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Valleys youngsters affected by negative perceptions of their area, says MP

A survey by ITV Wales and Chris Bryant MP found 63% of young people in the Rhondda were planning to move away after finishing school Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Negative perceptions of the south Wales valleys are affecting the ambitions of young people living within its towns, says a Labour MP.

It comes as an ITV Wales survey carried out in conjunction with Chris Bryant MP found almost two thirds of young people living in the Rhondda say they plan to leave the Valleys after finishing school.

The survey, of nearly 300 16-18 year olds, also asked for the youngsters' opinions of where they call home, as well as their perceptions of how people from outside of the Valleys view them.

While more than 80% said they were proud to come from the Rhondda, most felt that outsiders’ opinions of their communities were negative.

ROUGH
1/6 respondents said they felt people would think where they came from was rough.

The survey asked respondents to provide a word or phrase which best described how they felt about the Valleys. Words like “brilliant", "beautiful", "friendly", "homely" and "comfortable” came up frequently.

Of those who gave a reason for wanting to leave, some cited their future ambitions and a wish to travel. But others gave more negative reasons like “no opportunities”, “no work” and “nothing to do”.

80%
said they were proud to come from the Rhondda.

The issue isn’t the kids who’ve got lots of ‘get-up-and-go’, it’s the kids who feel sometimes that the impression that people have about the Valleys and about the Rhondda in particular is so negative that they’re not going to get a chance in life.

– Chris Bryant MP

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant says retaining the younger population of these communities is a “long term challenge”.

“I think there’s a very strong perception that people outside the Rhondda will think negatively about people from the Rhondda", said Bryant.

"Actually I think that that’s exaggerated, but I do sometimes worry that the only time the newspapers report anything from the Valleys is when there’s a murder or there’s some kind of drugs problem, and actually the Valleys have very low crime records, and are a very pleasant place to live”.

Siôn Tomos Owen is a broadcaster, author and cartoonist Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Siôn Tomos Owen is a broadcaster, author and cartoonist, who has built a successful career for himself whilst living in Treorchy. He’s now telling young people that they can do the same.

“I would say [the Rhondda] has been very important, but what’s probably even more important than that is that it’s the basis of what I do now.

“It all started from something, which was me trying to celebrate the valley via Twitter and Facebook… and it’s blossomed now into a career.

“I’ve recently done a talk in a school based on this. That you don’t need to leave, but it does depend on obviously an economic situation and whether you’ve got the skills to stay. It’s not new, people have been leaving the Valleys since I was in school. Some want to leave, and as well as that, lots return. They see it as they want to get away. And then there’s something in them that brings them back… there’s economic migrants, and then maybe there’s nostalgic migrants too who return here”.