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Llwyfan cenedlaethol i brosiect ‘Taclo Digartrefedd’ y Ganolfan

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Dros yr ychydig flynyddoedd diwethaf, bûm yn ffodus i annerch amrywiol gynadleddau, rhwydweithiau a digwyddiadau eraill ynglŷn â gwaith y prosiect Taclo Digartrefedd trwy Gynhwysiant Ariannol rydym yn gyfrifol amdano yng Nghanolfan Cydweithredol Cymru. Bydd y cyfle i gynnal sesiwn ymylol yn Symposiwm Digartrefedd y DU, yng Nghaerdydd, yn ein rhoi ar lwyfan cenedlaethol am y tro cyntaf a hefyd yn ein galluogi i rannu arfer gorau â’n cymheiriaid o bob cwr o’r wlad.

Mae rhai themâu allweddol i’r symposiwm – dysgu, gweithio mewn partneriaeth ac arloesi – sydd oll yn cyd-fynd â’n gwaith a ffocws strategol y Ganolfan ar daclo tlodi. Yn y digwyddiad, byddaf yn rhoi ein gwaith yn ei gyd-destun trwy siarad am ei berthnasedd i Ddeddf Tai Llywodraeth Cymru, a ddaeth i rym y mis diwethaf, a’r cyfleoedd a ddaw yn ei sgil.

Er enghraifft, wrth ystyried tenantiaid bregus, yn y gorffennol byddai cyn-droseddwr wedi cael tenantiaeth chwe mis yn unig mewn tŷ cymdeithasol. Nawr, gallai gael cartref yn y Sector Rhentu Preifat o dan denantiaeth safonedig – byddai hyn yn rhoi mwy o sicrwydd o fewn daliadaeth.

Byddaf hefyd yn siarad am ganfyddiadau’r gwaith a wnaethom yng Nghaerffili, gyda’r Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol a landlordiaid preifat, lle rydym wedi ymweld â chartrefi tenantiaid y mae eu landlordiaid yn derbyn eu rhent o dan y polisi Diogelu. Mae’r holl denantiaid rydym wedi ymweld â nhw wedi elwa ar gael eglurhad manwl o sut y bydd y Diwygiadau Lles yn effeithio arnynt yn bersonol, ynghyd â’r camau y gallant eu cymryd i helpu i baratoi at gyflwyno Credyd Cynhwysol.

Byddaf yn cyfeirio at Gomisiwn Williams a sut y gall y posibilrwydd y bydd llai o awdurdodau lleol yng Nghymru arwain at heriau a chyfleoedd i’r sector tai. Er ei bod yn bosibl y bydd llai o adnoddau ac arian, gallai adrefnu fel hyn arwain at ailfeddwl am sut y mae gwasanaethau’n cael eu darparu, gan wella’r ffordd y mae pobl yn cael help i gael mynediad i’r gwasanaeth/ymyrraeth gywir ar yr amser cywir.

Mae’n amlwg bod angen i landlordiaid wneud rhagor i gefnogi tenantiaid yn y Sector Rhentu Preifat; nid oes fawr ddim rhyngweithio rhwng llawer ohonynt â’u tenantiaid. Fodd bynnag, gwyddom hefyd y gall rhai tenantiaid fod yn amharod i helpu’u hunain, i fynegi’u pryderon a gofyn am help oherwydd eu bod yn ofni cael eu troi allan o’u cartrefi. Mae angen i landlordiaid, awdurdodau lleol a sefydliadau cymorth gyfathrebu’n well â’i gilydd – mae peth arfer da ond nid yw’n gyson ledled Cymru. Mae angen i ni weld partneriaethau cryfach yn cael eu datblygu rhwng awdurdodau lleol a landlordiaid preifat, gan arwain at ddealltwriaeth well o wendidau tenantiaid a’r gefnogaeth y mae arnynt ei hangen. Yn y bôn, mae angen i awdurdodau lleol weld landlordiaid preifat fel partner tai strategol.

Fe wna i ddistewi nawr, neu byddaf wedi dweud y cyfan! Hefyd, bydd gweithdai yn cael eu cynnal yn hwyrach yn y dydd a fydd yn manylu ymhellach ar rai o’r materion y byddaf yn siarad amdanynt.

Written by Ieuan Nash

October 17, 2014 at 10:28 am

Centre’s ‘Tackling Homelessness’ project set for UK bow

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Over the last couple of years, I’ve been fortunate to address various conferences, networks and other events on the work of the Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion Project that we run at the Wales Co-operative Centre. The opportunity to run a fringe session at the UK Homelessness Symposium, in Cardiff, will put us on a national stage for the first time and also enable us to share best practice with our counterparts from around the country.

The symposium has some key themes running through it – learning, partnership working and innovation – all of which chime with our work. At the event, I will put our work into context by talking about its relevance to the Welsh Government’s Housing Act, that became law last month, and the opportunities it brings.

I’ll also talk about the findings from the work we’ve done in Caerphilly, with the County Borough Council and private landlords that has seen us carry out home visits with tenants whose landlords receive their rent under the Safeguarding policy. All of the tenants we visited have benefitted from a detailed explanation of how the Welfare Reforms will affect them personally, along with measures they can take to help prepare for the introduction of Universal Credit.

I’ll touch upon the Williams Commission and how the potential reduction in local authorities in Wales can again lead to challenges and opportunities for the housing sector. While there may be a reduction in resources and funding, such a shake-up could lead to rethinking on the delivery of services, improving the way people are helped to access the right service/intervention at the right time.

It’s clear that landlords need to do more to support tenants in the Private Rented Sector; many have little or no interaction with their tenants. However, we also know that some tenants can be reluctant to help themselves, to speak up and ask for help. Landlords, local authorities and support organisations need better communication with each other – there is some good practice but it’s not consistent throughout Wales. We need to see stronger partnerships being built between local authorities and private landlords, leading to a better understanding of tenants’ vulnerabilities and the support they require. Essentially, local authorities need to view private landlords as a strategic housing partner.

I’ll leave it there, otherwise I’ll give everything away! Also, there are workshops taking place later in the day that will go into greater detail on some of the issues that I’ll be talking about.

Written by Ieuan Nash

October 16, 2014 at 1:22 pm

The Wales Co-operative Centre discusses financial inclusion and its impact on tenants in the private rented sector

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Jocelle Lovell, our Financial Inclusion Project Manager, discusses the projects work with the Private Rented Sector (PRS).

Last week, Shelter Cymru held a PRS conference, at the Liberty Stadium Swansea, and our Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion Project, was delighted to be invited along to deliver a workshop.

Having attended many events that generally focus on what’s wrong with the PRS, it was very welcoming to see the sector being discussed in a positive light. Attendees included private landlords, lettings agents, the Residential Landlords Association, along with local authority housing & Supporting People teams, the Oak Foundation, the Wallich and a host of other support agencies and projects.

The event was a great platform for the Centre to share the learnings and best practice gathered over the past two years working with tenants in the PRS.

Findings from our pilot with Caerphilly County Borough Council found that out of 67 tenants visited;

  • 67.9% stated they were aware that benefits are changing
  • Over 50% had taken Department of Work Pensions or Job Centre Plus loan or used a door step lender in the past 12 months
  • 62.5% had faced difficulty paying rent in the past 12 months
  • 60% had faced difficulty paying gas/electric in the past 12 months
  • 52.5% had faced difficulty paying for Food in the past 12 months
  • 48.3% wanted budgeting advice
  • 58.6% wanted debt advice
  • Over 50% needed referrals to additional services including food banks.

Many of the tenants visited, either didn’t know what support they could access or didn’t like to ask for help. This was exacerbated if they had a bad experience in the past.

Having listened to the other speakers throughout the day, some of the key points which reflect our thinking stayed with me:

  • Communication needs to improve between, local authorities, support services, landlords and tenants.
  • Landlords and tenants are less aware of the support available and how it can be accessed
  • There are some great examples of innovative working practices across Wales, but this is not consistent across all local authorities
  • The need for landlord and tenant training
  • More needs to be done when tenants are first housed into the PRS, early intervention can prevent crisis
  • The PRS should be recognised as a strategic housing partner
  • Some tenants want the flexibility of a short term tenancy, due to their transient nature and uncertainty of job security.

Simon White from Welsh Government, delivered an informative session on the Renting Homes Bill consultation and it’s implications for local authorities, landlords and tenants. Overall people welcomed the notion to simplify and restrict the number of tenancy agreements currently being used across the housing sector, but some were concerned that the changes may take away tenants flexibility to a short term tenancy. Due to the Centre’s work in the private rented sector and its Co-operative Housing Project, we have submitted a formal response to both the Renting Homes Bill and The Housing White Paper.

Written by Ieuan Nash

October 7, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Welsh Government’s vision for credit unions set out by Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty

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The Wales Co-operative Centre runs a number of projects that promote financial inclusion and that provide advice on money management. These projects are a key part of the Centre’s role in developing and implementing solutions to strengthen communities and promote inclusion in Wales. Rhian Hughes, who works on one of these financial inclusion projects, blogs about the recent Welsh Government Credit Union Conference…

Yesterday’s (Thursday 17 July) Welsh Government Credit Union Conference showed the innovative and flexible approach that credit unions have in Wales. Jeff Cuthbert AM, the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, set out the Welsh Government’s vision for credit unions in Wales and that modernising credit unions, so they attract more working middle income earners and work more closely to offer financial products nationally, will help make them fitter for the future.

From offering low cost loans and savings to those who are financially excluded, to offering loans at rates that compete with the high street lenders, credit unions are for everyone and we should all be promoting this around Wales. An example of this is North Wales Credit Union offering a lower rate on loans of £7,500-£15,000 at a very competitive APR compared to the high street.

The Wales Co-operative Centre has a strong history of supporting the credit union movement in Wales, and was pleased to be part of this day. Jo Lovell, Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion (THFI) Project Manager and Rhian Hughes, North Wales Financial Inclusion Champion, delivered a workshop looking at how credit unions can work with the housing sector.

It was also great to hear about the success of the advertising campaign for Credit Unions Wales, which had been funded by Welsh Government. The all Wales branding shows the partnership working between credit unions in Wales.

So, if you’re not yet a member of your local credit union, what are you waiting for!  Visit – http://www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk/home to find your nearest one.

Written by Ieuan Nash

July 18, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Modern Pioneers campaign launched for Co-operatives Fortnight

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Today marks the start of a campaign that the Wales Co-operative Centre is running for Co-operatives Fortnight (21st June – 5th July) that shows the strength and diversity of co-operative businesses in Wales.

Through a series of blog posts, the ‘Modern Pioneers’ campaign highlights the sizes and types of co-operatives in Wales and the sectors in which they operate. It’s inspired by the Rochdale Pioneers, who are among the forefathers of the co-operative movement.

We’ve worked with 14 people, who are at the heart of their own businesses, to explain what it’s like to be a part of the co-operative movement in Wales, why they got involved in the first place and how they see the role of co-operatives in the Welsh economy. We’ve also attempted to replicate the famous, original image of the Rochdale Pioneers, through a series of special photo-shoots around Wales, with the magical, finishing touches made on Photoshop.

The Modern Pioneers Back row (L to R)  Peter Jones (Wrexham Supporters' Trust), Cliff Vanstone (John Lewis), Steve Meredith (PrimePac Solutions), Kevin Edwards (AFS Ltd), Ivor Williams (Llanmadoc Community Shop), Marc Jones (Saith Seren), Alun Taylor (Smart Money Credit Union) Front row (L to R) Alison Banton (Dulas), June Jones (Co-operative Group), David Jenkins (Wales Co-operative Centre), Amy Sanders (Dynamix), Alan Armstrong (Barod), Andrew Lycett (RCT Homes), Cris Tomos (4CG)

The Modern Pioneers
Back row (L to R) Peter Jones (Wrexham Supporters’ Trust), Cliff Vanstone (John Lewis), Steve Meredith (PrimePac Solutions), Kevin Edwards (AFS Ltd), Ivor Williams (Llanmadoc Community Shop), Marc Jones (Saith Seren), Alun Taylor (Smart Money Credit Union)
Front row (L to R) Alison Banton (Dulas), June Jones (Co-operative Group), David Jenkins (Wales Co-operative Centre), Amy Sanders (Dynamix), Alan Armstrong (Barod), Andrew Lycett (RCT Homes), Cris Tomos (4CG)

The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was a group of 28 people, around half of whom were weavers, that was formed in 1844. As the mechanisation of the Industrial Revolution was forcing more and more skilled workers into poverty, these tradesmen decided to band together to open their own store, selling food items they could not otherwise afford. With lessons from prior failed attempts at co-operation in mind, they designed the now famous Rochdale Principles, and over a period of four months they struggled to pool one £1 per person for a total of 28 pounds of capital. On 21 December 1844, they opened their store with a very meagre selection of butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal and a few candles. Within three months, they expanded their selection to include tea and tobacco, and they were soon known for providing high quality, unadulterated goods. Ten years later, the British co-operative movement had grown to nearly 1,000 co-operatives.

The Rochdale Pioneers

The Rochdale Pioneers

The rest, as they say, is history. The Rochdale Pioneers are often talked about in the same breath as Robert Owen, as being the forefathers of the co-operative movement. We hope our Modern Pioneers campaign helps to increase awareness of the roots of co-operative development, while showing what today’s co-operatives in Wales are achieving.

We’d just like to thank all of our Modern Pioneers who participated, as well as those who hosted the photo-shoots, including Saith Seren, the Robert Owen Museum, Dynamix, 4CG and the John Lewis store in Cardiff. Thanks also to Mike Dean of Eye Imagery Photography for working with us on this project.

Written by Mark Smith

June 20, 2014 at 8:00 am

Ymgyrch Arloeswyr Modern yn cael ei lansio ar gyfer Pythefnos Mentrau Cydweithredol

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Mae heddiw yn nodi man cychwyn ymgyrch a gynhelir gan Ganolfan Cydweithredol Cymru ar gyfer Pythefnos Gydweithredol (21 Mehefin – 5 Gorffennaf) sy’n dangos cryfder ac amrywiaeth busnesau cydweithredol yng Nghymru.

Trwy gyfres o bostiadau blog, mae’r ymgyrch ‘Arloeswyr Modern’ yn amlygu maint a mathau’r mentrau cydweithredol yng Nghymru a’r sectorau lle y gweithredant. Mae wedi’i hysbrydoli gan Arloeswyr Rochdale, grŵp sydd ymhlith cyndeidiau’r mudiad cydweithredol.

Rydym wedi gweithio gyda 14 o bobl sydd wrth wraidd eu busnesau eu hunain, er mwyn egluro sut deimlad yw bod yn rhan o’r mudiad cydweithredol, pam aethant ati i ymuno yn y lle cyntaf a sut y gwelan nhw rôl mentrau cydweithredol yn economi Cymru. Rydym hefyd wedi rhoi cynnig ar ail-greu’r ddelwedd enwog wreiddiol o Arloeswyr Rochdale trwy gyfres o sesiynau tynnu lluniau ledled Cymru, gan ychwanegu’r cyffyrddiadau olaf, hudolus trwy Photoshop.

Modern Pioneers photo

 

Ffurfiwyd  y Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers yn 1844 gan grŵp o 28 o bobl, a thua hanner ohonynt yn wehyddion. Wrth i fecaneiddio’r Chwyldro Diwydiannol orfodi rhagor o weithwyr medrus i dlodi, penderfynodd y crefftwyr hyn ddod at ei gilydd er mwyn agor eu siop eu hunain, yn gwerthu bwyd na allent fforddio prynu fel arall. Gan gofio’r gwersi a ddysgwyd o  gynigion aflwyddiannus y gorffennol i gydweithredu, cynllunion nhw Egwyddorion Rochdale, sy’n enwog erbyn heddiw, a thros gyfnod o bedwar mis cawsant drafferth cydrannu £1 yr un am gyfanswm o wyth punt ar hugain o gyfalaf. Ar 21 Rhagfyr 1844, agorwyd y siop ganddynt gyda dewis cul iawn o fenyn, siwgr, blawd, blawd ceirch ac ychydig ganhwyllau. O fewn tri mis, ehangwyd y dewis i gynnwys te a thybaco, a chyn hir roeddent yn adnabyddus am ddarparu nwyddau pur o ansawdd uchel. Ddeng mlynedd yn ddiweddarach, roedd y mudiad cydweithredol wedi tyfu i bron 1,000 o fentrau cydweithredol.

Rochdale Pioneers

Mae’r gweddill yn hen hanes. Crybwyllir Arloeswyr Rochdale yn aml yn yr un gwynt â Robert Owen, fel cyndeidiau’r mudiad cydweithredol. Gobeithiwn y gall ein hymgyrch Arloeswyr Modern helpu i godi ymwybyddiaeth o wreiddiau’r datblygiad cydweithredol, gan ddangos yr hyn y mae mentrau cydweithredol yn eu cyflawni yng Nghymru heddiw.

Hoffwn ddiolch i bob un o’n Harloeswyr Modern a gymerodd ran, yn ogystal â’r rheini a gynhaliodd y sesiynau tynnu lluniau, gan gynnwys Saith Seren, Amgueddfa Robert Owen, Dynamix, 4CG a siop John Lewis Caerdydd. Diolch hefyd i Mike Dean o Eye Imagery Photography am weithio gyda ni ar y prosiect hwn.

Written by Mark Smith

June 20, 2014 at 8:00 am

Riders of the Storm

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This month, an Oxfam report revealed Wales as one of the places worst hit by a ‘perfect storm’ of hunger and poverty. In a guest blog post for the Wales Co-operative Centre, Kirsty Davies, Head of Oxfam Cymru, asks what can be done to tackle rising poverty in Wales.

Food bank use in Wales is disproportionately high, according to Below the Breadline, produced by Oxfam, with Church Action on Poverty and the Trussell Trust. The Trust gave out three days’ food to 79,000 people for a population of just three million last year, compared to 71,000 in Scotland with a population of over five million.

Benefit cuts, sanctions, low wages and insecure jobs are all driving people to rely on hand-outs to survive. We know Wales tops the tables for low earnings and benefit claims, with 25% of Welsh workers earning less than the Living Wage and 19% of working age people claiming benefits.

These are the stark statistics. The reality on the ground is that thousands more Welsh families have joined the ranks of the ‘precariat’ – people constantly living on the brink of financial disaster, where a broken fridge or a child’s birthday provokes a crisis that leaves the door open to local and corporate loan sharks.

What can be done? The Welsh Government has blunted the impact of some social security reforms, such as keeping up the Council Tax Reduction Scheme after the abolition of Council Tax Benefit and replacing the abolished parts of the Social Fund with the Discretionary Assistance Fund.

At UK level, we are calling on the Government to urgently draw up an action plan to reverse the rising tide of food poverty and to collect evidence to understand the scale and causes of heavy food bank usage. We also want all parties to sign up to protecting the principle of a proper safety net as a core purpose of the social security system.

Work at a FareShare North Wales depot, that helps people who are vulnerable to food hardship

Work at a FareShare North Wales depot, that helps people who are vulnerable to food hardship

Action in communities is just as vital to help people take control of their own lives. Our own Livelihoods projects across Wales encourage vulnerable groups to build up their resilience and self esteem to cope better with whatever life throws at them. The work of Credit Unions, including Credit Union Rent Accounts has never been so important in spreading financial education and managing debt.

We know only too well from our projects that people can react to a money crisis by taking out a pay day loan and soon getting up to their ears in debt through towering interest rates. Such loans can seem the simplest and quickest way out when you are up against it. Build up people’s confidence and widen their knowledge of their options and you can stop them taking this often disastrous step.

In the longer term, we need jobs in Wales with decent pay, not more temporary work and zero hours contracts. Alongside conventional investment and enterprise, we must release the potential for community co-operatives and social enterprises to boost local jobs and help keep money where people live. That is why Oxfam Cymru is part of the campaign for a meaningful Future Generations Bill that will pave the way for a prosperous and sustainable Wales.

Written by Mark Smith

June 17, 2014 at 1:05 pm

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