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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