Appointment of Rachael Dodgson, social inclusion and the expense of tenders in an age of austerity

26 February 2015

Rachel DodgsonRachael Dodgson joined us last week as Operations Director for England and has made a good start. I have already received positive feedback about her and I am sure she will fit into CMG very well. She has already made a useful contribution by helping us word a factual accuracy response to a draft CQC report which we received recently for one of our best services. The service received a good rating but we are hoping to get that changed to an outstanding one.

I visited ten services this week and was impressed with a number of the things that I saw. At our Rogerstone service in South Wales, I was really impressed by the huge commitment of the staff team to the people they support. The individuals living there have profound and complex autism and the staff team are incredibly tuned in to their needs and wishes and use a range of communication methods to help the individuals express their wishes. One of the people at Rogerstone has been poorly for quite a long time and the team has shown huge commitment in supporting him to get the right medical intervention. He is now back home and looking much better. I was also impressed when I visited 283 Dyke Road in Brighton to see a young man being supported to iron his own shirt. In CMG, we talk a lot about active support which is an approach where staff do things with the people they support, not for them. He was going out on a date and it was important that his shirt looked the part. I was also impressed that the tenants, with staff support, where planning to discuss the important topic of human rights at their forthcoming meeting. On a different note, I was also impressed by the manager of Brook Lane who actively invites different external speakers to attend her staff meetings to talk about a range of topics. This included, for example, their CQC Inspector. It is excellent that she is being so proactive in broadening the understanding and perspective of her staff team.

Our social inclusion campaign continues and services across CMG are regularly posting updates showing good practice and we have produced out first ‘Social Inclusion at CMG’ newsletter. I was very impressed with a proposal put forward by a person we support at Burlington Street in the Vale of Glamorgan, that she wanted to set up a social inclusion committee in the area involving other people supported by CMG to plan a range of activities and events.

We also spent time this week finalising another tender application. This one is actually a framework application but is called a tender which is very confusing. It was long and a particular challenge as some of the questions weren’t written very well. As you know, I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about tendering as it is a lengthy and tedious process which incurs a great deal of cost on the part of both Local Authorities and providers in what is supposed to be an ‘age of austerity’. I heard anecdotally this week that there have been problems in a particular Local Authority area where a major tendering exercise was carried out and a provider which isn’t known for high quality won a significant chunk of work. Apparently because of quality concerns, a number of families are choosing to move their sons and daughters to alternative providers. I think that says it all. Instead of being a test of an organisation’s essay writing skills, I really do think tendering should test a provider’s actual ability to provide a service. For example, we are never asked, things liked ‘what is your CQC compliance level’ (98%) or how many people have you successfully supported into paid employment (60).

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