This event was designed to strengthen relationships between the Wales and England Forums and their members, and to build closer ties with Scotland to create a UK wide network. The aim of the day was to create a creative and dynamic event where people could come together and hear each other’s stories and learn from each other whilst also developing some clear action points to move co-operative social care forwards.

What we set out to achieve

The day started with an interactive warm-up where everyone got to speak to the people they had never met before and to learn about each other about their aims for the day. Following this, Glenn Bowen from Wales Co-op Centre, Laurie Gregory from the Foster Care Co-operative, Fraser Kelly from Social Enterprise Scotland and Giles Wilmore, Associate Lead for People and Communities at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership  gave a brief insights into what was happening in terms of co-operative care in Wales, England, Scotland and Greater Manchester.

In the next session, using the Co-operatives UK and Co-operative College’s “Owning Our Care” research report as a starting point, participants explored the ‘Why, What and How’ of co-operative social care to generate ideas, examples and contacts that could help shape social care policy across the UK. People agreed that the focus should be on long-term care rather than acute care and that we need to be shouting about the people who are saying “we’re doing this and it works!” to make sure that the sometimes small or isolated initiatives that are making a real difference are more widely known about. Time and again, people talked about the fact that the key for so much of care is loneliness and having friends. What came across was that we’re often asking the wrong questions; professionals need to have more “what matters to you” conversations with citizens as there’s too much focus on a system that tries to ‘fix’ local people.

Participants sat around a table at the social care forum

After a networking lunch, people listened to 3 short presentations on different discussion topics so that participants could join discussion groups and work their way around the different topics that interested them. Adrian Roper from Cartrefi Cymru, a nationwide Welsh charity that recently converted to a co-operative, opened the debate on how we can encourage organisations to democratise themselves into co-ops. Chris Dabbs from Unlimited Potential raised questions around how to better support grass-roots self-help, as fertile soil from which we can support co-ops to grow. Donna Coyle from Care to Co-operate encouraged people to think about how we can support consortia of care agencies as a means of promoting co-operative values and behaviours. This session was kept dynamic by lively facilitation from Julia Houlston-Clark of the Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership, who kept people moving and focused on creating ideas for concrete actions, and agreeing the priority actions to take forwards.

Next steps

The 3 priority actions were to identify positive common cause among local people to create the fertile ground for co-op start-ups, to raise awareness among commissioners about benefits of consortia and to create a beginners guide for commissioners and procurers of how to favour agencies with added social value.