Two groups have been chosen to set up new centres for independent living (CIL) in Wales, doubling the number of CILs in the country.
The new centres will be located in Ceredigion, in the west of the country, and Flintshire, in the north, and will both be run and controlled by disabled people.
Although there are only two existing CILs in Wales, the long-term aim is to have one in every one of its 22 counties.
The two new CILs were selected by Disability Wales, the Wales Co-operative Centre (WCC), and Dewis Centre for Independent Living, as part of the £318,000 Welsh government-funded Enabling Wales programme.
Disability Wales said it hoped they would provide “a kick start to developing more CILs across Wales”.
The two groups will now receive support from Disability Wales, WCC and Dewis CIL as they work towards opening their doors to disabled people next March.
That support will include help with the bids they will need to make to local authorities, the Welsh government and other sources of funding to allow them to meet their running costs.
Disability Wales said the two groups would need to “strike a balance between their traditional campaigning role… with the need to operate successfully within a highly competitive commercial environment, and to manage the potential conflicts of interest when delivering public contracts”.
The Ceredigion CIL will focus on providing information and advice – including disability equality training; self-advocacy; offering support to victims of hate crime; campaigning; and fundraising – and will be run by the disabled people’s organisation Disabled People Together, as well as the non-user-led groups Mencap Ceredigion and Creative Lifestyle Solutions.
Rhiannon Hicks, Enabling Wales project officer at Disability Wales, said: “The Ceredigion group were successful as they showed a strong understanding of organisations led by disabled people for disabled people.
“They also have a strong commitment to the social model of disability, as well as good partnerships with relevant third sector bodies.”
The Flintshire CIL will be run by the user-led Flintshire Disability Forum (FDF), and will provide services such as help with managing personal budgets; campaigning; recruitment and training of personal assistants; assistance completing application forms; and equipment hire.
Hicks said: “The FDF were successful as they have a strong track record of project delivery, and of securing funding. They also have strong partnerships.”
She added: “I very much look forward to working with both groups in the next stage of the project.”
Rhian Davies (pictured), director of Disability Wales, said: “We are delighted that following an 18-month long programme of training, development and coaching, working with 65 disabled people across Wales, we have achieved our goal in being able to select two emerging CILs and support their development over the remainder of the Enabling Wales project.
“CILs are social enterprises that deliver services run by disabled people for disabled people and offer a new and creative model of provision in line with what people actually need to achieve independent living and well-being as well as maximise scarce resources.”
Disability Wales said it hoped the new organisations would in time be able to support other groups towards becoming CILs, while it would itself be providing a “tool kit” on how to set up a CIL.
Carl Sargeant, the Welsh government’s cabinet secretary for communities and children, congratulated the two groups, and said: “I am sure that, with the support of the Wales Cooperative Centre and Dewis CIL, they will develop and grow into sustainable enterprises which will promote independent living for disabled people and provide them with the services they need to support their well-being.”
Picture by Natasha Hirst