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    The moves to rapid rehousing, Housing First, trauma-informed approaches, and so much more, mean that our sector will need to go through significant change
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The Cymorth I Know

In this blog, Oliver, our outgoing Policy and External Affairs Manager, shares his experiences in the role, what people could expect in his role, and also focuses on some of the impact Cymorth Cymru has made over the years.

As I announce I am leaving Cymorth, I want to reflect on my role.

It has changed over the years but several things have remained constant: the commitment to our members, our focus on the people they support, and our relentless work to influence and inform policy and practice to make Wales a better place for people who need support.

The organisation is involved with the critical strategic discussions of the sectors we represent. Whether it is our Director working on the Homelessness Action Group, or our organisation putting huge efforts into establishing and expanding the Housing First Wales Network, helping our members guide and develop services in a critical intervention into homelessness.

It can be a tricky balance, when working in an organisation where you need to represent members, but also challenge back sometimes. It is rewarding though, when it works. The Housing First Network is one example of that – representing member views and interests to Welsh Government, but also challenging our members to work in line with established principles, to ensure the services are delivering the same impact as the internationally evaluated services across the world.

This balance, when we get it right at Cymorth, puts us in a position to be valuable to a range of stakeholders. We can straddle policy areas, acting in ways that cut across traditional policy siloes, and this is particularly helpful to our stakeholders, including member organisations and Welsh Government, during times of urgency. During Covid-19, for example, Cymorth Cymru has been part of strategic groups within Housing, Domestic Abuse, Social Care, Substance Misuse, Procurement and more. Our ability to reach across divides between statutory, voluntary and other services, and link people together, has had a huge positive impact during Covid-19, and it has taught us a lot about what has been most effective for policy and practice.

One of the reasons we are effective as an organization, is our ability to convene active, engaged and practical networks to generate information, data, evidence or experiences, and use that to influence policy and legislation. It has been amazing to be part of making changes since starting at Cymorth Cymru, and being part of the vital, rapidly changing policy area of housing, homelessness and support. Despite being a small organisation, we punch above our weight and are represented on ministerial advisory groups, strategic groups and many more areas where our views, experience and knowledge are welcomed. I’m so proud of the work we have done here.

Whether it is running our series of Regional Provider Forums, connecting providers across Wales; whether it is chairing our Learning Disability Interest Group, or Housing First networks, the variety of policy areas and member organizations we engage with means nothing at Cymorth ever gets stale.

But the area that I am really proud of, beyond any of the professional work, is our engagement with people using services, and the opportunities to take part in different, exciting, life-changing events. We have worked consistently hard to engage people who use services in our events. I remember fondly interviewing people for our Housing First event – the first in Wales. I remember in my first Cymorth Conference, suggesting we have a ‘reverse’ Question Time, where people asked delegates questions about what needed to change. This has remained a core part of the way we work, and we have worked to engage people in giving their feedback on a wide range of policy areas over the years. I am particularly pleased that we have produced evidence based on their feedback, including a report that fed directly into the Homelessness Action Group.

There have also been random, brilliant experiences. Being part of the Homeless World Cup last summer, was one of the most, genuinely, exciting and superb experiences. There have been opportunities to get involved in projects like that throughout my time here, and it is one of the elements that makes up an organization that is never boring.

But there is one area that I have been most passionate about. And that is our campaigning. Yes we influence policy and practice all the time, but the campaigning we have done over the years has been what makes my heart beat faster. From the first Let’s Keep Supporting People campaign, the year I started, to the Housing Matters campaign when we were facing a significant threat to homelessness services in Wales, these have been a huge part of the role. These campaigns have also brought me closer in touch with members. Without our members, our campaigns would be a few of us shouting in the wind. With our members, we are a powerful, united sector that makes a huge difference.

Homelessness policy is changing, rapidly, especially after Covid-19, but even before that. The moves to rapid rehousing, Housing First, trauma-informed approaches, and so much more, mean that our sector will need to go through significant change. And this change is needed if we are going to change our world, and end homelessness in Wales. Cymorth’s members are well-placed, given their expertise and passion, to make sure these changes work, and most importantly, work for the people who use services.

I would like to finish this blog, by saying thank you. In truth, as much as campaigning is a passion of mine, I was sort of lying. The area I have been most passionate about since starting, has been you, our members, and never more so than during this pandemic. I feel genuinely pleased and happy whenever I see your faces on Zoom, Teams or other platforms. I have missed seeing you all at our events, or seeing old friends and new traipse into the Cymorth office. I am humbled all the time by the work you do. Whoever takes this role after me is extremely lucky, to be surrounded by so many compassionate, passionate people making a difference.

Thank you for everything.

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© Cymorth Cymru 2020 | Company Registration No: 5093332 | Charity No: 1116774
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© Cymorth Cymru 2020
Company Registration No: 5093332
Charity No: 1116774