Meet Friends United Together who are a group of adults with learning disabilities from Swansea.

Last year they became community reporters to make a video about their journey to set up a co-operative.

This is a story of how their friendship and determination helped them to overcome challenges and achieve better life choices. Watch this video to follow the Friends’ journey to set up a care co-op, improve their lives and be in control of the support they receive.

The video was co-produced by the Friends United Together Co-operative, Community Lives, Anna Sellen and Peoples Voice Media, with contributions from Swansea Council and Cwmpas Coop.

impact is a £15 million centre for implementing evidence in adult social care, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Health Foundation, working across the U K's four nations and with co production at its heart, Impact draws on insights from research, lived experience and practise knowledge to make a difference to front line services and to people's lives. Impact believes good support isn't just about services, it's about having a life. Networks are one of impacts. Delivery models in 2022 networks met across the UK over a period of six months to talk about choice and control for people with learning disabilities

They explored the existing evidence and shared their own knowledge and experience. What can help people to have more choice and control. The network in Wales included a Co-operative created by a group of adults with learning disabilities who felt this model offered them choice and control over the care and support they received

This is the story of friends united together. You know we are united together. Hello

My name is John Wood Griffiths, and I am a founding member of Friends United together. Hello. My name is Rob Saver I live here in West Street

I'm one of the founding members of together. And I like football. My name Clyde

I like to my garden and do all the plants that I got on that and Friday night together. Come here. My name is Marie Williams, and I live in West Street, and I love my dog, Alfie and me

And Clive takes Alfie up the park. My name is Joanne Bartlett. I'm one of several business advisor across Wales I as part of the Social Business Wales Programme employed by Compass, I was invited along to by Community Lives Consortium to meet the group of people that are now known as friends united together

My name is Rick Wilson. I'm the chief executive Community Lives consortium. And I've been a member of the French United Together change team since it begun

I'm really enjoying being with a group on a monthly basis, thinking about what practical steps we can take to help their direct payment monies help them to improve their lives. Hello. My name is Lisa Banks

I'm a planning officer in Swansea Council. The role that that I held was was supporting the friends to sort of realise their vision by opening doors in the local authority to conversations that they needed to have to overcome the hurdles. We have been friends for a long time

Many of them have known each other for many, many years. They've learnt to get on. They've learnt to face challenges

The every challenge that I've seen them face, they've chosen to stay united, they care about each other's interests together, has brought us all together and I that's how I feel. We we're all friends and we were all together friends united together started because our support changed. We wanted to stay together

I choose who supports us and our staff. Um Swansea Council made a decision to retender all their supported living provision. We needed to do the retender to be, um, compliant with procurement regulations and because we wanted to change the model of care

But at the same time, we didn't want to force people down a road that they didn't want to go down. We knew, um, some people who are currently being um supported would possibly have a change of provider. The local all the chief were to reach tender programmes and I and I would have lost my support from my when they were faced with a retendering exercise

One of the biggest risks they felt they faced was that one of them, John, was going to be moved into another era and supported by other people. And that wasn't gonna stand, um, because they were united When I heard my part was to change it, both move my mother brother and and and they would have. He's upset Marie and he said, Thank all of us

We wanted people to be more informed, and we wanted people to ask questions about what this would mean for them. So we started thinking about direct payments as a route for people who really didn't want to to come with us on that journey and started to hold a series of events, um, around direct payments that were just explaining to people what that route would mean for them. This group of people wanted to, um, come together and be united, and they wanted to make decisions about the type of care that they purchased with their direct payments

For many people, the direct payments option just seemed too complicated and, um and and held too much responsibility because essentially, it would be people taking charge of their own care and support, but not the friends themselves. Um, they're a determined bunch. And, um, we're 100% that they would take any route they needed to in order to stay together

So they came to us for some support and advice around how to do this. And community Lives Consortium and the local authority were fully supportive of them to, um access our support and enable them to understand what it meant to work cooperatively and become an incorporated body. This is where we are today

We studied there and we finished up there Cooper meeting. And we just want to recruit more members. I helped them to understand, with some easy read materials and some floor games and various ways what it meant to be an incorporated organisation, what the articles of association meant and how they were gonna make decisions and govern this social enterprise, who they would involve in those decision making processes and who their members could be

And then finally signing off their articles of association and becoming directors of a company limited by guarantee, which is now registered with companies house and is known as Friends United Together. It practically gives the friends new options they didn't have before before, when they wanted to achieve something in their lives. A certain amount of support was commissioned for them, and they would work with the provider organisation to think about how it could be delivered differently

But it was still something that was given to them. There are a wider range of choices now with not only having support but having the ability to control the money. OK, guys, what has spreading have done for you, Marie, on new stuff and then right? What he's done for me is by having direct payments, we can keep the staff from CLC together

It's a choice you are, then a choice. No choice at all. You, you the choice away

It has given me more confidence, more choice and more independence than money as well as support. And the ability to shift between those two things is giving them a much wider range of choices. Give me more independent

Yeah, more independent. What do I think people will learn from friends? Think that may be very exciting for people either, as an inspiration to do something similar or as an opportunity to join in with what friends united are already doing. I also think that the professionals have the opportunity to learn significantly

Um, it is an opportunity to realise that actually, if we share control and if we give up control, much more interesting things are possible. And so that I think is inspiring, encouraging and practically very useful over a long period of time saw their vision come true and it's testament to their determination and their vigour in in knowing what they wanted and harnessing the support around them to to make that happen. It's been an absolute pleasure to be part of this and to play a small part in helping supporting a group of people to achieve what they wanted to achieve, which at the beginning was to keep the same provider that they've worked alongside for over 30 years but became something greater and and I think the direct payment, which was originally a vehicle for them to stay the same, suddenly became a vehicle for them to realise that they had within their hands the option of a better life and being in control of their own care and support has just led to greater opportunities for them, which continues today

And, um, and is really lovely to to see we, we would we would like to do more, more fun things together. As a group. I want to socialise with more people in Swansea and show them what, uh what the Show them what fun they can have with Fred United together

I want to go on the cruise with new friends or girlfriends that you like Together, we want you to join friends together and become members of friends united together so we can have a bigger group friends together..

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