The Wheel of Engagement

14th June 2019 1 Comments

In this week’s blog I would like to share with you all a new campaign we launched back in March, the Wheel of Engagement.

At CMG and Regard, our absolute priority is enabling the people we support to have the best possible quality of life. A key to this is ensuring they are meaningfully engaged in activities and relationships, both at home and in the community.

I wanted to create a visual aid for staff that was eye catching and easy to identify specific areas of engagement and promote good practice and quality support in our services. It’s been received really well, considering it started off as a scribbled down wheel placed on my marketing manager’s desk.

Please see the Wheel of Engagement below and a brief description of each area of engagement:








Total communication 

Many people with learning disabilities cannot read or write. Every person is a unique individual, and a significant number of people with learning disabilities do find additional communications systems helpful.  This can include using pictures and symbols to help make reference.

We should ensure that when supporting people, we are using the right form of communication for them, and helping them have opportunities to make choices and have control over their lives.

Active community involvement   

We want the people we support to play an active part role in the community, and be valued members of it. There are a wide variety of ways in which people can do this, and it very much depends on people’s likes and preferences.  Examples can include participating in local allotments, joining community groups and being part of clubs.  For example, a number of people we support have successfully lost weight at local swimming clubs. It’s also very important to take into account people’s cultural background. We support people from a wide variety of different countries and cultures.

Intensive interaction  

Particularly for people with a more profound disability, we may need to find different and creative ways to stimulate and engage them.  Intensive interaction can be particularly useful in doing this.  It is a type of adult play, which requires staff to be trained to understand how to engage and interact with people.

Leisure and exercise 

We know that exercise is good for us both mentally and physically, it also provides a good opportunity to get to know other people in the community.  We would like to encourage the people we support to get involved in leisure and exercise activities of their choice. We support people in a huge range of areas including martial arts, cycling, swimming, going to the gym and rock climbing.

Positive behaviour support 

A number of the people we support can present ‘challenging behaviour’.  In order for them to have active and fulfilling lives we need to help them minimise the level of their challenging behaviour, which we see as a form of communication.  PBS is a method for identifying why people present challenging behaviours and helping them minimising it through ensuring their needs are met.

Person centred active support

It is extremely important that the people we support are actively involved in every aspect of everyday life, including cooking, shopping, cleaning, hoovering and gardening.  Irrespective of people’s disability, staff should support them to participate, even if it’s only for a short period of time, if there is a limited attention span, or if the individual requires handover hand support.  The staff should never do things for people, the staff should do things ‘with them’.

Voluntary work  

Voluntary work can provide really meaningful activity for an individual, and an opportunity to build relationships. It also means that people are playing an active role helping their community, rather than just being a recipient of their support.  A large number of people supported by CMG and Regard play an active role as a volunteer member of the community for example, working in charity shops.

Sensory stimulation

A number of people we support, including a proportion of people with a diagnoses of autism, benefit from and enjoy sensory stimulation. There are a whole range of different sensory activities people can use, including participating in sensory cooking, sensory stories, and using sensory equipment, for example mats.  For the people who benefit from sensory stimulation, this should be encouraged as part of their daily activities.

Paid employment

We actively support people, wherever possible, to get a paid job.  This could be for just a couple of hours a week, or anything up to fulltime work.  Paid employment brings huge self-esteem to the individual concerned, increases their financial freedom, and provides a great way of meeting new people.

Below are two examples of ‘Wheel Engagement’ Stories:

Andrew finds friends and happiness at church  (Perryn Road)  

Andrew from Perryn Road is being supported by staff to attend church every Sunday. He enjoys standing at the main entrance, where he hands out church service leaflets to the members attending. This gives him the opportunity to meet and socialise with his local neighbours and other fellow Christians with which he shares his faith.

Perryn Road staff said “After his time at church, Andrew feels very happy, and he then stays on afterwards for tea, and to chat with the Priest and other members.”

Andrew is well known at the church, especially by Father John who often visits him at Perryn Road, and offer prayers for him on special days such as his birthday or at Christmas time.

Olufunke, service manager, said “We’re delighted that Andrew has found such happiness and positive social connection in doing this!”


Alfred’s vote  (Restormel Terrace)

 Alfred from Restormel Terrace voted for the very first time, after staff explained the voting process to him via visual guidance.  Alfred made his decision after a period where staff watched the news with him, and were impartial with their own opinions, supporting him to make his own judgement.

Alfred was extremely proud of himself that he made his final decision without staff influence.  He decided who to vote for by weighing up pros and cons, and by using information he accessed through technology and TV.  Alfred also read leaflets that were posted through the door by local councillors to inform his choice.

The staff team said “We’re all so proud of Alfred’s confidence to vote!”

More great examples below:

  • At Oakview they support people with profound and multiple learning disabilities to participate in sensory cooking. They have also supported someone to go abseiling in their wheelchair.
  • I was very impressed to see a person we support at Stafford Lodge making his own milkshake with verbal prompting from staff which is a great example of person centred active support.
  • At Trafalgar one of the people we support has a section of the garden where he is growing his own fruit and vegetables.
  • A person we support in Alderwood is training to be a Proactscip instructor. Once she is qualified she will be the first person with a learning disability in the country to achieve this.
  • A person we support at Byfield Court is helping give donated food to homeless people.
  • A person we support at Fox House has set up their own small business.
  • A person we support at Two Wells has a paid job at Costa Coffee. She was very proud to receive an award recently at the Costa staff awards ceremony.



Penny Meadow’s outstanding work and facilities

6th June 2019 1 Comments

In this week’s blog I’d like to share the outstanding work and facilities provided by Penny Meadow – a day service based in Colchester, Essex.
I’m very impressed by the innovative and creative range of indoor and outdoor activities on offer. Ed Cook who runs the service, is extremely passionate about providing the very best for visitors and ensuring they have an incredible time, and is constantly coming up with creative new ideas for the service.

The land has a plot space for people to get involved in growing a range of vegetable produce, which they then sell to the local community at their stall, outside the house. They have rabbits, chickens and ducks- whose fresh eggs they also sell to locals.

Individuals have access to larger animals such as alpacas, rescue donkeys, and a flock of sheep which keep everyone entertained, and there is a garden art cabin available, where creative arts activities take place regularly.

Penny Meadow rent the local church hall for sports, martial arts, yoga, and have access to a lovely woodland, where they hold ‘Forest School’ – building campfires, doing outdoor cooking, and making dens. The people we support get involved in practical bike maintenance, where they help to repair used bikes, and then enjoy riding them out on the land.

‘Out-and-about’ Saturday groups are also on offer, with a choice of activity daytrips such as rowing, tobogganing and dig-a-land. Midweek, the service holds work experience opportunities for individuals, who volunteer for a local charity – and by doing so, increase their employability.

Penny Meadow is incredibly proud of its individuals, some of whom boast some great achievements: Daniel has represented Team GB at the Special Disability Olympics, in Powerlifting, and Zane has recently gained an orange belt in mixed martial Arts!

The service is extremely active, and coming up on 12th July, they are excited to be running their internal Awards – the theme being Alice in Wonderland. The hall will be decorated in fantasy style, and everyone will attend a Mad-hatters tea party, wearing crazy hats.

I’m impressed at how forward-thinking and innovative Penny Meadow are. They want to increase accessibility and invite, and share their incredible facilities with other CMG and Regard services. They hope to build outside classroom near the woodlands, so that other services can participate in Forest School, and get involved with all the fun outdoor activities.
I will definitely pop in again, to hone in on my forestry skills and of course attend the Mad Hatters tea party!


The People’s Awards 2019

31st May 2019 1 Comments

In this week’s blog I would like to celebrate the wonderful achievements of the people we support. On 16th May we held our annual People’s Awards, which are by far my favourite event of the whole year. Not only is it an opportunity to get suited and booted and enjoy an evening of great company, it is an evening to celebrate the achievements of the extraordinary people we support.

This year was extra special as it was the first event for the people we support combined as our new organisation (CMG and Regard). It was great to see so many familiar faces, but also to meet family members new and old. Another point I must add, it was the BIGGEST awards ceremony we have ever had, and everyone came dressed as the part.

The evening began with a drinks reception, followed on by a three course sit down meal and then of course what everyone was waiting for the ‘Awards Ceremony’. Every year without fail there is laughter, happiness and many tears. This year was no exception. There were 12 categories in total including best achievements in sports & leisure, education, performing arts, most inspirational person and group.

Below are some examples of the nominations:

Best Achievement in Sports and Leisure, Natalie, Bradwell House

“Natalie typically swims over 65 lengths in the swimming pool and has raised so far a total of over £6,800 since 2000. In preparation for her big swims, she has many training sessions to help build up her strength and stamina. It’s been touch and go as to whether she can swim this year as she recently had a seizure and fractured her hand. Yet Nat has sprit and depth in her character and is a credit to herself her parents and Bradwell House.”

Most Inspirational Individual, Fiifi, Upper Selsdon Road

“Fiifi has achieved so much over the last year, he has pushed his boundaries to develop his confidence and he is a real inspiration to others around him. Fiifi was asked to do a speech and presentation at the (Un) Ordinary conference, where he spoke about the relationship he had with his Mother who sadly passed away.  He shared what bereavement has meant for him and how he copes with this on a day to day basis. This was a really brave thing to address particularly in front of an audience.”

Best Individual Achievement, Todd, Reddown Road

Todd has autism and is non-verbal, he struggles with change of routine and with certain activities. Since Todd has been at Reddown we have set him goals each week/month. He can now use public transport, allows his finger and toe nails to be cut which was a very challenging task previously. He prepares his own breakfast, wash up, use the dishwasher, tidy his room, do gardening and much more. He has even started cycling, using hand pedals.

Best Achievement in Paid Employment, Stacey, Town Farm workshop

“Stacey checks on the village playground for any health and safety issues. She completes a checklist and submits it to the local Parish Council. Previously Stacey was supported to carry out her checks, now she does them independently. Stacey has grown in confidence and makes a positive contribution to the local community. She feels really proud of her achievements and enjoys spending her well earned money.”

This event is very special to everyone, one mother flew all the way from Nigeria to see her daughter collect her award. Another powerful moment was when one of the gentlemen we support collected his award and made a speech: “We are not service users, we are not feeders, we are not wheelchairs and we are not defined by our disability, WE ARE PEOPLE!”

Sometimes it’s possible to only notice the great achievements of more able bodied people, these awards celebrate everyone and all achievements. Some achievements may seem small, but they are huge for others. Samir and Frankie have profound and multiple learning disabilities, but this doesn’t stop them. They are part of a self-advocacy group, Campaign 4 Change (C4C) who campaign about things that are important to them and people alike. They have been campaigning to increase the number of changing places in public areas. They were nominated by a fellow C4C group member and by someone that is supported by CMG and Regard, Mary Woodall. She said:

“I would like to nominate Frankie and Samir. Considering they have PMLD, they have done an amazing job, performing and representing people at the #mindyourlanguage campaign. They’ve been great at representing other people with PLMD in the C4C meetings.  They are also doing a great job with their own campaign, to get more changing places in public areas. They are amazing happy people, who are always smiling and laughing. They are warm hearted and have amazing talent.”

I really can’t tell you how proud I am of all these amazing people, congratulations to you all!

Please see below for some of my favourite pictures from the night. You can also head over to our Facebook page to see more photos from the night:











Panorama documentary

24th May 2019 1 Comments

I was shocked and appalled when I watched the recent Panorama documentary about the abuse of people with learning disabilities in a hospital. It showed what can happen in a service for vulnerable people, when a cruel rather than a kind and caring culture develops. I can only imagine how distressing it must be for a parent or relative of a loved one who has a learning disability. You may be wondering “is my next of kin safe?”

I wanted to reassure you that we are constantly vigilant, because we know that there is always a risk that a culture of abuse can develop in a service. We carry out very regular audits of quality in our services, and people are frequently visiting them. I visited 10 services in East Sussex yesterday and am in services most days of the week, as are other members of our senior management team. We train our staff on the importance of reporting any concerns about the care provided to people we support. We also have an independent whistleblowing line that staff can contact anonymously –and those referrals come straight to me.

I don’t believe this issue is happening anywhere in CMG and Regard, and I know that the vast majority of our staff are caring people, who have the best interests of the people they support at heart.

However, these cultures can develop, and we must be vigilant. I would encourage you to let us know if you have any concerns when you visit your loved ones. We take complaints very seriously and investigate them quickly and thoroughly. We have a Relative Liaison Officer, Helen Woods, whose job is to ensure that there is really good communication with families, that you are listened to, and any concerns are addressed. Her e-mail address is

Sometimes it’s not as obvious as what was shown in the documentary, but, for example, staff can start treating people with challenging behaviour as “naughty” and introduce punishments that might be applied with an unruly child. Some abuse is obvious and some isn’t. The best guide is our conscience. If someone sees something that makes them feel uncomfortable, they must act on that feeling. Staff and families must report anything that worries them. Staff should speak to, or e-mail someone senior, and can choose to remain anonymous if they like. They can also report any concerns to our independent whistleblowing line (08000 915 0804). It is the responsibility of all of us to keep the people we support safe, and we will ensure that anyone who whistleblows and does the right thing is protected.

In CMG and Regard the people we support come first, we want them to be treated with dignity and respect at all times and to achieve and fulfil their potential.

It is time for the Government to act. Not enough has been done in the eight years since Winterbourne View. Hospitals like the one we saw in the documentary should be closed. I spent a large part of my career closing long stay hospitals, and I know it can be done. Over a 20 year period we moved around 50,000 people out of hospitals into the community; I can’t believe it’s impossible to achieve that for 2,000 people. There will need to be some hospital beds for the most complex people, in my estimation around 500 in England. The rest should close.

The Government should identify which hospitals will remain open, and should put in place the necessary programme to ensure that they are state of the art centres demonstrating best practice. All the other hospitals should close; each hospital should have a closure plan with a timescale and a named person responsible who is personally accountable to the Department of Health and Social Care. 20 years ago I was personally accountable for closing a particularly challenging hospital and I went up to the Department of Health every 2 months to report on progress.

There is a lack of accountability in the current system with too much talking, and not enough action. I also have to question CQC who rated that hospital as “good” on all 5 areas. When the CQC rating system was introduced, I liked it. More recently I’ve become concerned that it focuses too much on paperwork and not enough on the culture of the service and the outcomes achieved with the people being supported. You can have a pretty institutional service where people supported have dull lives, but the paperwork is in place, and you can get a “good”. On the other hand, you can have a vibrant service where the people supported live full and active lives, staff are highly motivated and person centred, but there is a minor issue with paperwork and you can get a “requires improvement”.
I think there needs to be much more focus on the culture of services, how staff interact with people being supported and outcomes rather than ticking boxes.


Sarah Ghent and her Outstanding’s

20th May 2019 1 Comments

This week’s blog I would like to share great practice from Sarah Ghent and her Outstanding’s. Sarah is a Regional Manager in the Dorset and Hampshire area, 3 out of 5 of her services have been rated by CQC as Outstanding. Firstly I would like to congratulate Sarah on this amazing achievement and secondly, I would like to share her secret with you all.

I recently caught up with Sarah and she told me how previously when every CQC inspectors arrived, staff would scarper, which I’m sure many managers have had the same experience. It is natural to feel apprehensive when an official inspector turns up unannounced, however instead of running for the hills we should be shouting about all the wonderful things we do to improve the lives of others and ensure quality.

Sarah’s style isn’t making her staff recite the outcomes, but changing the perspective of her staff by asking them to share their day to day experiences at work. Sarah draws in on each experience the staff have with the people they support. For example when giving medication she asks staff how they administrate, the time and how it is recorded. Or she’ll ask staff how they communicate and include families with the support of their loved ones. The staff generally don’t realise they cover all 5 outcomes (Safe, Effective, Caring, Responsive, Well led) in their daily routines.

Sarah holds sessions with staff using flip boards with an outcome on each. Staff have to write down examples of the different support they give and daily tasks and put them into the right area. These sessions equip staff with the right tools to feel confident when speaking to inspectors. This process takes away the fear and gives them the opportunity to share their fantastic work.

Another addition Sarah made, is creating journeys/story boards for each person they support. All achievements not matter big or small are logged with pictures. This is a great resource to share with inspectors, not only does it act like a prompt for staff, if gives the inspector a clear vision of what life is like for the people supported.  These stories/journeys are also shared with families.

On one occasion when a CQC inspector arrived at one of the services, Carla the home manager had already planned to support someone on an overnight stay in Derby. She felt so confident her staff could cope with the inspection, she didn’t return to be present. She was right the service gained ‘Outstanding’ in 3 areas.

I’m really impressed with Sarah’s methods and feel we can all learn something from the way she empowers and supports her staff.

Sarah Ghent, Regional Manager

“I love what I do, it’s all about making a difference to people’s lives. I am lucky I have such a great group of managers who all support each other. We all work together, share information and celebrate our joint successes. I believe upskilling staff and including them on decision making is the key.”






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Visual Aids at Ty-Nant

11th April 2019 1 Comments

In this week’s blog I would like to share examples of good practice at Ty-Nant in Wales, specifically the work they do around autism.

Ty-Nant is comprised of 7 self-contained flats, and is specifically designed to support people with autism spectrum disorders. Each person receives 1-1 support in their individual flats. Ty-Nant staff use the TEACCH approach, which is specifically created for the needs of autistic people. People with autism often find it difficult to process change and moving from one task to another. Ty-Nant staff use a range of different visual aids to organise the environment and daily tasks of each individual, making it easier for them to complete their daily routines.

Active support is practiced at all levels, as the needs of the people living at Ty-Nant are varied. B doesn’t like to be prompted to do a certain activity or a daily task, however if she is left to her own accord she will just sit in her room for hours and not progress through the day. The staff introduced two clocks to her room, one which is set correctly and another which you have to change the time manually. She has an activity/daily tasks schedule on the wall with timings. Once a task/activity is completed the staff change the time on the manual clock to the time of the next task. When the real time clock reaches the same time on the manual clock, B checks her schedule to see which task needs to be completed and completes the task independently.

When B goes shopping, she takes her visual shopping list with her. This means she can do her shopping independently, with very few prompts from staff. These visual aids are also really useful in terms of communication especially in public spaces, as B is partially deaf and it can sometimes be difficult for her to hear what staff are saying.

IP is relativity new person to Ty-Nant, when he first moved in he would throw large quantities of food away from his fridge/freezer. This lead to him being supported to do daily shops which he wasn’t keen on. The team devised with IP’s input, a visual meal planner & shopping list. These included all the meals IP would like to eat that week, and what ingredients needed. This has increased IP’s control and independence, but also gives him clear guidance on what he will be eating and when. Not only has the food wastage dramatically decreased, IP is now more socially included. He now often visits other shops and cafes whilst on his way to do his weekly shop. A simple yet important shopping list has opened up many more opportunities for him.

One very complex gentleman was supported to go on holiday to Cornwall last year. The holiday went perfectly, they visited the beach, museums and went for long walks. He even ate out restaurants with his support staff, which is completely unheard of for this individual. Sara (Home Manager) said this was due to pre planning and assessing all possible risks beforehand. She also said it’s due to her amazing staff team.

Sara Robinson, Home Manager – Ty-Nant

“I’ve been working at Ty-Nant for the last 12 years, I started as a support worker and then was promoted to lead support worker and now I have been the manager for the last 5 years. My staff team are what make Ty-Nant what it is, they are brilliant communicators and are all there for each other. Each member of staff are passionate about improving the lives of the people they support, helping them reach their potential and achieve their individual goals.”












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Person Centred Approaches at Whitehatch (Regard)

5th April 2019 1 Comments

Recently I visited Whitehatch, which is a Regard service in Horley. I was particularly impressed with their person centred approaches and people inclusion.

The manager Jane has been at Whitehatch for the last 3 years and before that at the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People). When she first arrived the systems and structures in place at the service were dated and the people living there weren’t doing as many activities as they could have been.

At Whitehatch the mobility of each individual varies, as do their ages and ease of verbal communication. Jane has done a fantastic job in encompassing everyone to lead active and fulfilling lives. Each individual who lives at Whitehatch has their own detailed activity programme, each programme is tailored to the individual. The programmes outline what they will be doing each day of the week. Not only community based activities have been introduced but activities that can also be enjoyed at home such as cookery sessions, reflexology, aromatherapy, intensive interaction with ‘Us on the Bus’, exercises with Linda which is an exercise class primarily for people who use wheelchairs and Music with Maddie and Ron which is a firm favourite with everybody. Each person has their own song, which has been written for them specifically and is sung to them each time.

One gentleman can present challenging behaviour, and has recently been going to the gym. Which he really enjoys and has been trying really hard every time he is there. Previously he wouldn’t engage, and it was a struggle to get him to do any activities outside of the house. Now he also goes swimming once a week.

Communication is very important to everyone at Whitehatch, especially with parents who live far away. Skype is a regularly used app in the house hold with regular calls to one parent in Sweden.

What really impressed me at Whitehatch is the innovative training pack that Jane has created to involve and give the relevant skills to the people supported there on safeguarding. The pack contains:

  • Easy read document on what safe guarding is
  • Dice game – roll the dice discuss the topic on dice e.g discrimination
  • Card game – put the card in the right category, safe guarding issue or non-safe guarding issue
  • What makes a good friend templates
  • Safe guarding buddies – each person at the Whitehatch is linked up with another person to keep an eye on each other. K is buddied up with L who suffers from epilepsy and is unable to speak. K lets staff know when L is up and about and alerts staff if K is having a seizure.

After everyone has completed their training, Jane writes up a report and the training is refreshed regularly.

A development that has come from the safe guarding pack is a path campaign. The path outside Whitehatch has no drop curb, which proves very problematic as most of the people at Whitehatch use a wheelchair to get around. Another issue is that many cars park up onto the pavement leaving little to no room for wheelchairs to pass. These issues were discussed at a residents meeting, and plan was put in place to send a letter to the council and to the local MP. They sent the letter along with signatures from all people living at Whitehatch and photos displaying the issues. The council have now put a fence up to deter people parking on the curb. The head of highways is booked in to see how they can improve the path further.

Sadly, last year one person passed away. S didn’t have any family, so the staff and people at Whitehatch wanted to do as much as possible to give him the send-off he deserved. This was obviously a very difficult time for everyone, Jane created a place in this S’s room where people could come in and write memories about him. His ashes are in the garden with a rose planted on top, Jane managed to find a rose with the same name as S. A bench with a plaque for S has been bought and placed in the garden in memorial. On his anniversary this year everyone at Whitehatch will have memorial tea, he is gone but never forgotten.

Thank you Jane for showing me your lovely service, I think your safe guarding packs could be beneficial for everyone.

Follow the link to find out more about Whitehatch and/or to make a referral

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BSL and the Inspirational work of Boo Holmquest

14th March 2019 1 Comments

In this week’s blog I would like to profile the amazing work of Boo Holmquest. Boo is the manager of Hampshire Outreach and all of our deaf services Dimmock House, Forest View and Robin’s way. Her love for British Sign Language (BSL) started at a young age. When Boo was 11 years old her school encouraged all the children to help and support other people. Boo was placed in a school for adults and children with learning disabilities. She was paired up with a four year old girl who had Downs Syndrome and was deaf. This little girl taught Boo how to the sign the alphabet through singing songs and playing games. This is the moment that changed Boo’s life.

Years later when Boo was expecting a baby girl. She was worried that if her daughter was deaf she wouldn’t be able to communicate with her, bearing in mind at this time Boo only knew the alphabet in BSL.  Boo’s daughter was born with hearing, but this didn’t stop Boo wanting to learn BSL.

When Boo’s daughter was small she attended ‘sing and sign’ class which is designed for children at a pre-verbal level, who are deaf or of hearing. Children and parents learn how to communicate together through singing nursery rhymes and learning key words.

During this time Boo enrolled in a BSL course at college, she completed level 1 foundation which covered communication tactics with deaf people, deaf awareness, deaf history and culture and level 2.

Boo was then offered a job working with a toddler who was deaf and had downs syndrome. This little girl’s parents were both hearing and had no experience with deaf people, as there were none in the family. They had no help and support and were struggling to cope. Boo described the little girl as ‘a small ball of anger’ because she couldn’t communicate with anyone. Boo started to work with her on a 1-1 basis and started to teach her BSL. However, after a short time Boo realised this wasn’t going to work. As the only person this little girl would be able to communicate with was Boo.

All the children at the school were at a pre verbal level and Boo took it upon herself to teach all the children in her class, the staff and the parents to sign. This was to create an environment that was completely inclusive for everyone and also to enable the little girl to be able to communicate and play alongside the other children.

Boo was then asked to manage Dimmock House the first deaf service for people with learning disabilities. Now she is running all three CMG deaf services, Dimmock House, Robins Way and Forest View as well as managing the whole of Hampshire Outreach. She is extremely proud of her team, who are all deaf and all use BSL to communicate with each other and the people they support. Sign language is used in all aspects of their job. We have to remember for a lot of people BSL is their first language. Communication is paramount!

V’s story

V was born profoundly deaf. Due to family circumstances she was placed in a children service at the age of 11. Over the years this service transformed into an adult service, everyone at this service including the staff were of hearing. V stayed in this setting until she was 46. Surrounded by hearing people who knew no BSL. V’s only method of communication was via picture books, pointing at different pictures to indicate what she wanted. However, when V first entered the children’s service she knew sign language, which she used until she was placed at the service.

When Boo met her for the first time, staff told her that V would probably only tolerate her for a few minutes. V showed Boo her book, every picture V pointed at Boo signed it for her to see and learn. After an hour they were still communicating through signing, V was grinning from ear to ear and showing the staff and other people there the signs she had learnt through her short time with Boo. It was decided that the best thing for her was to move to Forest View. She has now been there for a year, the staff have been working really hard with her to develop and grow her vocabulary. She is now linking her single word vocabulary to full sentences. She can hold full conversations in BSL and no longer points at pictures to communicate. She has now been armed with the tools to communicate, and is a much happier and contented person now.

What a fantastic story! Boo you have definitely inspired me to learn more sigh language.

We currently have three vacancies at the lovely Forest View, which is located in the picturesque area of the New Forest. This service is predominately for people who are deaf or who have communication difficulties. Click here to learn more about the service or to make a referral.

Boo and her staff

The Inspirational Work of Town Farm Workshop

8th March 2019 1 Comments

In this week’s blog I would like to share the achievements of the Town farm Workshop (TFW), which is a Regard service in Dorset. After my recent visit to TFW I left feeling inspired, their commitment to reaching each individuals potential and demonstration of best practice is phenomena.

Town farm Workshop (TFW) run their own enterprise through weaving, leatherwork and ceramic crafts. These products are all created by the people that are supported there. Once they have finished the production each product is then sold at craft fayres, festivals, annual exhibitions and permanent outlets. Profits from the sales are divided equally, 50% goes directly to the artist and the remaining 50% goes towards buying more resources for example more yarn for weaving.

One of the many great things that TFW do is the way in which they support and encourage individuals to access the community and become work ready. The manager of TFW, Helen is an avid supporter of volunteer work, she has set up individuals to volunteer at Dorset volunteer centre. There are hundreds of projects and activities to get involved with. The centre matches volunteers to their different areas of interest and skill sets. This could include working with animals, gardening, working in café or working as a tour guide. To find out more or to get involved click here to head over to the website.

The Volunteer Centre Dorset has delivered a project Community Credits Scheme which covers Dorset.  The Scheme was set up to support individuals who have learning disabilities to seek supported voluntary placements. For each and every hour volunteered they receive a community credit note which can be exchanged for a health and wellbeing activity within Dorset.

At TFW they have stand-alone courses delivering training to people supported on change management, keeping well, first aid and fire safety.

TFW really know how to be resourceful, they have outside space which they have utilised by growing fruit and vegetables. Last year they won an award for their abundance of pumpkins. I bet they proved popular at Halloween.  Each year their fresh produce outweighs the demand, so the manager Helen has found a fresh food bank where they can donate the excess fruit and veg.

Last summer was a merry one at TFW, they made their very own cider.  Hopefully this year will be as fruitful and I’ll be able to test the finished product. Nothing beats a cool cider especially if it’s homemade on a lovely summer’s eve. Any leftover apples are taken over to the nearby farm, as treat for the pigs. Their lavender patch has proven to be a great addition, not only does it provide a soothing scent it is harvested by the people supported at TFW and used to make scented bags.

It’s not a surprise that TFW are getting behind another project ‘Incredible Edible’. The aim of this project is to turn unloved/unused places into areas to grow fruit and veg. People then can help themselves to the produce. The aim is to show the power of small actions that could help people live happy, healthy and prosperous lives.

Congratulations to all the staff at Town Farm Workshop, I am so impressed with everything you have achieved so far. I’m already looking forward to my next visit and to see what else you can achieve this year and of course to try your homemade cider.


Active Support

1st March 2019 1 Comments

In this week’s blog I will be covering the topic of Active Support, what it is, the benefits and how it can be implemented. At the end of this blog you can watch a video of my younger self, carrying out Active Support with an individual from Brighton. Trust me it’s not one to miss if you fancy a laugh!

Active support is an approach to supporting people with learning disabilities and autism to be involved in everyday life as much as they are able. This includes day to day activities related to cooking, cleaning, shopping; as well as community-based activities which aim to promote access to work and leisure. The emphasis is on accessing ordinary everyday settings and facilities as far as possible. This requires support staff to be active in identifying local community resources and creative in relation to negotiating adjustments to ensure that the activity is accessible to the individuals we support. For example we may be able to negotiate some voluntary or paid employment for someone we support but agree with the employer that a support worker remain with the person at least until the person is comfortable with the role or the work environment. As well as promoting engagement in real and meaningful activities; it should also support people to be part of wider communities and social networks.

Good levels of activity and engagement promote physical and mental health for the people we support. It allows people to remain physically fit and mentally alert, it promotes the development of skills or shared interests, encourages people to make decisions and choices, to have greater control over day-to-day decisions, promotes the development of friendships and relationships, and allows people to develop a sense of worth, self-esteem and understand their value within their communities

Active support has a number of key approaches or strands these include:

Every moment has potential: use every opportunity that you can to involve the person in the activity at hand, if you are planning to go out swimming or to a café; could the person be supported to gather up their swimming costume, towel and purse? What support does the person require to communicate with the pool staff and to pay for the activity?

Little and Often: Some individuals might be able to concentrate on a task for a short period only; other for longer periods. However, it is the engagement in real and meaningful activities that matters, not the time taken to complete that activity.

Graded Assistance: We need to consider the level or type of support that people need to be involved in a task and provide appropriate support. This might be using visual guides or prompts, verbal direction or hand over hand support.

Maximising choice and Control: It is important that support staff understand the best approaches to communicate with and support individuals to make choices and decisions. Staff also require a good understanding of promoting positive risk-taking and the Mental Capacity Act.

It’s important to remember that active support should be an approach that we use with everyone that we support. The approach can and should be adapted to peoples differing levels of need or abilities and indeed preferences.

CMG and Regard will deliver active support training to new staff as part of its week long induction process. The daylong training will introduce staff to the principles of active support and give them an opportunity to practice the skills in a simulated situation.

Please email for advice on how to implement active support in your service or with the people you support.

Case Study – Bosley House – Regard

When L moved into Bosley House six months ago her personal hygiene was extremely poor and her domestic skills were non-existent. Since moving in with the support from staff L has learnt how to prepare and cook meals.

L required support and several prompts a day to make her bed, open her curtains and to do simple tasks such as brush her teeth. L can now use the microwave, oven, kettle, and dishwasher and washes her own clothes. L will ask for the hoover and cleaning products and will clean her home environment almost daily without any prompting.

Since living at Bosley Road L has been on her first holiday to Blackpool and is now planning her next trip to Spain with support from staff. L is involved in all aspects of the planning of her holiday abroad. L is learning small Spanish phrases in order to prepare her for a holiday in a country where people speak differently as L can present challenging behaviour when there is a communication barrier. L does not like loud noises so in preparation for her trip she has been listening to loud aeroplane noises on You Tube to get her ready for the sounds she may hear.

L had very little knowledge into healthy eating but over the last six months has stated that she would like to lose weight. With support L is learning about healthier meals and cooking from scratch and will now buy plenty of fruit and vegetables which has replaced sugary snacks.

It was always thought by health care professionals that L would always have to live in a supported living situation, however after L’s six month review it has now been recognised that with the support and time L could live independently in the future.

This is an amazing example of active support and also what can be achieved with the right encouragement and support from staff.

Case Study –South Hill – CMG

One of our Home Managers at South Hill, a supported living service has undertaken a piece of work to increase the independence of one young woman in relation to handling money. Previously support staff provided considerable support in this area, for example staff would hold the individuals purse or debit card and would make transactions or purchases on her behalf. The young woman was not involved in this process. However, Michelle suspected that the person could develop skills in this area and should have greater control or involvement in relation to managing her money.

Michelle, set out to plan and undertake an assessment of the individuals understanding of money. As the young woman does not use verbal communication, the assessment needed to be completed using photographs. The assessment (which was undertaken with the local authority as part of a wider Mental Capacity Assessment, though planned by Michelle) indicated that the person had a good understanding of where her money came from, how to get money from the bank and understood the values of various coins and notes. Michelle concluded that whilst the person had not previously been handling her money; she had likely learned the processes involved through observing her support workers. Consequently, the person is being supported to have greater independence in relation to handling her money.

At the same time Michelle has been working to improve the communication support provided to the individual; who relies on signing as well as visual communication tools. In particular, Michelle has been working with Tobiidynavox ( to introduce the use of a tablet based communication device. It is likely that the individual will initially use their symbol based software initially.

This is an excellent example of Person Centred Active Support being worked out in a service on a very thoughtful and planned way. It is essential that managers and support view the Mental Capacity Act as a tool to support the independence and decision making by people with learning disabilities.

Click here to see a hilarious video of my younger self carrying out Active Support with someone from Brighton.


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