Posts Tagged ‘Wales’
The “Jaws of Doom” describes the shape you see if you plot a graph showing increasing demand for public services (driven by an ageing population) and reducing public sector resources to meet that need. It’s this tension that is driving severe cuts in some areas and market commercialisation in other parts of the UK.
That was the background to today’s “Reshaping Services with the Public” conference held by the Wales Audit Office in collaboration with partners including the Wales Co-operative Centre. The conference was about changing the relationship between those who deliver and people who use services.
The premise is that too many public services are still delivered from the perspective of single service deliverers. The leads to citizens experiencing multiple, fragmented approaches that can result in contradictory and conflicting interventions, poor outcomes for the service user, waste of valuable resources and poor value for money.
Keynote speaker Professor Tony Bovaird from Birmingham University argued for a radical change in the way we co-commission, co-design, co-deliver and co-assess public services. We need to centre services on the user, gain their consent and harness their time and the time of others in the community to complement resources paid for from public money.
This sounds a lot like a co-operative model to us. The Wales Co-operative Centre supports co-operatives and social businesses, and that includes assisting local councils who are considering externalising services to new social businesses. We help ensure that the perspectives of service users and staff are hard-wired into the governance structures of new enterprises. We support business plans that stack up financially but are driven by the needs of service users and by broader social good. This is in sharp contrast to privatisation approaches, where service users can be objectified, and ineffective delivery models can be contractually perpetuated.
And at the Wales Co-operative Centre we try to practice what we preach. We deliver the Wales Government’s Communities 2.0 digital inclusion programme, and the volunteering model used is a lovely model of co-delivery. The people the programme helps can themselves become volunteers and influence what the programme delivers. Not only does this mean value for money but it ensures that the programme stays fresh and relevant to the needs of people who are digitally excluded.
Today’s conference marks the beginning of a long journey for public services in Wales. If we keep with us co-operative values and explore co-operative models of service delivery, we would be well on our way.
Today, one of the co-operatives the Wales Co-operative Centre helped set up in Gower is launching its new village shop premises.
Siop Y Bobl in Llanmadoc was formed by a group of volunteers from the village after the shop and post office that serviced the village closed down. The Wales Co-operative Centre helped the group to set up as a co-operative (registered as an Industrial and Provident Society) and helped develop their business plan.
The shop now provides a wide range of products from fresh goods, home baking, frozen and chilled foods, an off-license, post office and coffee shop. It buys its produce and goods from local producers or suppliers, helping to keep them in business and retaining income in the area.
Siop y Bobl has won numerous awards including the Welsh Volunteers Award, the Best New Business Award, Best Village in South Wales and Best Community in Wales. The members attribute part of their success to the advice they have received from the co-operative movement. Membership is open to anyone in the area who wants to join – without them Siop y Bobl would not exist.
One of the most significant benefits of the co-operative comes from its 50 plus volunteers, many of whom are local people who have retired. The shop is a “social hub” where people can meet and get together on a daily basis, especially people who live on their own and would not see other people.
Siop y Bobl firmly believes that having co-operative principles has meant that a “dying rural community” has been able to thrive. They purchase from 37 local or very local businesses which also helps the wider Welsh economy. Siop y Bobl has faced a number of challenges along the way, especially relating to its premises. After a long period of planning and construction the business has now moved into new premises on the main road through the village.
At the Wales Co-operative Centre we have been proud to support this community enterprise and wish them well in their new premises and for a long future as the hub of the community of Llanmadoc.
Branwen Ellis is a Business Consultant at the Wales Co-operative Centre. She is an expert on co-operatives, social enterprises and governance.
Credit Unions play an important role in our country, providing a safe, ethical alternative to doorstep and payday lenders. Credit Unions offer responsible banking services to everyone in Wales.
Credit Unions are co-operatives and they work to co-operative values. They are a crucial element of work to tackle poverty and in addressing some of the major financial issues that families in Wales face today.
We welcome the Welsh Government’s recent statement which outlines and reiterates its support for the Credit Union movement in Wales. Read the statement here.
The Wales Co-operative Centre’s past and current work with Credit Unions has helped build the movement and has made a positive contribution to the overall approach to financial inclusion in Wales.
For example, our work to increase the take up of Credit Union Rent Accounts is helping people in receipt of benefits to secure their tenancies. It is also raising awareness of the services and benefits of using Credit Unions overall.
In the past, we helped to facilitate the merger of five Credit Unions in North Wales which became North Wales Credit Union. We continue to support Credit Unions looking to achieve more from collaborative working and consortium approaches.
We firmly believe that increased awareness of credit unions and the rising take up of credit union accounts across all members of our society is essential. Credit Unions are not just there for emergencies; in fact they need our involvement and investment throughout the good times to ensure they are able to support us during the bad times. Sustainability is essential and we all have a part to play in that.
These are important times for Credit Unions and the opportunities are there to build a strong, vibrant and sustainable Credit Union sector in Wales. We are delighted to be able to continue to play our part in helping Credit Unions grow and continue to provide the essential services they offer to the people of Wales.
Derek Walker, Chief Executive,
Wales Co-operative Centre
Martin Lewis says ‘The modern UK has a nasty debt habit’ and he is right. I don’t say this from a judgmental perspective (and I am sure he doesn’t either). But, if you take a step back and look objectively at how we manage our personal money lives I don’t think many people would disagree.
The alarming rise of pay day lenders, their use, and attempts to curb their use, is only one symptom of the problem. So is legislation and regulation the answer? Should financial literacy be a compulsory part of the curriculum and local authorities have a duty to promote financial inclusion?
As anyone that reads my blogs regularly might predict, my answer to that is …it’s complicated.
Research from a plethora of sources, including the Money Advice Service, shows that young people learn about money primarily from their parents. The financial environment that they, as families, live in is demanding and complicated. Input at school would help, but these messages need to be echoed at home. This means that some parents need to learn to manage their money better, first.
Then there is the matter of financial services. It’s all very well to tell people to be ‘prudent’. Life’s ups and downs are often partnered with money ups and downs. If someone needs to borrow a small amount and the bank won’t lend it to them, where do they go? Sadly more and more people are turning to pay day lenders instead of responsible lenders like credit unions.
Interestingly, for some, the introduction of much more stringent ‘money behaviour’ checks for mortgage applications may be surprisingly effective at changing attitudes to money. No longer will the use of pay day loans (whether paid off, or not) be acceptable – and I am not surprised. It may only be a matter of time before other kinds of lending follow suit. Indeed many credit unions already have these conversations with borrowers.
The National Assembly for Wales is currently considering a proposal for a Financial Education and Inclusion Bill. Take a look at our response to the consultation related to this Bill. It’s complicated, but not impossible.
With the new financial year barely a week old, Derek Walker, our Chief Executive, has taken the opportunity to look back on the last twelve months at the Wales Co-operative Centre….
I was recently looking through the posts on our blog site from the last twelve months. I was struck by the realisation that we have covered an awful lot of ground as an organisation. In addition, the scale of our output is matched by the quality and impact of our work.
It’s a healthy thing to look back at what has gone before, as you can learn from experience and take confidence from what has gone well. Another thing that occurred to me was the rich diversity of our work.
Since the start of the last financial year, some new clients have emerged. To highlight just a few – AFS in Swansea, where former Remploy staff came together to form a worker co-operative that has already proven successful. The Cambrian Village Trust social enterprise, in Clydach Vale, was supported to open a new, world class, all-weather football pitch. PS Services, a social business run by mental health charity Gofal, won the ‘One to Watch’ category at the UK Social Enterprise Awards. Many other businesses that we’ve supported have gone from strength to strength, showing that co-operatives and social enterprises are models for growth, as well as sustainability.
Elsewhere in the Centre, we’ve received additional funding from Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund to expand the area covered by Communities 2.0, to now help people in the most deprived parts of Cardiff, Newport, Vale of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire make the most of computers and the Internet. Communities 2.0 has also seen a number of county-wide initiatives launch in the last year, heavily based on strong partnership work – bringing the people and organisations together than can make a real difference.
Our co-operative housing project has been extended for another two years. More groups around Wales are talking to us, and our partners, about the potential to develop co-operative housing schemes in their community, giving people more direct control over their living arrangements.
The year’s watershed moment came with the publication of the Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission report. Led by Professor Andrew Davies, the Commission has concluded that “conventional approaches to economic growth and development are not sufficient alone to achieve the improvement in the social and economic wellbeing of people in Wales”, adding “co-operatives and mutuals offer significant economic, social and environmental benefits compared with ordinary businesses. Their development must be central to transforming Wales’ economic fortunes”. These words come as a clarion call to those involved in the co-operatives and mutuals sector, as well as those on the fringes who have yet to realise the full potential of co-operative approaches to economic development. The report’s recommendations are currently being discussed at a series of consultation events and it will be interesting to hear how others think they should be taken forward. The report’s recommendations have the Centre’s full support.
Join us for the second part of this blog post, later in the week…
Last week, Katija Dew, our Financial Inclusion Programme Director and Financial Inclusion Champion for Wales, attended and spoke at a high-level event that looked into the issue of Poverty and Welfare Reform in Wales. Here’s her account of the Policy Forum for Wales conference that took place in Cardiff:
“The discussions were interesting and ‘lively’ I would say.
We heard from a range of speakers from the education, voluntary and support sectors, along with the Taxpayers Alliance and Stephen Crabb, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Wales, about Welfare Reform and Poverty. This subject is so big, so complex and so…emotive, hence the lively debate.
On a policy level, Wales is forward thinking. Dr Jim McCormick of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reflected that Wales has the most focussed plans for Tackling Poverty of the UK nations. Health, education, employment, housing; it seems it’s all there. So what was Dr McCormick’s parting message? It was that whilst devolved nations have little control over the welfare system, the primary source of tackling poverty is within their gift. That is the building of a strong economy that provides jobs and the building of a skilled and knowledgeable workforce that can take those jobs.
On a practical level, I spent my precious five speaking minutes on more immediate concerns; the use of payday lending services and use of credit unions as an alternative. Yes, credit unions are a responsible alternative lending vehicle, but we need to be fair. There is a reason that other financial institutions don’t provide these services. Sending vulnerable, and frankly expensive to serve, customers to them produces an imbalance in their membership. As a social enterprise they are keen to support financially excluded members but can only do so if all of us invest in and use them. That’s you and I.
A question was asked about illegal money lending and what needs to be done to prevent its exponential spread in the new benefits environment. Of course, we need a strong and well supported Illegal Money Lending team to help tackle the problem but for me, the answer starts with financial inclusion. People have to have an accessible account in which they can receive their income. That account must have the transactional facilities needed to keep their money safe. Beyond that, they need to have the knowledge and capability to use that account to make the most of their money. If, for any reason, that is not possible the Government’s ‘alternative payment arrangement’ safety net should cut in for all that need it.
Financial inclusion is the not the answer to tackling poverty, but it gives people control over the money they have.”
You can find more information about our financial inclusion work on the Wales Co-operative Centre website.
This year, the Wales Co-operative Centre is co-sponsoring the Leadership in Social Enterprise category of the Leading Wales Awards, with Social Firms Wales. Jayne Mills, one of our Social Enterprise Development Officers, attended the first launch event for the 2014 awards, last Thursday, at Moneypenny, in Wrexham. Here’s her account of the event:
I arrived in time to hear Rachel Clacher, Co-Founder and Director at Moneypenny, talk about how leadership contributes to business success and sustainability, followed by remarks by Barbara Chidgey, Chair of the Leading Wales Consortium, summing up some of the conclusions from the discussion.
As they were speaking, I was struck by how much of what they were saying applied to social enterprise and to the way we work at the Wales Co-operative Centre. In particular, they said one of the keys to successful business was to be driven by values and a passion for what we do. Other points which struck a chord with me were that successful leaders and businesses:-
- Are in control, but are not controlling – they are in control of their own role, and trust others to do theirs. They unleash others’ potential
- Focus on what staff are doing well and make more of it
- Take time to think, listen to others, have conversations and enable communication through fun
- Demonstrate they are part of a team and have a commitment to the team
- Enable others to grow and focus on what they are jointly trying to achieve – not on themselves – it is not about them
- Recognise and thank others for their contribution
- Are clear about what they want and foster a team approach to achieve it
They said that a leader can be defined as someone with the ability and willingness to make decisions and the sense of purpose and confidence to see them through, and leadership is about attitude – ‘I have this idea and I’m going to do everything in my power to make it happen’. But they also said that in Wales people don’t often recognise themselves as having leadership skills. So, if you know someone who is leading a successful social enterprise well, now is the time to nominate them for an award for the recognition they deserve and as a way of inspiring others.
More details can be found on the Leading Wales Awards website www.leadingwalesawards.com