Shining a spotlight on our successes

14th February 2018  Add comments

As many people will know, I am incredibly passionate about the people we support becoming more independent and securing jobs, whether paid or voluntary, in the local community. I believe that through obtaining employment, individuals can learn a number of new skills and it enables them to become more self-sufficient as they earn their own money, can, where possible, travel to and from their workplace by themselves, and will develop a greater understanding of accountability and taking responsibility for tasks assigned to them.

At CMG, we have seven people who live at one of our services and who hold jobs at our Head Office in Leatherhead. Simon Tobin is one of these individuals and this week, I’d like to discuss his journey.

Simon has autism and moved to our Hillview service in Merstham in mid 2012 (he is now based at Heathcote Road in Epsom), having previously lived at a residential boarding school in Hampshire. Prior to joining CMG Simon had already begun holding talks where he discussed his experience of living with autism, but these were sporadic due to both his lack of confidence and knowledge of who to contact to spread his message on a wider scale.

In early 2013, not long after Simon had joined us, Andy Wasley (our Employment Officer) got in touch with Sarah Evans, our Head of Human Resources and Learning and Development, to make Sarah aware of Simon’s prior experience speaking to groups of people and his passion for advocating on behalf of those also diagnosed with autism. This led to Sarah offering Simon the opportunity to run training sessions for new members of staff specifically around autism awareness. Titled ‘Autism and Me’, Simon has now been running these sessions for almost five years and where he used to only do a session every couple of months, Simon is now employed by the L&D team to hold 3 to 4 sessions per month.

In his presentation to new members of staff at CMG, Simon covers a breath of topics related to his autism specifically as well as autism in general. He discusses sensory needs, behaviour and communication and emotional and sensory overload. Simon has become so comfortable at talking in front of a group of people that he is now able to tailor his presentation to suit a number of different audiences. This has also led to Simon being approached by external organisations who ask him to present to their staff or at national conferences around the country. An example of this is the National Autism Show which Simon spoke at in both 2014 and 2015.

If you thought Simon is busy enough as it is, this isn’t his only job at CMG. Simon also spends 4 hours a week working on reception at our Head Office. Simon shares this role with a number of other people who we support and who live in services local to Leatherhead. At first Simon undertook the role on a voluntary basis, working just 2 hours a week, and he was always supported by another member of staff as he did not feel confident enough to be by himself. It didn’t take long, however, for Simon’s self-belief to greatly improve and now he really enjoys the responsibility of working by himself on the front desk, answering the phone and being the first port of call for questions from staff across the company.

For Simon, moving into a Supported Living service for the first time and then starting a paid job role within the space of half a year was quite a “shock to the system”. Learning how to manage his money was particularly difficult at first due to the high level of residential support he received at his previous placement. Now, however, Simon is 95% independent in the community and lives a very busy lifestyle, regularly attending the cinema and meeting up with friends.

This is a fantastic example of how encouraging the people we support to become more integrated into the local community and to secure work opportunities can have a fantastic impact on their long term wellbeing.

Simon (right) and I
Simon (right) and I
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Social inclusion & implementing CMG values

2nd February 2018  Add comments

I visited a number of services in Brighton yesterday and particularly wanted to highlight some of the good work that the staff team are doing at The Droveway. They support people with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD) but don’t let that stop them promoting social inclusion. They have a social inclusion board in the house showing opportunities for the people they support to get actively involved in the community. This includes several service users regularly attending football matches at Brighton and Hove Albion.

They also do a great job supporting people who have very complex health needs. People they support are regularly admitted to hospital and they work very well with the local NHS services. They have started implementing a new very person centred way of monitoring pain and discomfort by recording people’s facial expressions and body language. They have a clear baseline against which they can notice any changes which might suggest someone is in pain or discomfort.

Whilst I’ve been going around services, I have also started to do my test checking whether our staff knows CMG’s values. I haven’t done this for a while and generally things have slipped a bit. Following a consultation with staff across the organisation, we made one change to our statement of values. The easiest way to remember our values is to use the acronym SODA. This stands for:

  • Shared Responsibility
  • Opportunity to achieve
  • Dignity and respect
  • Appreciating everyone and their contribution
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Working hands on within one of our services

17th January 2018  Add comments

It’s been a little while since my last blog post so I wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year before it’s too late. I hope that you had a nice rest over the festive period, whether you were working or not, and are feeling motivated for what 2018 has in store.

Prior to the Christmas break, I spent some time working hands on in one of our services which I really enjoyed.  I worked alongside some very motivated staff and some fantastic people with learning disabilities.

It was really helpful and insightful to spend a concentrated period of time working in one of our services. I thought I would share with you some of the thoughts I’ve had as a result of this experience:

– Organisation is key. It is really important that there is an effective shift planning process in place which efficiently allocates staff time across the service and allows service users to be supported to participate in their activities. This is particularly important when people are out and about and need to be supported to go to a variety of different venues. I have termed the phrase ‘pleasantly bossy’ to describe the skills required of shift leaders. You do need to be quite assertive to organise colleagues on a shift and to ensure that everybody knows what they need to do and where they need to go.

– People we support are often an underused asset. For example, in the service in which I was working, there were some basic household activities that needed to be carried out like spring cleaning and of course weeding. These provided great opportunities for engaging the people we support in meaningful activity.

– I was reminded of the importance of person centred active support, which means supporting people to engage in everyday activities and always doing things with people, not for people. Household activities like menu planning, cooking, shopping, cleaning and doing the washing are very useful ways of meaningfully occupying people, as well as helping them to develop their skills and independence. One young man I worked with was particularly proud of himself for the great job he did helping to spring clean his flat.

– Basic standards of care and support are incredibly important and sometimes overlooked. By this, I mean ensuring people receive good personal care, are supported to have good oral hygiene and are encouraged to keep their flats clean and tidy with appropriate care given for people’s clothing.

– It’s important to ensure that systems don’t get in the way of people having a really good life. In services there are important things to attend to, like recording medication and service users’ financial expenditure. If you’re not careful, this can become the priority rather than people engaging in meaningful activities of their choice.

– The calibre of front line staff is essential. As well as people having good values, it’s incredibly important that we employ staff who can use their initiative and work out what needs to be done without constant guidance and direction. I’ve always been a big fan of common sense, but feel particularly strongly that this is a very important asset for front line staff.

– Most people who work in social care are well meaning and it’s important that we recognise and value what they do. Simple things like thanking people and saying ‘well done’ can easily be forgotten, but actually mean a lot.

– Some challenging behaviour can be very complicated and requires an approach that provides in-depth positive behavioural support. Some minor challenges, however, can be dealt with in a straight forward manner such as distracting the individual, changing the subject or keeping people busy and occupied with meaningful activity. I worked with a young man who can sometimes touch people inappropriately as a way of getting attention. I found having both his hands fully occupied by doing the hoovering was an effective way of stopping this behaviour and it helped him to feel involved.

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National Conference ‘Raises the Bar’ and Sets New Standards For PMLD

29th November 2017  Add comments

Raising The Bar PMLD Conference sets new standards

As those of you will know who read my blog each week, I often comment on how brilliant our CMG events are as we really do lead the field in this area within social care.  As well as our usual annual programme of events, we also like to take the lead on best practice initiatives in the sector, as we did with our STOMP conference at Westminster earlier in the year.  Last week was no exception.  With Michael Fullerton’s lead (in conjunction with other PMLD organisations*) they hosted ‘Raising the Bar’, the first national conference with an exclusive focus on profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD).

Taking place at the Manchester Conference Centre, Raising the Bar saw the launch of the new Core and Essential Service Standards for supporting people with PMLD, to raise the bar for what best practice care looks like across the UK and beyond. The conference also aimed to establish better networking around PMLD, which until now has been a largely neglected area in the sector and society more widely.   The conference was sold out within weeks of it being advertised and I’m told was so oversubscribed that people were prepared to sit on the stairs in the conference room so they didn’t miss out!

The Core Service Standards are aimed at commissioners, providers of care services and educational establishments, including specialist schools, to ensure equity of support and provision, in the hope that the standards will be used to support adults and children with PMLD, in social care and assisted living settings. The standards are focused on what should be put into place within the organisation, including quality of care, leadership, support and training for staff members.

If you would like to see a copy of the guide, you can find it on the CMG website  I would also like to draw your attention to some of the other great new content we have added to the CMG website.  I truly believe it is one of the better websites in the sector now.  Under the ‘our expertise’ section we have outlined some of our best practice initiatives (PBS, PMLD, STOMP).  We have also added some great videos from people we support saying what it is like to live in CMG ( as well as excellent video footage of staff explaining why they love working for CMG (

I’d like to leave you with a lovely quote from Rachel Wright, trained nurse and parent of a child with profound and multiple learning disabilities who attended last week’s conference: ““The PMLD National Conference presented a fantastic mix of research, inspiring practice and standards that, if employed, can change the lives of those with PMLD. But the best part for me, was that throughout the day the voices and views of those with PMLD and their families were at the centre.”

* The Raising the Bar conference and Core Standards were the initiative of CMG, Michael Fullerton, Head of Inclusive Research at Choice Support, Dr Thomas Doukas, Ann Fergusson, Editor at PMLD Link and a family carer, and Joanna Grace, from The Sensory Projects.  The Core Standards Guide was endorsed by NHS England, with a Forward by Norman Lamb, MP.

Raising the bar PMLD conference
The CMG team at Raising the bar PMLD conference!
Raising the bar PMLD conference
Feedback from Raising the bar PMLD conference
Raising the bar PMLD conference
Workshop session at Raising the bar PMLD conference
Raising the bar PMLD conference
Raising the bar PMLD conference
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Award winning radio show which is helping to reduce the stigma around mental health

15th November 2017  Add comments

UK radio awards for BBC Radio Berkshire Talking Heads programme – reducing the stigma around mental health

Last year CMG acquired an excellent specialist mental health provider, Sevilles, which runs outreach services for vulnerable adults with mental health challenges in the Reading and Wokingham areas. Sevilles (now called CMG) is run by Polly Falconer who has a wealth of knowledge in mental health including her own lived experience.

Polly, not only helps those with mental health problems, but effortlessly talks about her own experiences. To such an extent that she has been instrumental in winning two awards for a Talking Heads radio show on BBC Radio Berkshire.

In Polly’s words: “Brighter Berkshire is a campaign that was started by my neighbour who was frustrated by the lack of conversation around mental health. Together, we approached BBC Radio Berkshire with the idea of opening up conversations about mental health. There was initial excitement around the idea with the suggestion of running a 2 hour mid morning programme with myself and 2 other women presenting the show. However this was met with a lot of resistance. After all 3 women with lived experience of mental health challenges on the radio talking about their experiences, didn’t seem like a good idea.

Despite the resistance however, the show went ahead. Talking Heads was born and was well received.* We have covered a range of topics including schizophrenia, sport & mental health, work and mental health, mental health and the arts and men’s mental health. Last month we broadcasted from Prospect Park Hospital to demystify what happens in a psychiatric hospital.

Although we have a range of guests, the thing the audience comment on the most, is the 3 of us talking about our own experiences and the fact that we also have some fun on the show, which all helps to break down the stigma.

We were nominated for the Audio & Radio Industry Awards (ARIAs) for Best Community Programme and received a Bronze Award. These awards are for the best in UK radio across the board. And also a Frank Gillard Award for Diversity where we also got a Bronze. These awards are for the best in BBC Radio.”

Polly has also been doing some great work for CMG to support our own efforts around improving mental health support for our staff. After receiving some excellent feedback at a workshop she ran at our recent Registered Manger’s Conference, Polly will now be running regular training sessions for our CMG managers to help create more awareness around mental health.

CMG also intends to roll out a programme around resilience, to further support staff in their roles and promote a culture of support around mental health wellbeing.

*Talking Heads goes out 11- 1pm on the 3rd Monday of the month and can be found in the middle of the Sarah Walker Show on iplayer for 30 days after the show

stigma around mental health
Polly and her colleagues reducing the stigma around mental health on BBC Radio Berkshire
Talking Heads, BBC Radio Berkshire
Talking Heads, BBC Radio Berkshire
Talking Heads, BBC Radio Berkshire
Talking Heads, BBC Radio Berkshire
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A SIXTH CQC Outstanding rating for CMG Group

10th November 2017 1 Comments

Well this is another extremely proud week for the CMG group as we have achieved our SIXTH CQC Outstanding rating (this includes our subsidiary Alderwood). A massive congratulations to Kim and her amazing team at 111 Masons Hill in Bromley. None of our competitors in England has more than 3 Outstanding ratings so this is a huge achievement for CMG. As a company we now have 98% of services rated as either Good or Outstanding in England. I don’t want to exclude Wales in this as we have some fantastic services there too, they are just rated under a different inspection body, CSSIW. Well done to everyone who has worked so hard to help CMG gain these exceptional quality ratings.

The Masons Hill CQC report outlines how the team ‘empowers the people it supports to have as much control over their lives as possible’ and how Kim, the manager, acts as a ‘positive role model who encourages an open approach to feedback’. This once again demonstrates the power of positive team work in a service and what can be achieved when everyone pulls together under the leadership of an effective manager.

This is what Kim at 111 Masons Hill had to say: “Our service is very busy, vibrant and sometimes very hectic but the team always works hard to ensure each of our lovely tenants live a fun, happy and very fulfilling life. There are many days I sit and think I should work in a circus because I have become such a good juggler but that is the nature of 111! 2017 has had a lot of ups and downs and believe me it has not been as easy ride, but despite this look what we have achieved – an Outstanding! Thank you to my amazing staff team, Deputy Manager, Simon and of course my manager Sheila for putting up with me. It is a pleasure working with you all.”

I’d like to finish this week’s blog, with a quote from Sheila Morgan, the Regional Director who oversees 111 Masons Hill:

“The Outstanding rating is an amazing achievement for Kim and her team. They have worked extremely hard and they give 100% everyday. Kim’s values, high standards and dedication have created a culture where excellence is expected and everyone understands and enjoys their role. 111 Masons Hill is a great example of one that uses creativity to promote peoples’ independence. It delivers great outcomes for people and boosts peoples’ self esteem. I’m extremely proud of Kim and her team.”

SIXTH CQC outstanding rating
Masons Hill celebrate CMG Group’s SIXTH CQC outstanding rating

A Band of Brothers; Changing lives one man at a time

31st October 2017  Add comments

This week’s blog is going to be rather different to my usual ones. I want to tell you about a fantastic charity called ‘A Band of Brothers.’ This charity has its origins in Brighton, but is gradually growing throughout the country due to the excellent success it has achieved in reducing the re-offending rates of young men.

This charity was born out of concern at the continuing escalation of self-destructive and anti-social behaviour among some young men in our society and the realisation that any meaningful and sustainable solution would involve shared local responsibility.

The scheme that is run by A Band of Brothers involves older men in our community volunteering to be mentors for younger men in difficult circumstances. These young men have experienced some incredibly difficult times in their lives, often resulting in drug taking, committing of offences and time spent in prison.

I decided to get involved with A Band of Brothers as a volunteer because I would like to try and make a difference. Last weekend, I went on an induction programme considered to be your ‘right of passage’. There is an agreement in A Band of Brothers that we don’t share the details of what happens during the induction weekend, but I can tell you that it was challenging, exhausting, emotional and exhilarating. Before you can become a mentor, you need to go through this weekend, the same weekend experience that the young men participate in too, as part of the programme.

The mentors are from varied walks of life and include local businessmen, tradesmen and the occasional Chief Executive! They act as role models for the local young men by providing them with acknowledgement, challenge and a whole range of other coaching support, both personal and practical, to help them to turn their lives around.

Since I have been involved with this programme, I have been struck by the huge potential that the young men I met have, if channelled in the right way. It reminds me of what motivates me to be at CMG, which is fundamentally to help the people we support fulfil their potential.

I am really looking forward to my journey with A Band of Brothers and would encourage anyone else to find out more about this organisation. It really is providing a sense of community for all who take part. Given the shockingly high rate of suicide amongst men, who often find it difficult to talk about how they are feeling, I think this is incredibly important project.

“If we attempt to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening our own self-understanding, our own freedom, integrity, and capacity to love, we will not have anything to give to others.” – Thomas Merto

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Bore da – choosing Welsh to communicate!

25th October 2017  Add comments

We have recently established a Diversity and Inclusion Committee at CMG which includes a number of employees from various roles across the organisation. It was set up to meet a number of aims and objectives, namely; to reinforce the positive benefits of inclusion, to recognise the talent that our diverse workforce brings, to apply the same values and level of understanding to our colleagues as we do to service users, and to review and develop relevant policies and procedures to strive for better practice.

One initiative that is being supported by the committee is the CWTCH welsh language project which is being developed by our Welsh business. CWTCH is the welsh word for hug/cuddle, but has been chosen by the Welsh business, as an acronym for their project: Choose Welsh to Communicate Heddiw (‘today’ in welsh). This project supports recent measures which have been added to the Welsh Language Act for employers in social care to deliver the opportunity for people to communicate in Welsh should that be their preference.

As a Welshman myself, I am really pleased to endorse this initiative! It commenced in September with a commitment for all staff and stakeholders in Wales to be given the opportunity to communicate through the medium of welsh, by learning a ‘word a week’ to extend their vocabulary. Additionally, it is now common place to have your phone call answered with a cheery bore da (good morning) or prynhawn da (good afternoon).

Claire Pritchard, our Welsh Operations Director, is also in the process of undertaking a survey to allow the inclusion and diversity committee to develop a Welsh language policy, inform our statistics around the Welsh language and prioritise which documents would be most helpful if translated into Welsh. If anyone is interested in taking part or receiving weekly updates, please contact Claire:

On the subject of diversity, we held our fifth annual Black History celebration event last week. It was a fantastic celebration of food, dance and songs from around the world and great to see so many people we support and staff joining in the celebrations. A few photos from the event are below.

CMG Black History Month celebrations
CMG Black History Month celebrations
CMG Black History Month
CMG Black History Month
CMG Black History Month celebrations
CMG Black History Month celebrations
CMG Black History Month celebrations
CMG Black History Month celebrations
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Raising awareness of the needs of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD)

11th October 2017  Add comments

The support of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) does not gain the same level of discussion and exposure as for other types of disability.

CMG is aiming to change that with a determined focus on ensuring the needs of people with PMLD are better understood and met.

AS CMG support close to 100 adults with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) we are passionate about ensuring we provide the best possible health, emotional and social care support to each individual. Support is provided in ordinary housing, in the heart of communities, with the environment specially adapted to meet their physical and mobility needs.

A key concern for us in CMG is that we hear all too often of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) living in clinical, remote and large services, often many miles from the family home. This issue, while highly recognised as inappropriate for people presenting with ‘challenging behaviour’, is not discussed or challenged in the same manner when it comes to people with profound and multiple disabilities (PMLD).

Michael Fullerton, Clinical Director, and other members of CMG’s Clinical Team are proactively engaging at a national level to promote excellence in support and services for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD).

The most significant nationally focused work is the development of new Service Standards for children and adults with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). Michael is co-leading on the launch of these new standards for service providers, and these will be launched at a National PMLD Conference on the 24th November at Manchester Conference Centre. The Conference, ‘Raising the Bar’, will also bring together key leading figures in the world of profound and multiple learning disabilities. Delegates are attending from all parts of the UK, Southern Ireland and the Channel Islands.

Katie Reid (Healthcare Facilitator )and Erren Wheatland (Clinical Nurse Trainer) will be talking at the conference about the application of the Standards in a social care setting.

In addition, Michael and Katie are engaged in the National Postural Care Strategy Group, led by Changing Our Lives. This group are developing a set of postural care strategies which will be launched in the spring of 2018.

Leading the way in terms of ensuring a skilled workforce, CMG run an Accredited PMLD Qualification (in partnership with Disability Learning) to support staff and soon to roll out an Accredited Course on Postural Care following Train the Trainer’ Training with Simple Stuff Works.

Michael has also joined the editorial team of the PMLD Link journal, the only PMLD specific publication in the UK.

Service Users Conference
Athletics Championship 2017
profound and multiple learning disabilities
Supported Living Day 2017
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Motivational speakers at Manager’s Conference

29th September 2017  Add comments

I know I have talked a lot in previous blogs about CMG’s annual events, but yesterday I attended CMG’s Registered Manager’s Conference, which is our annual event for all the staff in CMG who manage services across England and Wales.

We have run this event for 5 years now and each year it gathers momentum and we receive even better feedback from attendees. This year’s motivational speaker was Olympic swimmer, Steve Parry, who inspired us all by his thought provoking and humorous presentation. Aside from his Olympic goals and achievements, Steve talked about his recent passion for giving children across the country the opportunity to learn to swim though his Pools 4 Schools endeavour. It was fascinating to learn that 49% of children between the ages of 7-11 years are unable to swim 25m and in 2014 there was 400 deaths from downing. Perhaps more importantly was the message that as part of a team you can make great things happen. As one delegate said, Steve ‘breaths success’.

Another thought provoking presentation and workshop was given by external speaker, Andy Bradley, who got us all thinking about the fact that ‘what leaders model shapes what teams do and makes all the difference to the way people feel and perform’. Also ways in which we can all be more in tune with the teams that we work with as well ensuring that we are being compassionate to ourselves as well. Just simple things like how important it is to listen with a quiet mind, which we all practised in his workshop.

Andy also asked us to think about one word that summed up what some large organisations stood for or the purpose of their brand. This was an interesting exercise as the results were not as many of us expected. So for example, MacDonald’s purpose is ‘speed’. Apple’s purpose is ‘beauty’ and Virgin’s purpose is ‘adventure’. This obviously got us all thinking about CMG’s purpose and whilst lots of good ideas were put forward, we all agreed that the best word that represented CMG’s purpose was ‘opportunity’.

We also held a series of workshops in the afternoon. One was hosted by Polly Falconer, the manager of a mental health outreach service which CMG acquired in 2016. Polly has a great deal of expertise in mental health conditions and provided attendees with more of an insight into spotting signs of mental illness and the best ways to support them.

Anita Smart and Linda Fish from our Alderwood business (providers of specialist support for people with Autism who are some of the most challenging people in the country), hosted a workshop on effective communication tools. Alderwood’s specialist knowledge in this area is second to none.

Here is just some of the great feedback we have received from the day:

“Polly Falconer on Mental Health was AMAZING. Her knowledge, the way she presented everything was superb. Very inspirational.”

“The Alderwood workshop was absolutely fantastic – it was nice to have a workshop which was interactive and the information and ideas learnt could be immediately taken back to the service and started straight away.”

“Andy Bradley was my absolute favourite. Not only did we do some mindfulness but he actually gave two hugely inspirational presentations that have made me change my outlook today personally and as a registered manager.”

“Steve Parry was fantastic, a great inspirational and motivational speaker and very approachable. It’s great to have presentations that make you see things from different perspectives. I will definitely stand taller in future and say ‘what a great day!’ everyday.”

“What a great event to bring the managers together and share experiences that are very inspiring and motivating.”

“I thought it was a great day and a great opportunity to meet other managers in CMG. The opportunity to sit back and reflect on my practice and bounce that around with other managers is always a positive thing.”

Steve Parry at CMG Manager's Conference
Steve Parry at CMG Manager’s Conference
CMG Manager's Conference
CMG Manager’s Conference
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