|City & County of Swansea
|Community Engagement Transformation Lead
Driving behaviour change for active ageing: Innovations in promoting physical activity and prevention strategies
Rhys Thomas worked for South Wales Police for a 17-year period and won a number of awards as a special constable, community support officer, neighbourhood, response and hate crime police officer.
During his time in the polices community safety team he established the Swansea Bay LGBTQ+ forum and focused his work and efforts around raising awareness of hate crime. He also worked closely with a local transgender support group to establish one of Wales’s largest transgender events which hit the television screens as ‘Swansea Sparkle’.
In 2021 Rhys opted for a change of career and joined Swansea Council as the Age Friendly Communities Lead where his focus was around creating and transforming opportunities for people 50 and over. He achieved this through the implementation of daily engagement sessions, improving access to services by encouraging high visibility of both the work being done and Swansea councils team members, this leading to the launch of a new engagement drop in space in July 2023 called “The Collaboration Station”
Rhys established the Ageing Well steering group to provide a platform where partner organisations could meet, network and share vital information and further opportunities for collaboration. The group now has over 60 organisations taking part to improve service delivery for people over 50 in Swansea. Following Rhys’s input and hard work Swansea Ageing Well has transformed from one monthly meeting to a complete programme of weekly engagement activities. The team and it’s partnership approach and newly reformed model are seeing on average 500 people a week. This approach to supporting older people has improved the resident’s wellbeing, built strong partnership networks and made receiving help and advice accessible to all community members.
In September 2023, the Swansea Ageing Well programme was a finalist for the best Health & Well-being initiative in the association of public service excellence awards across the UK.
Rhys’s mission is to transform the way local authorities, charities and community members support older people and ensuring they are protected from feelings of loneliness, isolation and vulnerability. His hope is that his work ethic and approach will influence other areas not only in Wales and the UK but across all nations, making sure older people are prioritised and have their voices heard.