‘I was shocked when I was given a file after my grandmother died’

by cannaorganicgreenscam

Losing a loved one is already devastating, but when the grandmother who cared for him died, Dan Ley was handed a file which he found hard to read. It contained letters and details about his childhood which he had never been fully aware of.

Expelled for being violent at nursery school aged just four, Dan, from Swansea, was diagnosed with ADHD and Tourette’s syndrome at seven years old. He went on to be kicked out of two primaries, two pupil referral units and a residential home for violence, was in trouble with police for minor offences aged 16 to 20 and was homeless briefly.

Dan says much of his life between the ages of nine to 15 are a blur because he was “zombified” by ADHD medications and cannot remember how he felt or why he was so angry. At points in his childhood and into his teens growing up in Swansea Dan says he was handed 18 to 20 tablets a day to take, including high doses of Ritalin.

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The file of what happened to Dan, and how she tried to help, was kept by his paternal grandmother Gillian Ley-Evans and given to him after she died She raised Dan from age seven to 12 when his parents couldn’t cope with his behaviour, but died aged 59 when he was 12.

Heartbreakingly, the file includes the copy of a letter Gillian had sent to a doctor begging for help for Dan. In it she says she loves her grandson “with all my heart” but feared he’d end up “beyond help” because they’d been let down so many times. For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter.



Gillian Ley- Evans, paternal grandmother of Daniel Ley. Gillian died aged 59 when Daniel was 12

Gillian Ley- Evans, paternal grandmother of Daniel Ley as a young woman. Gillian died aged 59 when Daniel was 12

Reading through the file as an adult and looking back on his life has been “painful,” says Dan, now 38. Correspondence in it includes a letter from Ysgol Rhydygors residential home in Carmarthenshire saying he had been booted out aged 15 because he “constitutes a real threat to the safety of other children and staff as well as himself”.

Dan remembers being traumatised and grieving when he arrived at the home aged 12 just after his gran, who he describes as “my biggest supporter”, died. It is clear from the file that Gillian had fought to help him.

In her undated letter to a doctor, she says she loves Daniel but he needs help. It goes on: “So many doors have been slammed in our faces. So many avenues closed to us, so many ‘experts’ proved to be inadequate.

“Five years is a long time, we cannot wait another five years, by then the child will be beyond help and probably branded forever as ‘a bad lot’. Please help us help Daniel.”



Dan Ley with hiks wife Paula and England rugby legend Lawrence Dallaglio

Dan Ley’s late grandmother would be proud of how he has turned out and how he is helping other young people in the way she tried to get help for him. Dan is pictured here with his wife Paula and England rugby legend Lawrence Dallaglio

Now with a wife and two children of his own, Dan has finally got his life on track after a long struggle against the odds. He has a job helping young people at risk of exclusion and wants to understand and draw on his experiences to help them and also move on himself.

“I was aggressive and constantly wound up but I don’t remember what that felt like. I was fighting with pupils and teachers,” he says. “My parents weren’t the worst but they struggled to deal with me and didn’t know what to do, so I lived with my gran.” On one occasion Dan said he gave a teacher a black eye and on another he hit a pupil on the head with a rounders bat – so he can see why he was expelled, but feels he didn’t get the professional help he needed.

For the four years after leaving the residential home Dan lived on and off either with his father or mother, but relationships with his parents were strained and he lived homeless in his car for a time aged 20. He also got support from his maternal grandmother Brenda Phillips and was devastated all over again when she died, aged 60, a week before his 19th birthday.

Dan isn’t sure what finally helped him, but thinks it was a combination of growing up and taking up sport. With both his grandmothers gone his aunt Katherine Thomas, who worked at the University of Wales Trinity St David, helped him enrol on a sport management course there, convinced physical activity would help his conditions.

This proved life changing. Working in a supermarket to help fund his studies, Dan met his now wife Paula, graduated aged 23 and began looking for a job. In 2018 he was taken on as a coach with the charity set up by England rugby legend Lawrence Dallaglio – Dallaglio RugbyWorks (DRW), which helps children and young people excluded from education. Support award-winning journalism with WalesOnline’s Premium app on Apple or Android

Today Dan is now programme manager for the charity in Wales managing seven coaches. They work with children at risk of exclusion in eight mainstream schools, three PRUs and a children’s home as well as with young offenders in Parc Prison and youth clubs.

He says he recognises his younger self in many of those they work with and wants to help them see there is light at the end of the tunnel. Dan hopes there is more knowledge now of conditions like ADHD and related conditions, but says there is still a lack of understanding and help and mainstream education can bring out the worst in some children.

“I still feel like someone with ADHD, but I have a better understanding of myself and my triggers now. It’s been a painful journey for me but I have had massive support at work and my wife is amazing.

“I have ADHD and there are times when I still get overwhelmed, but I am much better at managing it. Sport has really helped me.”



Brenda Phillips, maternal grandmother of Dan Ley, who died aged 60 the week before Dan turned 19.

Brenda Phillips, maternal grandmother of Dan Ley, who died aged 60 the week before Dan turned 19.



Dan Ley, from Swansea, was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and tourettes at 7 years old, he had a troubled and difficult time growing up, but is now programme manager for Wales RugbyWorks
Pics by Rob Browne

Dan Ley has been on a “painful” journey

Getting energy out through physical exercise has been crucial, he believes. Dan started touch rugby at 23 and now plays with Loughor Centurions. He played for Wales over 30s in 2017 and 2017-18 and is in the training squad for the Wales seniors for this year’s World Cup.

He says it’s important not to give up on troubled young people before they leave school. And sport can help get rid of energy that might otherwise come out as anger or violemce.

He is worried about the growing absence rates in schools now: “If you don’t help before they leave school they could fall off the edge. Once my gran died there was no-one to fight my corner and I was only 12.”

Luckily, he found the support and help he needed, much of which he says is thanks to his wife, the sports he came to love and his job. Looking at the exclusion letter from his file Dan doesn’t want to think what might have happened if he hadn’t.

* Next month Dan is taking part in the CycleSlam to raise money for Dalallgio RugbyWorks. To sponsor him see here

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