Wales Co-operative Centre

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Co-op housing in spotlight at Welsh conferences

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Housing is firmly back in the spotlight this week, with two major events covering issues that are relevant to property rentals and key policy developments in Wales. What’s more, our Housing Co-operative Project Manager, Dave Palmer, is speaking at both of them!

First up is the Welsh Tenants Annual Conference, taking place in Llandrindod Wells, on Wednesday and Thursday. This year’s event is titled ‘It’s Good to Rent’ and brings together tenants from all sectors, from throughout Wales, to talk about the issues that matter to them.

Dave Palmer

Dave Palmer

They will be joined by speakers who will be talking on a range of issues, including money advice, loan sharks, reforming the Private Rented Sector and welfare reform. Dave Palmer will be talking about the latest developments in co-operative housing, alongside Ben Hodge who’s the Co-operative Housing Co-ordinator for Cadwyn Housing. Together, they will be talking about the recent history of co-op housing in Wales, with 26 schemes now at varying levels of development around Wales. This includes the Home Farm Village Housing Co-op in Cardiff, which is being developed by Cadwyn, with Welsh Government funding and support from the Wales Co-operative Centre.

Dave also spoke at last year’s conference. Now, he’s able to relay feedback from some of the tenants who have formed the Home Farm Co-operative and who are ready to move into their rented properties, once available. One tenant has told us:

“I feel housing co-operatives would be beneficial everywhere, as I feel this would lower anti-social behaviour in and around communities, as when you know each other, people should have respect for others belongings. I also like the fact that we have a say in what happens to us as a whole and watch our new homes being built.”

Once Dave has spoken at this event on Thursday morning, he will be hot-footing it to Cardiff for ‘The Big Question’, an event being hosted by the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru. According to the event website, “The BIG Question is CIH Cymru’s high-level housing policy symposium.  By attending you’ll be placing yourself at the centre of debate on legislative change and hear from some of housing’s most influential figures.”

From the Wales Co-operative Centre’s perspective, we have a particular interest in the different methods of delivery for affordable housing. To that end, Dave Palmer is featured in an afternoon plenary session alongside Sioned Hughes of Community Housing Cymru, who will be looking at the wider social housing landscape, and Clare Budden of Flintshire County Council, who will be talking about housing in relation to local regeneration

Dave will once again be raising awareness of the role the Wales Co-operative Centre has taken in delivering affordable forms of housing, through co-operative solutions. This could also include the Centre’s work on digital and financial inclusion and how work in those areas benefits tenants and housing providers alike.

For more information on co-operative housing in Wales, head to the dedicated area of our website.


Written by Mark Smith

September 15, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Posted in co-operatives, housing

New partnerships formed to help claimants get ready for Universal Credit

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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. Jo Lovell, who manages one of these financial inclusion projects, blogs about a recent announcement on the Robust Trialling of the Local Support Services Frameworks that will support claimants through the transition from the current benefit system to Universal Credit.

Last week saw the Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud, announce a series of new trials to help claimants get ready for Universal Credit along with the 11 partnerships that have successfully bid to deliver this local support. It is really encouraging to see that two of the 11 sites are in Wales; Blaenau Gwent and Carmarthenshire County Councils.

‘The trials will be partnerships between jobcentres and local authorities across Great Britain, who will be supported by third sector organisations, voluntary groups and social landlords. Each trial will be different, focussing on local need. They will look at the best way to prepare claimants for the world of work, by helping them with online access and digital support and managing their finances on a monthly basis.’

Universal Credit will by replace 6 different benefits and tax credits with a single monthly household payment. It includes support for the costs of housing, children and childcare, as well as support for disabled people and carers. Concerns have been raised since the first mention of Universal Credit by tenants, and both support and housing providers. Many of whom feel that people will struggle due to their lack of financial capability and digital exclusion.

At the Wales Co-operative Centre we are really pleased to be one of the third sector organisations supporting Blaenau Gwent, in this key piece of work that will help to shape the final framework in 2015. It is an exciting opportunity that will see financial and digital inclusion brought together.

Over the last few months, the Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion (THFI) project has worked with Blaenau Gwent to assist them in mapping the local support services, that will be essential for supporting residents through forthcoming changes to their benefits, as well as delivering financial inclusion awareness sessions to front line workers in the borough. The Wales Co-operative Centre is delighted to continue working in partnership with the Council in this exciting new phase of preparing for welfare reform.

Written by Ieuan Nash

July 18, 2014 at 8:36 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

‘Deep Place Study’ views co-ops and social enterprises as key to tackling poverty in Wales

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Last month, the Centre for Regeneration Excellence in Wales (CREW) published a report that looks at how poverty could be tackled through sustainability in Welsh communities.

The ‘Deep Place Study’ focused on Tredegar, which was held up as a typical example of a town facing numerous challenges in post-industrial Wales. The report looked at weaknesses that limit the town’s ability to grow economically, as well as opportunities that could be exploited over the next 10-15 years. By basing the report around one town, its authors hope it will enable decision makers, at all levels, to realise how a similar approach could be taken in other locations in Wales.

I recently met with Professor Dave Adamson and Dr Mark Lang, of CREW, who led the ‘Deep Place Study’, as I’d noted the number of recommendations or ‘actions’, as listed in the report, that suggest the potential for co-operative solutions to many of the problems identified in Tredegar. Across key themes such as energy, housing, education and social care, there are recommendations to set up new co-operatives and social enterprises to develop and deliver services, or to transfer existing services into the hands of such organisations and businesses.

Taking renewable energy as a leading example, Professor Adamson told me that ‘there is huge potential for job creation around a low-carbon economy’, citing Germany’s approach where 380,000 jobs have been created in the sector in recent years. He also highlighted the ways in which co-operative approaches are taken in the care system in Italy (Bologna) and Canada (Quebec), ways that he feels could be replicated in Wales – retaining local ownership, providing local jobs and keeping investment within the local economy.

Dr Lang gave me his thoughts on energy and food, another key part of the report, “We need a radical rethink on local food production. Look at the New Forest Economy Initiative, around willow cropping and large-scale green-housing”. He went on to tell me that there are opportunities for larger scale social enterprises to be providing local food supplies in Welsh communities, holding up the work of similar organisations in Cleveland, Ohio.

The pair are under no illusion as to the barriers facing them, as they seek support to realise the report’s actions. They’re seeking policy change in order for resources to be made available in the coming years, viewing the study as a ‘long-term report’. Dr Lang summed their future hopes up, by saying ‘When the funding environment is less hostile, when we can invest in Welsh communities again, we all need to consider models that can create community sustainability”.

You can listen to my interview with Dave Adamson and Mark Lang on SoundCloud.

Written by Mark Smith

May 19, 2014 at 10:02 am

Reflecting on the last 12 months – part 1

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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….

Derek Walker

Derek Walker

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.

Accommodation Furniture Solutions Ltd

Accommodation Furniture Solutions Ltd

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…

Dave to take a ‘Can Do’ approach to co-operative housing at TAI 2014

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Dave Palmer, Co-operative Housing Project Manager at the Wales Co-operative Centre is preparing to take to the stand at this year’s TAI Conference. He’ll be one of the speakers at the event’s ‘Can Do’ Corner, which is part of the wider exhibition area at the event, which is being held at Cardiff City Hall.

We’ve been given a sneak preview of Dave’s presentation and, as well as talking about how the Centre develops sustainable businesses and strong, inclusive communities by working co-operatively, he’ll be shedding light on how housing is the latest sector in Wales to benefit from this approach.

Co-operative housing is about communities having democratic control over decision-making about their homes, neighbourhoods and communities.

There are many different forms of co-operative housing, which could apply to all forms of housing tenure (i.e. home ownership, shared ownership or rented housing – either at market or affordable rents) and a mixture of tenures. All forms of co-operative housing are “not for profit” i.e. they do not distribute profit to individuals, and they recycle any “surpluses” made on budgets for the good of the local community.

Ely Farm Garden Village plans

Ely Farm Garden Village plans

The Welsh Government Housing White Paper gave a commitment to deliver 500 new homes through co-operative housing, as part of action to achieve its affordable housing target by June 2016. There are currently 3 pioneer projects in Wales, that the Wales Co-operative Centre is supporting the development of:-

Newport – 20 co-operative Shared Ownership houses at the former Pirelli Works (Loftus Gardens), being planned with Seren Group.

Cardiff – 41 Co-operative Social Rent Homes being planned with Cadwyn Housing Association.

Carmarthenshire – 27 Co-operative Intermediate Rent Houses being planned with Gwalia Group.

Land at Carreg Y Fedwen, Gwynedd

Land at Carreg Y Fedwen, Gwynedd

There are a further 17 potential co-operative housing schemes being considered in Wales and delegates to TAI 2014 will be encouraged to start schemes of their own, to help increase delivery in this area.

Dave Palmer is due to speak from the Can Do Corner, at the TAI Conference at 12.25pm on Wednesday 26th March.

For more information on co-operative housing, please visit the Wales Co-operative Centre website

Written by Mark Smith

March 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Our response to the Housing (Wales) Bill

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Earlier this month we responded to the consultation on the Housing (Wales) Bill.  You can read our full response on the Wales Co-operative Centre’s website.  We broadly welcome the aims of the Bill, particularly the move to increase the duty on local authorities to prevent homelessness and to ensure security of tenure and surety of finance for fully mutual housing associations.   At the Wales Co-operative Centre, our Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion team works to combat homelessness by taking a proactive early intervention approach to mitigate the need for costly crisis intervention, further down the road.   Our Co-operative Housing project is also investigating different approaches that could deliver support and housing solutions that are developed in partnership with the people who require them, giving more democratic control.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mark Smith

February 4, 2014 at 9:09 am

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