Cardiff - Learning disabilities opportunity assessment

Strengths Based Inquiry to identify opportunities to improve how Cardiff Learning Disability Service supports adults with learning disabilities


In September 2019 Cardiff Learning Disability Services (CLDS) was challenged by rapidly increasing demand for support (for demographic reasons) and rising costs. To help it plan how to best meet these challenges it appointed Alder Advice to undertake a strengths based opportunity assessment to assess how well adults with learning disabilities were being supported now and to identify opportunities for how this could be improved in the future.


The progress that CLDS had already made was recognised right from the start. We adopted a strengths-based method to build on the many positives. Our approach was underpinned by a SOAR analysis (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results). We worked collaboratively with staff to support them to make the service even better. CLDS management, staff, and other stakeholders were all involved in a process of “co-creating” a positive future.

To support objectivity and to ensure rigor, the inquiry and analysis process was underpinned by evidence obtained from national and local finance and performance data and from a study of case files. Evidence from the inquiry was used to identify current Strengths and the Opportunities to get even better in ways that aligned with the future Aspirations set out in Cardiff’s ambitious 5-year joint commissioning strategy (2019-2024) with its neighbour (Vale of Glamorgan). Finally, we considered what Resources were needed to realise each opportunity and what Results could be expected .


Cardiff aspires to ensure people with learning disabilities have equal access to sustainable/good value for money support that promotes their independence and ensure they have choice and control. The overall aim is for people to live the lives they want to, locally and to achieve Wellbeing and to be valued members of and contributors to their community.

Cardiff has many strengths to help it achieve these aspirations. It has a clear vision and strategy, a strong value base and a capable management team with a track record of successful service development and innovation. Cardiff already performs comparatively well. For example, it has below average expenditure levels per head of population, below average usage of residential care and it achieves good levels of satisfaction from the people it supports. Crucially, with a view to delivering further improvements, operations and commissioning staff already work well together and it has strong relationships with NHS commissioners, effective market management approaches and good collaborative relationships with strategic providers.

The results provide confidence that the 11 key improvement opportunities co-created through the inquiry process can be delivered, with significant positive results including:

• Increased choices for adults with learning disabilities to live and be supported within Cardiff by closing the gaps in accommodation / support available within Cardiff and using finance, performance, and planning data better for planning and commissioning.

• Cashable savings of £700k under the most likely scenario or £1.2m optimistically and £350k under the pessimistic scenario.

• Improved outcomes for people being supported from a further reduction in the use residential care, using assistive technology more often/creatively, improved planning for and support during key life transitions and improved treatment/intervention services.

• Better experiences of the care and support system for people being supported by building on the recent investment in strengths-based practice by introducing the “Progression Approach” © and from improvements in MDT working.

For more information contact:

  • Dan Short - , or
  • Rob Griffiths