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innovate trust first supported people

About us

At Innovate Trust, we deliver a person-centred approach to care. We work with individuals to live as independently as possible by offering a wide range of care, support services, and activities. Everything we do involves supporting and valuing the decisions of the people we support, their families, and their carers.

We are eager to continue leading the way in alternative service provision. We work with our partners and funders to ensure we have the ideas and resources to continue our innovative work.

innovate trust first supported people

Innovate Trust has its roots at the heart of care in Wales.

Originating from a Student Volunteering project at Cardiff University in 1967, we were the first charity in the UK to set up a supported living home.

We are proud of our history, and we continue to strive for new ways to support individuals and ensure they have freedom, choice, dignity, and control over their lives. Everything we do focuses on new and innovative ways to deliver person-centred support.

Ruthin Gardens, Cardiff Innovate Trust history

Our timeline

Scroll through our timeline and learn all about us, from our humble beginnings to our most recent work.

1967 – The student action era

Innovate Trust started as a volunteering project called Cardiff University Social Services (CUSS). This project was open to all Cardiff universities, based at the Joint Students Union Building on Dumfries Place. At the time, CUSS shared an office with Cardiff Student Community Action (CSCA), now known as Skills and Volunteering Cymru (SVC), our sister charity. Volunteers played an important role in supporting adults and children with Learning Disabilities at Ely Hospital. They supported them in going on day trips, learning new skills, and providing company.
A volunteer and supported individual smiling. The photo is black and white.

Innovate Trust and Cardiff People First retell the story of Ely Hospital

A group of volunteers from Cardiff People First created a radio show in partnership with Innovate Trust, recreating a real-life story from some of the residents at Ely Hospital in the early 70s, who were supported by Cardiff Universities Social Services (CUSS) and later went on to be supported by Innovate Trust in the UK’s first supported living home.
Original volunteers and supported individuals outside 21 Ruthin Gardens, the first supported living house

1974 – The first supported living home

After the success of the early volunteering project, students felt that more could be done to help people with Learning Disabilities have better independence. On the 13th of July 1974, a group of three student volunteers and five adults with learning disabilities, previously housed at Ely Hospital, moved into 12 Ruthin Gardens in Cathays. During the day the group home tenants would spend their time at Trelai adult training centre whilst the students were attending lectures. Supported Living and Social Care would not be what it is today without the pioneering work of a few student volunteers who cared and five adults with Learning Disabilities who fought for their right to live in the community.


Jacqui speaks about her time volunteering in Cardiff Universities Social Services’ pioneering home for people with learning, where students lived with them as friends. She mentions the conditions at Ely Hospital at the time and a memory of one of the first train journeys for one of the tenants.


Mary explains her role in CUSS’s group home, sharing her memories and stories as a social worker and what it was like working with the first tenants at 12 Ruthin Gardens, in Cathays and how she went on to spend her career supporting people with Learning Disabilities in a professional capacity.

1975 – Further development

After the success of the first group home, we relocated to a more stable home at Kings Road in Cardiff. For the next nine years, our volunteers worked hard to raise awareness about our support model of living.  They worked closely with local authorities, hospitals, and universities, sharing important information and lessons. Their goal was to encourage others in the community to adopt similar support approaches, making a positive impact on more lives.

1975 – Expansion

CUSS went on to open more group homes funded by the Welsh Office. These homes were ran by volunteers and paid support workers. Part of our work at this time included producing reports, evaluations and recommendations for the Welsh Office and Cardiff Council, providing valuable information and guidance based on lived experience.
Google maps view of Cathays

1977 – Short term care in the community

CUSS had many requests from people in Cardiff to help parents and carers of people with Learning Disabilities who lived at home. Our goal was to support everyone to have their independence, not just those who lived in forced hospitalisation.  They made the first Respite home at 2 Boverton Street in Roath. The home was loaned to CUSS by a Cardiff University lecturer who was working abroad at the time.  The trial was a big success, and many people in Cardiff needed on this service. CUSS bought a new home on Hamilton Street with a loan from South Glamorgan County Council. The property became our permanent base for our new respite services.

1981 – Local Authorities adopts the CUSS approach

In response to the work of CUSS and the student volunteers, the social services department at Cardiff County Council set up a new department called NIMROD. Its purpose was to copy and expand the way CUSS helped adults with Learning Disabilities. This meant more people could get the support they needed.

1983 – All Wales strategy

After the Ely Hospital Scandal, the Welsh Office took action and introduced the ‘All Wales Strategy’ to improve services for people with Learning Disabilities. This new legislation cited CUSS as an example of best practices that others should emulate when developing new services for people with disabilities.  Because of this, many long-stay institutions started to close down, first in Wales and then in other parts of the UK. It was an important step in improving the lives of people with Learning Disabilities.
Google maps view of cathays

1984 – Sharing the CUSS model

In response to the All Wales Strategy, CUSS took a lead role in either directly setting up new services or training and consulting.  The student volunteers from CUSS traveled around the UK to teach other universities about their approach. They even wrote their university papers and dissertations about CUSS and the charity’s work. They wanted to spread their knowledge and help more people understand and use our model.

1985 – Rolling out the strategy

With support from local councils, CUSS established the Opportunity Housing Trust (later renamed Mirus in 2012). This was a big organization created to spread the CUSS-supported living model throughout Wales. They gave advice, guidance, employees and trustees to the new charity. It was a way to help even more people across the country benefit from the CUSS model.

1988 – CUSS, Mencap, and Cartrefi Cymru

After many years of rapid expansion, CUSS has several homes in both South and North Wales. However at the time, CUSS felt that an all-Wales body would be more appropriate for rolling out services and it wanted to focus on its existing operations rather than expanding further. CUSS worked with Mencap Cymru, the Welsh Office, and parents groups to share their operations and, together with new agreements from local authorities, they created Cartrefi Cymru. This new charity would follow the same model as CUSS. Peter Tyndall talks about his time as the first organiser/director for Cardiff Universities Social Services (CUSS). He shares how the charity started many other charities like Opportunity Housing Trust and Cartrefi Cymru. o share their groundbreaking model and approach to social care. Peter went on to a successful career in the Irish civil service.

1991 – Quest

CUSS started a new agency called Quest to help people find jobs. This was the first of its kind in Wales. Quest became the founding member of the Wales Association of Supported Employment Agencies.

1997 to 1999 – Further expansion

CUSS was approached by the Jane Hodge Foundation and the Bro Morgannwg Hospital Trust in response to the “Challenges and Responses” report, to assistive with the development of an emergency care provision for people with learning disabilities.  Two purpose built properties were constructed on both Pembroke Road and New Road completed in 1997 and 1999 respectively to provide emergency accommodation to those in crisis.

2002 – Innovate Trust is born

We had come a long way from our humble beginnings, and beyond mutual appreciation and a shared history we had very little to do with the universities in Cardiff anymore. We also operated outside the direct remit of social services, to reflect these changes and avoid future confusion, we changed our name to Innovate Trust.

2002 – Partnership with SVC

In a full circle moment, to recognise the shared working relationship and to further support volunteering in Cardiff, Innovate Trust formed a partnership with Skills and Volunteering Cymru (SVC), formerly known as CSCA to run joint projects and training.  Innovate Trust employed members of SVC to pool resources and expertise. This partnership formed the largest student-based volunteering project in the UK.

2003 – Park View café

In order to provide training and employment opportunities for individuals with Learning Disabilities, Innovate Trust started a catering division. This was initially funded by the Europe Social Fund, starting with a single café. The catering division gradually grew to several cafés and a catering unit across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan until the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

2005 – First person supported by us on our Board of Management

Brian Thomas becomes the first person supported by Innovate Trust to join the Board of Management as a Trustee. A first step in the right direction as we moved to reach greater representation, with half of our Trustees now being individuals with a Learning Disability. 

2007 to 2015 – Our Expansion

In February of 2007, Innovate Trust secured a contract with Cardiff County Council to manage 21 supported living settings across Cardiff and an Emergency Accommodation and outreach service. In 2015, following a re-tendering process, Innovate Trust expanded our supported living provision to include another area of the capital. In September of 2007, Innovate Trust secured our supported living services in the Vale of Glamorgan and in 2012 we successfully re-tendered to provide more supported living services in the Vale of Glamorgan.

2013 – Expanding further

We expanded our operations to provide supported living services for an additional 89 adults with Learning Disabilities in Rhondda Cynon Taf. We also opened a new regional office in Talbot Green Business Park, Pontyclun.

2017 – A new model of social care

In partnership with Nesta, the Welsh Government, Y Lab and Cardiff University, Innovate Trust launched a new research project exploring smart technology and the use of smart speakers for supported living tenants in which we were awarded the Wales Council for Voluntary Action’s Digital Inclusion Award for the innovative and inclusive use of technology.  After the initial research project, the charity expanded this technology to all 197 individuals it supports in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. This is the first known project of its kind.
Text reads: You are invited. Celebrate with us. The anniversary of supported living. Including free buffet, DJ, and bar available. Wednesday 11th July 5pm until 9pm. Whitchurch Rugby Club Samuels Crescent, CF14 2TH

2018 – The untold story of CUSS
Innovate Trust history roadshow invitation

2018 – History roadshow

With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we spent a year reflecting on this history, researching documents and filming stories and establishing permanent records with local archives and museums to preserve this important history for future generations. This timeline was created, with thanks to our wonderful colleagues. Kieran Vass and Georgia Oliver, for the History Roadshow.

2019 – Skills and wellbeing

Up until this point we had ran a few outdoor projects, such as Green Days and Venture Out, but decided it was time to set up a department to offer opportunities to develop new skills and improve wellbeing full-time. Our Skills and Wellbeing department offers various activities and training opportunities for adults with Learning Disabilities and other additional needs living in Southeast Wales. Our projects provide opportunities for people to gain employment and life skills through gardening, first aid training, confidence courses and more.

2019 – Mark Drakeford visits smart house in Cardiff

As the first supported living provider in the UK, we are passionate about our work. In 2018, we began driving forward the use of ‘Intelligent Personal Assistants’ and mainstream devices to promote independence and wellbeing for the people we support. Working in partnership with Cardiff University Psychology department, we undertook extensive research into independence and well-being before and after the introduction of assistive smart devices and smart speaker technology.
CUSS Untold story exhibition invitation

2019 – Innovate Trust heritage exhibition

Following on from our 50th Anniversary and the yearlong Heritage Project with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Cardiff People First; a Heritage Exhibition and History Roadshow toured Cardiff and surrounding areas. Our volunteers created a history exhibition to share our story with the world in a range of multi-media formats, including a documentary, volunteer artwork, exhibition boards and interactive pieces.  The exhibition was opened with a Ceremony at the Senedd sponsored by Mark Drakeford MS and was seen by over 22,000 people. The yearlong showing of the exhibition featured at Glamorgan Archives, The Senedd, Cardiff Story Museum, Innovate Trust RCT Office and Special Collections and Archives at Cardiff University.  

2020 – Insight by Innovate Trust

Our Insight app was created by Innovate Trust in 2019. We created the app to serve as a digital diary for the people we support, a chance for families to check in and have a visual account of their loved ones and the activities they take part in. When the pandemic hit, Insight took on a whole new vital purpose of keeping the community together. Today, Insight is a free community app for adults with disabilities across the UK, offering 100s of activities online. We continue our online activities to this day, as so many more people we support were able to access them. Those who face physical and social barriers or require more support, who had previously been unable to get involved, are now tuning in regularly.  The community app also has over 100 partnering organisations sharing resources to benefit members.

2021 – Equality, diversity, and inclusion

In 2021 we started setting the foundations of our work on Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). As an organisation that supports people with Learning Disabilities, EDI is at the core of everything we do in line with our values of ensuring everyone is treated with dignity and respect. We made statements as an organisation to demonstrate our commitment to implementing EDI across the organisation. Find out more about our organisational statements.  

Our services

Field Days Organic

Field Days Organic is a horticulture training project run by Innovate Trust at the Amelia Trust Farm in the Vale of Glamorgan.
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Our Participation department assists individuals supported by Innovate Trust to have a say in the services they receive and ensure the service meets the needs ...
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skills and wellbeing

Skills and Wellbeing

Skills and Wellbeing have fantastic opportunities for you to develop new skills to enhance your wellbeing
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digital and technology

Digital and Technology

We design, develop and created services that digitally include supported people across the UK.
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community living services at Innovate Trust

Community Living Services

Our Community Living Services (CLS) Department works in close partnership with local authorities across Cardiff, the Vale, and Rhondda Cynon Taff.
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Our projects

emergency accommodation service Community Living Services

Emergency Accommodation

Our Emergency Accommodation Service (EAS) is a community-based service that provides temporary accommodation to people with a learning disability.
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Yoga at Innovate Trust Participation


Our Yoga sessions at Innovate Trust have proved popular. We also run this alongside a Yoga Co-Assistant training course opening up opportunities for individuals to ...
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insight app Digital & Technology

Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPA)

The Intelligent Personal Assistant (IPA) project, uses voice assistants, sensors and mainstream technology to enhance, promote and increase independence for individuals with disabilities.
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supported living Community Living Services

Supported Living

Our Supported living service enables adults with a wide range of support needs to live in their own home with the help they need to ...
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step on at innovate trust Skills & Wellbeing

Step On

Step On is a WCVA ESF Active Inclusion funded project operating in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan which aims to improve employment skills and ...
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digital and technology support Digital & Technology

Digital Essential Skills

The digital essential skills project aims to upskill Innovate Trust employees giving them skills and confidence to access the internet and engage with Technology.
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Skills & Wellbeing

One planet

One planet encourages adults with Learning Disabilities to learn about climate change and teaches them how to take climate action at home and in the ...
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insight into wales Digital & Technology

Insight into Wales

The Insight into Wales project provides ways to support and develop further opportunities for people with a learning disability.
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take charge event Skills & Wellbeing

Take Charge

Take Charge supports participants to gain new skills, improve their confidence through fun confidence building activities and tailored support to find the right opportunities for ...
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smart housing Digital & Technology

Smart Housing

Innovate Trust developed the first supported living Smart house in the UK, using mainstream and open source technologies. Our Smart housing projects have led to ...
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