Raising awareness of the needs of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD)

11th October 2017

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

Motivational speakers at Manager’s Conference

29th September 2017

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

Innovative and inclusive health and safety practises

25th August 2017

Making health and safety innovative!

After a short break for the August holidays, I would like to focus this week’s blog on Health and Safety. We are all reminded of the awful consequences that can result when proper health and safety measures are not put in place – the Grenfell Tower fire is a powerful reminder to all of us of this.

CMG employs a dedicated and highly qualified Health and Safety Advisor, Faye Doncaster, who is responsible for everything health and safety in CMG. Whilst this role encompasses many different ‘hats’, I’d like to cover some of the innovative and inclusive initiatives that Faye and some of her colleagues are working on to ensure CMG is not only complying but engaging people at all levels.

Whilst we already have stringent fire safety checks in place, Faye is currently collating fire safety audits that have been carried out by front line managers in every CMG home following the Grenfell disaster. This includes checking the quality of any cladding used as well as ensuring emergency evacuation procedures and face to face fire marshal training is in place. Faye also works closely with Surrey Fire and Rescue Services and has set up a Primary Authority relationship with them meaning she has access to expert fire safety information and support which greatly benefits CMG.

Another initiative that Faye and colleagues introduced last year is the inclusion of people we support in CMG in health and safety. Faye has formulated a group of service users who receive specialist training and certification in various aspects of health and safety. For example, they have already received training in: fire safety, water safety, first aid and are looking forward to the next session on food safety and infection control. This knowledge not only assists the services in which they live to have stringent, inclusive measures in place, but also brings a rich and diverse range of skills to the service users involved.

Faye also manages health and safety training for service users in CMG who are employed externally in paid/unpaid work or for people who are looking for paid/voluntary manual work. This training includes first aid, hazard spotting, risk assessment, equipment safety and manual handling. This is not only great for building service users’ knowledge base, but also ensures their increased safety and confidence and is also great for their CV’s!

There is also a committed team of CMG Managers who are part of a health and safety sub-committee. CMG has funded IOSH managing safely qualifications for these managers who are also responsible for supporting Faye to review, design and roll out standardised health and safety records and documentation across CMG services.

And as if Faye is not doing enough to make Health and Safety more innovative in CMG, she is in the process of organising a really creative Health and Safety Conference this year (we hold a Health and Safety Conference annually in CMG for all Home Managers). I am told it is going to include a ‘mock civil trial’ with a mock judge and jury presiding over a fictitious case involving staff injury in a service. I can see some interesting role plays taking place!

If anyone has any queries about Health and Safety in CMG, or any staff or service users who would like to get involved in the initiatives mentioned above, please contact Faye on; faye.doncaster@cmg.co.uk

Health and safety training
Health and safety training for individuals who work as gardeners
Health and safety training
Faye undertaking health and safety training for service users
First aid forms part of health and safety training
First aid forms part of health and safety training

A Top Bananas annual events calendar !

2nd August 2017

I know I talk a lot about CMG’s annual events but I really do believe that no other provider comes close to putting on the kind of events that CMG holds.  We have an extensive annual events calendar  which includes conferences and award ceremonies for staff and  a conference for family members.  This year we will have also hosted three external, national events.  One was the STOMP conference which took place at Westminster in June (Stopping the Over Medication of People with Learning Disabilities, Autism or both).  In September we have organised an innovative Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) Festival  in Surrey (tickets sold out within a week!) and in November  we are co-hosting an event to help raise the standards of care for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) in Manchester (www. pmld-raisingthebar.eventbrite.co.uk).

But perhaps the most rewarding events we hold, are those for the people we support.  In last week’s blog I talked about our Supportive Therapies Day, which hosts an amazing array of accessible sensory activities for our PMLD service users.

Last week we held our really popular Service User Conference attended by over 300 staff and service users.  This day started off with a fantastic band, The Top Bananas, who performed some great pop classics whilst on stilts.  Within minutes both staff and services users were dancing and singing along.  It was interesting talking to one of the band members afterwards who said it was his favourite event of the year as the audience is so brilliantly receptive and don’t have the usual inhibitions that others have (or don’t need a lot of alcohol to get warmed up!).

The day also includes an ‘X-Factor’ style talent show which is always extremely popular and allows people we support to perform any song they like and the judging panel give comment. The audience can then vote for their favourite act.  We also have an ‘open microphone’ session where service users can get on stage with me and say exactly what they like.  I remember one year, when a service user used the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend!

We also have a circus show where people can join in and learn some juggling skills, hula hoop and plate spinning.  A hotly contested cake and art completion also take place along with henna tattoos, make up and nail painting for those who wish to take part in quieter activities.

My thanks to Sue Pym who organises the majority of our events calendar and always to such a high standard.

Here are just a few of the photos from our Service User Conference. You can see more on our Facebook page.

Service Users Conference
Service Users Conference
Service User Conference
Service User Conference
Service Users Conference 2017
Service Users Conference 2017
CMG Service User Conference 2017
CMG Service User Conference 2017

Supportive Therapies Day. Amazing and unique!

26th July 2017

There are many occasions in CMG when I feel particularly proud of the work that we do and one of those occasions had to be our Supportive Therapies Day which took place last week. This is such a unique event which is superbly organised by Erren Wheatland (CMG Clinical Trainer) and Katie Reid (CMG Healthcare Facilitator) and is a day of amazing and varied, fully accessible, sensory activities designed specifically for our service user with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD).

The event aims to stimulate interest, create opportunities and enhance social and emotional wellbeing and it was certainly obvious from the smiles, giggles and interaction of the people we support, that this was achieved.  The activities are too many to cover in this blog but I’d like to highlight just a few.

The very messy and fun sensory art corner was excellent and  included water pistol/syringe painting, bubble art,  rainbow pasta and rice, cornflour mayhem and fluffy slime.

There was also a wonderful sensory story about a Bear Spirit Animal who, in Native American culture, symbolises courage, confidence and a grounding energy to those he meets. The professional re-enactment of the story included flutes, drums and dancing, which evoked imagination and was a rich sensory experience. Everyone also had the opportunity to make their own feathered headdress.

A range of African wildlife was available to handle including a pygmy hedgehog, hissing cockroach, royal python and a lizard. This session saw many people go from being reluctant to enter the room, to leaving with a real sense of accomplishment that they touched or held a reptile/ minibeast.

The hydrotherapy pool that we have at our Lilliputs site allows freedom from restrictive seating for people with little or no voluntary movement. It can relieve muscle spasms, ease pain and increase joint mobility.

CMG supportive therapies
CMG supportive therapies

The day was rounded off with a disco and the infamous and incredibly competitive ‘Pimp my Chair’ competition which gives people an opportunity to get creative, pimp up their wheelchairs and showcase their ride. The standard was extremely high but the winner this year was JS who converted his chair into a yellow vintage plane (with a rotating propella).

CMG supportive therapies
Winner of Pimp My Chair

As well as providing an inspirational day for the people we support, what is also integral,  is inspiring staff teams to enrich day-to-day activities by encomapssing sensory experiences, enhance social interaction and to ensure life experiences are accessible and inclusive.

As I said, a truly unique and exceptional day and my thanks to Erren and Katie.

Here are just a couple of lovely quotes from the day:

‘It was a brilliant day. My son really responded to the crayon art and enjoyed using the switch to operate the hairdryer to melt the wax. He loved seeing and feeling the animals and was very impressed with the disco and the pimp my chair competition. Thank you.’

Parents of person we support

‘This was my first experience at the Supportive Therapies Day, it was a wonderful experience, particularly seeing how the staff supported and interacted with people they support. It brought tears to my eyes.  Just looking at the passion that they have for their work and how they got people involved. The Pimp my Ride Competition was out of this world, what a WONDERFUL  EXPERIENCE.

Keisha Rowe… .. Team Leader.

CMG supportive therapies
Big smiles!
CMG supportive therapies
Sensory art!



Pushing the boundaries for people we support with profound and multiple learning disabilities

21st July 2017

I visited 14 services last week and was particularly impressed with the service at Willesden Lane in Brent. This is a supported living service supporting 5 people with profound and multiple learning disabilities.  The staff team are extremely enthusiastic and positive and there is a real person centred atmosphere in the service which is reflected on how homely each person’s bedroom is and the great photos of the people we support in the communal areas. People who live there come from a range of cultural backgrounds and that is clearly reflected in the way that they are supported including the way in which their individual bedrooms are decorated.

The people we support have busy activity programmes, including in the community and with good support around their sensory needs.  When I visited, staff and people we support had just returned from shopping and again I was impressed with the healthy fruit and vegetables which had been purchased.

As you know, I think social inclusion is very important. As well as people from Willesden Lane being out and about in the community regularly, they are also supported to attend the local church, where they have established relationships with other members of the congregation.

I would also like to mention 2 other initiatives which push the boundaries of what people we support with profound and multiple learning disabilities can achieve.

A lady we support at our Chandon service in Ashtead, has started doing voluntary work with animals and a person we support at our Dyke Road service in Brighton is going to be taking on a job as a ‘mystery shopper’ checking out the accessibility of pubs, clubs and shops for disabled people. With support from his keyworker, he will complete an accessible questionnaire after each visit.

We also held the amazing Supportive Therapies Day this week and I will post more on this in next week’s blog. It really is a fantastic event tailored specifically for our PMLD service users.

profound and multiple learning disabilities
Supporting people with profound and multiple learning disabilities
profound and multiple learning disabilities
Supporting people with profound and multiple learning disabilities

Katie Reid and 20 years of positively impacting on the lives of people we support

17th July 2017

I’d like to dedicate this week’s blog to Katie Reid, our Healthcare Facilitator, who celebrates 20 years service with CMG this month.  Katie started her career on the 7th July 1997 at Ceres House (CMG acquired the Ceres House services in 2004) as a Care Assistant, straight from school. She worked across the services, supporting children aged from 6 months to 18 years of age. Katie quickly made her mark and was promoted to Senior Care Assistant, then Deputy Manager at 289 Dyke Road which supported children with profound and multiple learning disabilities. Katie also helped to manage 283 Dyke Road (supporting children with ‘challenging behaviour’ and autism). In 2002 Katie was promoted to Manager of 289 Dyke road and was successfully interviewed by the Regulatory Body – at this time, aged 22 years, she was the youngest registered manager in East Sussex.

There are 9 people that Katie still supports in her current role that she has been involved in supporting since they were children. In addition, she worked closely with Sammy Boyle, for twenty years, since he was 11 years of age. Sammy lived at 287 Dyke Road and is recently deceased. Katie and Sammy had a wonderfully close relationship.

During her time working directly in the children’s homes, one of Katie’s proudest times is when she supported a little boy to be adopted. He had significant physical and learning disabilities, Katie worked hard with others to support him to use a standing frame and to actually ride a trike. He was adopted by a family in Dorset and Katie stayed with the family during the transition to make sure this was successful, and he was enjoying family life.

In 2006, Katie’s role changed. Given her skill and knowledge base, she moved from being a manager to taking on a new role as Care Co-Ordinator within CMG’s Therapy Team. This was a locally based role in Hove, which in 2009 turned into her current Healthcare Facilitator role, supporting CMG services in a much wider national role. The skills and knowledge Katie is able to offer to CMG staff teams has grown significantly. With a diverse range of interests and maintaining up to date research and evidence based practice, Katie is able to offer a lot of expertise to ensure CMG stay at the forefront of proactive support to people with a range of complex needs.

As if evidence of the many lives that Katie has so positively impacted in 20 years was needed, when we asked for a few testimonials for her, they came flooding in.  Each is very moving and demonstrates Katie’s passion, dedication and knowledge.  There are too many to show here, but I’d like to include extracts from a few:

“Katie always has a smile on her face and the way she conducts herself with colleagues and the service users is an example to the rest of the team and to me. Katie’s unique knowledge of every service user is invaluable and helps me enormously from a medical standpoint when trying to decide on any intervention or treatment plan. She has excellent clinical acumen and a down to earth and common sense approach.

I hope our professional relationship continues for many years.”

Dr Thomas Gayton, Montpelier Surgery

My son ‘S’ has been at CMG for 12 years. Katie has always advocated well for ‘S’ with other professionals. Katie always has his best interests at heart and always interacts with him well and he enjoys her company very much. I feel that Katie is a valued member of the staff who is always there when advice or support is needed.”

Sue El-Ziftawy, Mother

“I really liked Katie when she came to work with me around living a healthy lifestyle. She was very patient and listened to me. She listened to my suggestions and  gave me good advice. Katie gave a hula hoop which I used for a few weeks.  The main thing is since I worked with Katie I have lost a lot of weight and I have never looked back. I go for regular walks and I eat healthily. I am more confident and I am in employment and will soon be registering for an English course at college.

Thank you Katie.”

Nicola (Person we support at Perryn Road)

“Katie has an eye like an eagle, and a sixth sense when it comes to the people we support. We have always pushed the boundaries for our service users to achieve and live a quality life, and this would not have been possible without the support of Katie.

Katie’s 20 years in service is the equivalent of 40 years considering the dedication and commitment she gives.”

Romulo Fernandez, Manager, 290 Dyke Road

“While Katie’s role has grown considerably, her passion lies within the PMLD services. She is instrumental in promoting positive internal communication and supporting working relationships between the PMLD home managers and external health professionals. Katie’s knowledge is extensive and not just concerning health concerns as her title would suggest.

She is an amazing individual and her love, passion and enthusiasm for everything that she does is an inspiration to us all.”

Laurie Hopper, Home Manager, 287 Dyke Road 

CMG's Katie Reid 20 years ago
CMG’s Katie Reid 20 years ago
CMG's Katie Reid at recent Service User Awards
CMG’s Katie Reid at recent Service User Awards

Fancy dress five-a-side football and STOMP event film

13th July 2017

Ten services every week, five-a-side football and STOMP film

Whilst I haven’t mentioned my weekly visits to CMG services in my blog recently, I do still ensure that I get round to at least ten services every week.  I think it is extremely important for staff at services to be familiar with who their Chief Executive is. We do like to promote an open culture at CMG.

I had the pleasure of attending our annual five-a-side football match last week which was really well attended with some great fancy dress outfits on display.  The sun was shining and as usual trophies were hotly contested which was great to see. There were three tournaments and whilst everyone took part with much enthusiasm, there were three overall winning teams:

Service User Team – Lewes Road

Staff Team –  Kings Road

Mixed Service User and Staff Team ‎ – Wales

We are always keen to involve people we support in this tournament, so as well as taking part, the organisation of the event was very much helped by CMG’s Sports Ambassadors, Tomas Cardilo-Zallo and Stephen Adamson.  Alex Roberts from CMG’s Cwrt-Y-Bella service in Wales, did a sterling job as referee and got very excited when he was able to issue a yellow card!  Sadly Elvis, our Deputy Manager at Parchmore injured his knee and had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance.  We send him our best wishes for a speedy recovery.  A big thank you to everyone who took part and to Tooting and Mitcham Football Club for letting us use their excellent facilities.

CMG's five-a-side football
CMG Kings Road five-a-side football team
CMG's five-a-side football
CMG Catherine House five-a-side football
CMG five-a-side football
CMG Lewes Road wins trophy at five-a-side football tournament

As you know we held an important event in June at Church House in Westminster, alongside NHS England and hosted by Norman Lamb MP.  The event focussed on promoting the STOMP programme (stopping the over medication of people with learning disabilities and/or Autism or both) and the launch of CMG’s Best Practice Guide which demonstrates the success that non-drug treatments can have on helping to manage challenging behaviour and drastically improve people’s quality of life.  At the event we saw emotional presentations from family members who were featured in Channel 4’s recent Dispatches programme: Under Lock and Key.  Their loved ones were sedated and chemically restrained whilst in hospital with devastating consequences.  These individuals are now in the care of Alderwood (CMG’s subsidiary company) and are receiving excellent Autism specific, person centred care and are flourishing as a result. One even has a part time voluntary job.

I am really pleased that we were able to film this event and you can now see this short film here:

Norman Lamb presents at CMG's STOMP event
Norman Lamb presents at CMG’s STOMP event

If you haven’t already seen it, you can also access a copy of CMG’s Best Practice Guide here.



Creating sensory experiences through sensory training!

30th June 2017

A fantastic array of sensory training materials!

I was really impressed this week when I saw our training room at CMG’s Head Office in Leatherhead lit up with an array of fantastically colourful sensory materials.  This was in preparation for a 2 day training course that our clinical team had organised for managers and support staff at CMG’s PMLD services.  The two day programme focussed on ‘Developing Your Sensory Lexiconary’ and ‘Sensory Engagement for Mental Well-being’ and was run by Joanna Grace, the founder of The Sensory Projects (some of our CMG managers may remember Joanna as she ran some sensory sessions at our Manager’s Conference a couple of years ago). 

Whilst we run many training programmes at CMG (many run by our own Learning and Development and Clinical teams) we couldn’t fail to notice this one as there was such an impressive display of sensory materials!

As we all know, any training session is only ever as useful in so far as how it is used and implemented once back in the service to continuously improve person centred care.  I’d therefore like to include some feedback of two CMG managers who attended:

“’Slow down and repeat’ is a phrase we’ll often remind ourselves of when planning sensory-based sessions at Deer Lodge; a day centre which runs activities for service users with PMLD in Brighton. We all know this is good practice when working within the field of PMLD, but perhaps we didn’t truly understand the reasons behind why we do this. Joanna’s sessions offered a fascinating insight into the unique ways in which people with PMLD understand, interpret and learn about the world around them.  She offered a powerful message: we must use our privileged position as carers/teachers/parents/friends to facilitate the development and mental well-being of people with PMLD and appreciate how the world can be experienced primarily through the senses alone.”

Elsa Buckley, Manager, Deer Lodge

“This sensory training was inspiring, interactive and informative. It has made us look at our tenants’ needs, presentation and personalities from a different perspective. For example we learnt that it may take up to 30 minutes for someone to engage in a sensory experience. Previously we may only have given them the chance to engage for 5 minutes before the experience was changed. We have gathered a vast range of simple yet very effective ways of creating sensory and communication experiences for all of the senses.

Kitty McAvoy, Manager, Chandon

I’d also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone about the forthcoming Supportive Therapies Day on Thursday 20th July, an excellent annual event for all CMG’s PMLD service users.  The event is run by Katie Reid, CMG’s Healthcare Facilitator and Erren Wheatland, CMG’s Clinical Trainer, and offers a brilliant range of activities for individuals to take part in including; sensory stories, massage, pet therapy, hydrotherapy, art classes, music therapy and drama sessions.  The day also ends with a sensory disco and CMG’s infamous ‘Pimp my Chair’ competition! 

Sensory learning at CMG
Sensory training session at CMG by Joanne Grace
Sensory learning at CMG
Sensory training at CMG by Joanne Grace
Sensory learning at CMG
Sensory training at CMG by Joanne Grace


Shocking abuse of vulnerable people in care homes

21st June 2017

I have decided to focus this week’s blog on the issue of abuse of vulnerable people in care homes.  I was shocked and horrified when I watched Channel 4’s Dispatches programme on Monday evening which showed appalling scenes of physical and emotional abuse of vulnerable, older people in a BUPA care home. Whilst I appreciate there are differences between services for older people and services for people with learning disabilities, both groups are extremely vulnerable and can be treated badly by staff that support them. If you haven’t already watched the documentary, I would strongly urge you to watch it and for staff teams in CMG to discuss what they have seen in their next staff meeting.

We take abuse incredibly seriously in CMG; we train our staff in what abuse means and how to look out for warning signs and we monitor every case of alleged abuse at our safeguarding board every month. As our staff will know, every month we identify lessons to be learnt and these are cascaded throughout the organisation.

Abuse is insidious. Poor practices can creep into even the best services and because subtle changes may happen over time, people may not notice.  When I was 19, I spent a summer working as a nursing assistant on an older people’s ward in a psychiatric hospital.  Because I didn’t know any better, I didn’t realise how poor the practices were. Elderly people were sat all day in a chair with a fixed table on top which effectively locked them into their seat. Apart from being fed and taken to the toilet, they received no stimulation whatsoever. Staff would sit around a central table smoking, drinking coffee and chatting when they weren’t doing direct personal care tasks. One of the many problems with an abusive culture is that new staff just assume it’s the norm.

I would urge everybody to be vigilant and to trust their instincts and if it doesn’t seem right then you should report it. Fundamentally, we need to treat people we support with dignity and respect. Staff should not treat people in a disrespectful way and we shouldn’t let people sit in soiled pads or dirty clothing.  I think one of the biggest issues in services for people with learning disabilities is the ‘challenging behaviour’ which is often treated as ‘naughty’ behaviour and a punitive approach applied like that given to a naughty child. I think people who present challenges are at the highest risk of abuse by staff and we should always be vigilant to make sure any punishment based approach is challenged and stopped.

Abuse of vulnerable people in care homes can have devastating effects
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