Adrian Roper
Chief Executive

I began working in social care in 1981 as a care assistant in Cardiff. The health board and county council were creating comprehensive local services for people with a learning disability in west Cardiff, including bringing home all the local people who were then living in gloomy wards in Ely Hospital. It was called the NIMROD project and it helped to inspire the launching of the All Wales Strategy for people with learning disabilities in 1983.

But my involvement with social care and people with learning disabilities started before my paid career. My mother was the WRVS Organiser for my home village of Dinas Powys throughout the 1970s, and she used to involve me as a volunteer in all sorts of community care activities such as delivering meals on wheels and befriending someone who had become paralyzed after an accident in work. It was my mum who suggested I apply for a job with NIMROD and, as they initially wouldn’t accept me without any experience of people with a learning disability, I became a volunteer co-resident in a group home in Cardiff. The home had been established in 1974 by a young psychology student called Jim Mansell, and it involved students and other community volunteers living in a shared house with five people who had spent their teens in Ely Hospital. My time there was really inspiring. We were all equal as co-tenants and everyone gave something and gained something from sharing our lives together. I became great friends with an ex-Ely resident called Alan Duncan who sadly passed away a few years ago but whose smiling photo is always on the wall above my desk.

It was with funding support from the All Wales Strategy that Cartrefi Cymru was established in 1989, as a vehicle for the provision of high quality learning disability services in rural Wales and the Valleys, and I became its second Director in 1996. It hasn’t always been an easy job, especially with the challenges created by the marketisation of social care. But Cartrefi has got really strong values and great people, and together we are always striving to do what’s right, rather than just what’s in the contract. This has recently led to our becoming a multi-stakeholder co-op where the people we support, employees and community supporters can all be members. The spirit of equality and solidarity is very much alive. And for me, so are the guiding spirits of Jim, Alan, and my mum.