By Phil Lambert

In December our CASCADE Parents Research Advisory Group gathered on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Cardiff to try our hands at pottery.  

We were hosted by Cardiff Pottery Workshop who expertly guided us through a hand building exercise and introduced us to the electric wheel! The aim of the day was to celebrate their achievements throughout the year, say thank you and help develop the extraordinary solidarity that characterises this incredible group. 

Our Parents Group was formed In December 2020. Over the past three years the group has proved invaluable in helping to direct, translate and disseminate research done at CASCADE. Their experience of children’s social care as parents and commitment to the group is vital to ensuring the work we do is able to make a positive difference to the lives of others.  

Last year the group met 12 times to discuss research and impact around themes like parental advocacy, children returning home from care, pre-birth assessments, social work practice, future project ideas at CASCADE and many more! Members of our group have also become advocates for change elsewhere, representing parental advocacy networks, sitting on Senedd roundtables and attending other public involvement events. 

The work they do drawing on traumatic life experiences to try and drive forward positive change can be difficult and demanding. It requires compassion and trust from everyone in the group. Most of our sessions are online, making the opportunity to meet up and relax with each other all the more important. The dynamic in this group is very special and something we are keen to develop. 

Our pottery tutors, Elen and James were very patient with us as we chatted away, made jokes and occasionally listened to their instructions. Somehow, more by luck than judgement, we all managed to produce quite beautiful hand built coiled pots. Most of the parents also managed to produce something on the electric wheel. Although, the experience is certainly worth more than the bowls we produced! It is harder than it looks in the demonstrations! 

Cardiff Pottery Workshops then kindly fired and glazed these before notifying us that they were ready in January. With the threat of exploding air bubbles and numerous chunks of deadly plaster shrapnel it is a small miracle that everyone of our bowls made it! And don’t they look great! 

We are very grateful to the amazing parents that contribute to our group. We aim to continue to develop this work and we are committed to providing opportunities for our Public Involvement members to develop the skills needed to share their voice, collaborate and engage in research.