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Retiring chair reflects on major development and change during his term

Leading change within an embryonic housing organisation formed just months before his appointment, is a key highlight for retiring Grŵp Cynefin chairman, Dafydd Lewis.

The very first big task for Dafydd, who has just ended a three-year term as chair, was to appoint a new chief executive for the pioneering housing association, which provides 4,000 homes across North Wales and north Powys.

His most recent has also been a huge challenge: supporting the leadership team as it responded to the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on the group’s thousands of tenants.

Along the way, Dafydd has also strengthened the board, recruiting five new members, bringing new skills and experience.

Formerly corporate director at Gwynedd Council, with responsibilities primarily in housing, public protection and latterly adult social care, Dafydd had had ‘no intention’ of becoming chair when he was co-opted onto the board in 2014, prior to full membership at the AGM nine months later.

Looking back, he feels pride in the achievements of everyone across the organisation, during a period when it was still finding its feet following the merger of its predecessors, Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd and Tai Eryri.

A personal highlight is seeing the completion of Grŵp Cynefin’s flagship extra care Hafod y Gest provision in Porthmadog.

He said: “In my former role, I had had the unenviable reputation of leading on the closure of its predecessor, so it was particularly satisfying to see local people moving into its replacement.”
Dafydd’s also proud to have helped to steer Grŵp Cynefin as it further lives up to its mission to provide ‘more than housing,’ and make a genuine difference to communities.

Of its creation of a partnership with Gwynedd Council, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and Cwmni Theatr Bara Caws to develop a new Dyffryn Nantlle health and wellbeing centre in Penygroes, Gwynedd, he said: “Hopefully, this will rejuvenate Penygroes as an area and provide modern integrated health and social care services for local people.”

Dafydd is also proud of his development of the board during his tenure. He added: “We’ve had two rounds of recruitment and have five new members who have brought lots of experience in construction, development, finance and senior policymaking, some of which we hadn’t had before.

“COVID-19 has cut across so much in the last five or six months. The pandemic has inevitably caused delays in completing new properties, as development and construction work ceased for a time.

“But our staff have worked non-stop and have gone the extra mile to support tenants and keep them informed. The feedback from tenants is that they are quite happy with everything we’ve put in place, such as regular bulletins, Zoom meetings for tenants’ groups, and regular phone calls to the vulnerable and elderly tenants we would ordinarily visit in their homes.

“I am extremely proud of the way the staff have responded to the demands of the pandemic, as well as their willingness to change and innovate, and to ensure continuity of services as much as possible, together with the care and support of tenants.”

Looking ahead, while hoping to see Grŵp Cynefin grow and develop further, he sees de-carbonisation as the ‘big unknown’ for housing associations in Wales.

“The government has a green agenda for housing with a reduction in fossil fuels,” he said. “We don’t know yet exactly what that involves and how it will be paid for. The cost of adaptations is estimated to be £18,000 per property, though final cost per property is likely to vary significantly depending on property type and location.

“If housing associations have to meet these costs out of our own budgets, we won’t be able to provide as many new homes as well.”

Dafydd will remain on the board until completion of his nine-year term in 2024.

He is now also looking forward to spending more time with his wife and family, and in his role as secretary of Clwb Rygbi Dolgellau and also volunteering with Gwynedd Citizens Advice.
Grŵp Cynefin chief executive Shan Lloyd Williams said: “I would like to personally thank Dafydd on behalf of the entire organisation.

“His passion and guidance have helped Grŵp Cynefin excel during his tenure, and we look forward to continuing this relationship as he remains a board member for the next three-year term.”

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