Disability Wales set to break new ground with direct payments co-op


newslatestA Welsh user-led organisation is aiming to become the first in the UK to set up a co-operative that will allow disabled people to pool their support funding and secure greater independence and control over their lives.

Disability Wales has won a Big Lottery Innovation Grant of more than £500,000 to set up Citizen Directed Co-operatives Cymru (CDCC), in partnership with the Wales Co-operative Centre.

CDCC will offer an alternative to existing local services that support disabled people who receive direct payments – cash payments provided instead of local care and support services, which allow recipients to employ their own personal assistants (PA).

The project should boost the take-up of direct payments in Wales. Out of a potential 150,000 individuals who received community care from their local authority in March 2011, only 2,734 people in Wales had their support met through direct payments.

CDCC will be able to pool all of its members’ direct payments and so “maximise their effectiveness”, allowing CDCC to employ any PAs needed by those members, and providing service-users with greater flexibility and control.

It will also provide users of direct payments with a collective voice.

Rhian Davies, chief executive of Disability Wales, the national association of disabled people’s organisations, said the project would “reignite the debate around direct payments” and “support and enable disabled people to have greater control over their lives”.

She said: “Given the focus on social care in Wales, and the imperative to find creative and innovative ways of meeting increasing demand for support in a context of financial cuts, this project provides a practical solution to addressing a specific social issue, which can be used to inform long-term policy and practice.”

The project will complement the Welsh government-funded Enabling Wales programme, which is creating two new centres for independent living and developing new, young disabled leaders in Wales.

The two projects will contribute to the Welsh government’s Framework for Action on Independent Living, which was set up as a result of Disability Wales’ Independent Living Now! campaign.

Davies said: “Our new projects will greatly contribute to the implementation of the framework to achieve greater independence, choice and control for disabled people, and aid the development of the disabled people’s movement in Wales.”

Derek Walker, chief executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, said: “Disability Wales and the Wales Co-operative Centre believe that co-operatives can empower people to own and manage their own services.

“This pioneering co-operative approach will enable disabled people in Wales to live more independent lives.

“The new project will demonstrate that co-operatives can used by groups of individuals to collectively commission, manage and control their own support that precisely meets their needs.

“This new approach will not just be citizen-directed, but citizen-owned and citizen-controlled as well.”

Professor Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour health minister, said: “It is through such collaboration and delivering practical leadership and action that we will achieve our vision of a greater voice and control for citizens and their right to live independently in the community.

“This will complement our wider promotion of co-operative and social enterprise models for health and social care and help us in our aim of transforming social services.”

18 June 2014