Co-production, co-operatives & Cartrefi

Adrian Roper is one of our Associate Directors – and a thorough-going champion of co-production, co-operatives and mutuals. He’s also the CEO of Cartrefi Cymru, a not-for-profit organisation that supports people to lead fulfilled lives – people with disabilities, autism, challenging behaviour, older people – and provides breaks for carers.

Cartrefi are taking a lead on citizen-led approaches in a whole range of ways.

  • They are providing a Floating Support Service in Brecon using systems thinking which focuses on identifying what the service user actually wants and needs, with a strong emphasis on articulating this in their own words, rather than following professional prescriptions and pathways.
  • They’re facilitating the development of a multi-stakeholder co-operative in Llandrindod, bringing together people with learning disabilities, families and support staff in the town to raise their confidence and expectations and capacity to make their lives better through mutual self help.
  • They co-founded the Mid Wales Social Co-operative Consortium as a registered body with the primary purpose of bringing agencies and citizens together to develop new, inclusive ways of achieving well-being for people with social care needs.
  • They’re pioneering a highly effective new approach to ‘Active Support’ for people with learning disabilities. This is based on principles of ‘doing with’, not ‘doing for’, and a strong focus on enabling individuals to have more choice and control over their lives through confidence building, skills development, experiential learning,starting from their strengths and interests.
  • Cartrefi have made an organisational promise to respect service users’ rights and responsibilities as tenants, citizens and ‘co-workers’, and to enable them to enjoy these actively rather than passively.
  • And they are kindly sharing their offices and resources with us in Co-pro Wales. How lovely is that!

For more information about their wondrousness, visit their website:


The Good Life: Positive Attitudes Group – citizen-led training

Inspiration from Scotland – a group of adults with learning disabilities who work to improve the lives of people like them. They challenge attitudes and influence the planning of relevant policies through their membership of boards and committees that make decisions affecting their lives. They also provide training to organisations that deliver public services. The training is unique and innovative both in its use of Forum Theatre and because it is conceived, designed and delivered by the Group members and is based on their own experiences – the people who use the services training the people who deliver the services.
The work of the Good Life Group has a positive, lasting impact on the lives of people with a learning disability by addressing the inequalities they face and taking direct action to challenge and redress them.

Market Facilitation? … We’ve had quite enough of that, thank you!

Adrian Roper is the chair of Learning Disability Wales, the CEO of Cartrefi Cymru, and one of our Associate Directors. He’s also a seriously good bloke with a positive outlook on life. But that positivity is under threat from the market, from what our health Minister calls ‘the commodification of care’.

“As I sit here now, reflecting on the way the world of learning disability services is going, it is a little depressing to see the roots of so much that is wrong now flowing from the heady days of the 1980s. It was then that the seeds of a ‘market-place’ for social care were planted as a Thatcherite Welsh Office vigorously promoted the out-sourcing of learning disability services. At the time, only not-for-profit agencies were put forward as the alternative to state provision. Little did we know that we were clearing a path for private capital to stride down later.

A few years later we started to see services for people with learning disabilities being re-tendered. For some not-for-profits, sadly, the opportunity to play the new competition game was irresistible and the first casualty was support workers’ pay. The market-place had arrived, in all its destructive, impoverishing glory, without even a whiff of private capital. When the purchasers decided to make providers fight for survival, they also brought poison into the heart of the not-for-profit sector. Then they and others could point and say: “I told you so! All they care about is their own self-interest! Don’t talk to them!”

Now, instead of purchasers we have procurers: hundreds and hundreds of them, overseeing tendering processes so as to ensure that the “rules” are followed to the letter, whilst the rights of citizens go out the window, and the stability of trusted provider relationships goes out the window, and the chance of a living wage for workers goes out the window, and even the professional judgement of social service departments goes out the window, whilst the ultimate winner is set to be the private capitalist who buys up, cleans up, sells up and re-banks the profits in Guernsey or Switzerland.”

Just before you sink in to a slough of despond, you’ll be relieved to hear that there is some good news…

We have an anti-privatisation government in Wales, we have “a new Social Services Act which places a duty on local government to promote organisations with a public service oriented constitution, such as user-led agencies, social co-operatives, voluntary associations, and social enterprises. It doesn’t outlaw for-profit agencies in social care which, in the interests of freedom, is probably fair enough. But it does not recommend them at all, and there is music in this silent omission. And there is a growing movement in support of co-production and co-operation.

These ideas are about talking with each other. Being open. Earning mutual trust. Creating long-term relationships that can help us during the hard times. Making the world better for ourselves and all our fellow citizens. This is what we want, isn’t it? Thank goodness, in Wales, there are many who will answer that question with a strong Yes.  Political leaders, senior officers, commissioners, policy advisors, consultants, support workers, and an army of citizens. We must all speak up, and be counted. We must take on the challenges: the misguided and risk-averse, who insist on destructive tendering procedures; the self-interested, who hanker for opportunities to make more riches; and all the rest.

Challenges? No problem. If the good people of Wales collaborate in earnest, pursuing mutual benefit in our communities and our counties, the future for people with learning disabilities and for all of us, as our parents become frail, and our own old age approaches, can be contemplated with real hope.”

We’re right with you Adrian!
The full article can be accessed on our website via this link.

Better lives: an evaluation of the Choice Support Personalisation Programme for adults with learning difficulties in Southwark

Better lives: an evaluation of the Choice Support Personalisation Programme for adults with learning difficulties in Southwark

Authors: Professor Roger Ellis, Professor David Sines and Professor Elaine Hogard.
This report demonstrates the value of trusting service providers to work more flexibly by enabling them to use personal budgets more creatively in partnership with the people they work for.

Exploring Voice and Choice: Voting – by Carey Bamber

“It’s really important for provider organisations to be thinking through how they will support people to vote.” We know that a mere 10% of people with learning disabilities who were eligible voted in the last general election. Staff at Alternative Futures have partnered with Mencap and Dimension to help address this imbalance by organising workshops and promoting accessible materials.

Scheme in Sussex for music lovers with learning disabilities makes it on to Nesta’s 2014 New Radicals list

Stay Up Late, a charity committed to promoting the rights of people with learning disabilities, has been listed on the 2014 New Radicals list compiled by Nesta. The founder, Paul Richards, is also Think Local Act Personal (TLAP)’s new Co-production Lead, helping to make sure all projects are co-produced with people who use services and carers. Gig Buddies matches a person with a learning disability with a volunteer who shares the same taste in music so together they can stay up late attending gigs.

Stay Up Late

The punk band Heavy Load, made up of musicians with and without learning disabilities, got frustrated at seeing people leave their gigs early due to support staff working inflexible shifts. They started a campaign called Stay Up Late.

Movie: Heavy Load – a film about happiness