Wales Social Coop Forum
The end of 2016 is a useful time to take stock as the Forum has undertaken a major transition during this year and looks forward to new challenges, both with Social Services & Well-being Act 2014 in April and the launch of Care to Cooperate in June
The initial Forum meetings brought a diverse and like-minded people together which has continued over the past 5 years ago, meeting some 4 times a year. The Forum has been fortunate to have the same Chair, the administrative and expertise of the Wales Cooperative Centre and the consistent attendance of a core membership. During this period, the Forum agenda has been varied, including:
- Confirmed a Constitution and Terms of Reference
- Established a number of Task and Finish Groups such as Communication Strategy
- Actively participated in the Act 2014 consultations
- Promoted the social coop model as a viable alternative to commercial undertakings
- Shared information and supported those with local cooperative interests
- Organised a successful Workshop in January 2016
- A variety of presentations and case studies
- Communicated and networked on an on-going basis, with key stakeholders such research interests, Health Boards, the Care Council, WLGA and Association of Director of Social Services, and the third sector Health and Social Care Alliance of Alliances.
Given that the above has been accomplished by the members who also hold down their own day jobs, this is an impressive list of accomplishments and achievements.
The 2014 Act has clearly served as a major social care ‘game changer’ for Wales and to the benefit of social cooperative activities. The Act places a duty on local authorities to promote the:
- development of not for profit organisations to provide care and support
- involvement of people (coproduction)
- leadership and cultural changes to enable the growth of new / emerging business models including social enterprise, coops and user led organisations
- partnership working with Health and other partners including regional partnership boards
With the assent of the Act, the Welsh Government launched a Sustainable Social Services grant scheme which offered a three year funding programme for third sector initiatives which would support the objectives of the Act. With the support of the Forum, the Wales Coop Centre submitted a bid for a “Care to Cooperate” initiative, with a manager, a north Wales and a south Wales development manager and a full time administrator. The bid was successful with the staff coming into post in May 2016. At the same time, the Big Lottery has funded two initiatives with related interest to the Forum, namely the creation of a Coproduction Network for Wales and the development of Citizen Directed Cooperatives in Wales.
With the commencement of Care to Cooperative (CtC), the Forum has worked with CtC to agree a framework that recognises the unique responsibilities of the two but also encourages mutual support and extends the range of both. In addition, with the establishment of a web site, information and ideas can be exchanged and stored in this accessible location thereby freeing up valuable Forum meeting time. These developments should help the Forum to reduce the time spent on ‘business’ and create more space for exploring specific social coop issues, case studies and blue sky thinking through presentations and speakers. The first of these ‘new’ Forum meetings took place in the December meeting with a major focus on how to evaluate activities aimed at achieving social value.
The Forum is looking forward to 2017 and beyond with an agenda of continued close working with CtC and other relevant pioneers of co-operation and co-production, actively promoting the Forum through a large number of networks. We look forward also to holding an annual joint Forum meeting with our social co-op allies in England, and eventually, all four nations.