartment has given him independence for the first time in many years.

Since moving to Brynteg, Mark’s independent living arrangements and support from staff has enabled him to develop DIY skills to create his first home; reconnect with his family; learn to cook; manage his own budget; take up swimming and walking resulting in a three-stone weight loss; teach digital skills and re-start practising his faith. He now delivers sermons in front of over 70 people and recently won a ‘Learner of the Year’ tenant award.

Mark has made so much progress that his care and treatment plans coordinated by the Community Health Team have been reduced from every three months to six months. This is a huge achievement given staff initially felt a ward bed needed to remain open for Mark.

Significantly, the project enables staff to develop therapeutic relationships with tenants to support their social needs, minimising the risk of relapse and freeing up hospital beds. This has resulted in hospital cost savings of £598,350 per year.

Trudy Davies, Mark’s mother, said:

“Mark is a different boy and he’s turned his life around.

“He was so excited to be moving in to the apartment because he now has a place of his own. He saved up to buy a table and chairs and it was just lovely coming to see it.

She added: “He said: “this is going to be my room!”, when he had the key. It was just wonderful. I’ll never forget it as long as I live to see him how he is.”