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Visiting services, supporting a family-led organisation and the budget

15th July 2015 1 Comments

I managed to visit 14 services last week including several in Wales. I was particularly impressed when I visited our St Helens supported living service in Newport with the active involvement of people living there in a range of sporting activities. As well as being good for health, sport provides great opportunity for social inclusion. One of the people living there told me very enthusiastically about the range of football tournaments he has participated in recently and another is very excited at the prospect of going on a course with Cardiff City Football Club to become a trained sports coach.

I met with Debs from ‘Bringing Us Together’ last week which is a family-led organisation providing a great deal of support to parents of people with learning disabilities. They do a brilliant job but struggle to get proper funding in the current climate. We would like to develop a long term working relationship with ‘Bringing Us Together’ and as a starting point are hoping to organise a conference for families in the New Year which will give them an opportunity to meet others and receive some important information to help them navigate through what can be a very complicated system to make sure their sons and daughters get the right support. We have a commitment in CMG to be the most family friendly provider in the country. Employing Helen Woods, our Relative Liaison Officer, is an important step in that direction, as is our own annual CMG Family Conference, plus our various other initiatives including our fantastic team of Relative Quality Checkers. We want families to be our partners in making sure their sons and daughters have the best possible quality of life.

I would like to finish with a comment on George Osborne’s budget. I have always thought that our staff should get a decent level of pay that enables them to have a good quality of life and to be properly rewarded for the excellent work that they do. We have managed to give our staff pay rises in the last 4 years and very few of our competitors have been able to do the same, but our staff are still not up to living wage. On the one hand, I am very pleased that George Osborne will be raising the pay of employees to £9.00 an hour by 2020. On the other hand, I really worry as to how that will be funded in the care industry. I can’t see the government giving Local Authorities more money to pass onto employers and there is a potential risk that care organisations could go out of business threatening both the livelihood of their staff and the wellbeing of the vulnerable people that they support.


Driving up the road to quality

7th July 2015  Add comments

Last week we held our second Driving Up Quality self assessment day looking at how the organisation is performing in relation to the Driving Up Quality Code. The Code was launched by CMG, the government and other leading care providers in 2013 to ensure the atrocities of Winterbourne View are never repeated again. This Code outlines five standards that ensure high quality learning disability care provision (

The day was really successful with over 100 attendees including staff, people we support, relatives and external professionals. In keeping with our event last year, we wanted to gain open and honest feedback in a fun and creative way, so we had a ‘road to quality’. Delegates then split into regional workshop groups and provided feedback via various modes of transport including a tractor, bus and ship (all artwork was created by the people we support with guidance from our Regional Directors).

Sophie Hare, the manager from our Kings Road service also presented, alongside AJ, one of the people she supports, on how her team undertook a Driving Up Quality self assessment in her service and how this contributed to the service recently achieving an outstanding rating from the CQC. Although non-verbal, AJ did a great job of providing information through sign language and diagrams.

The key themes from the feedback we gained from this event will now be incorporated into a comprehensive action plan. We also circulated a report of the actions we had taken from last year’s event and if anyone would like a copy of this report, please contact

We also always ask for evaluation from our events and I’m pleased to say that everyone who completed an evaluation form agreed that the event was ‘useful’, ‘well organised’ and allowed them ‘to give honest feedback in a fun and creative way.’

I am really pleased that we had a commissioner from Newport attend, despite the long drive from Wales to Surrey and I have included his feedback about the event below. It is a little frustrating that more commissioners didn’t attend this event (we do invite them), as I think it would give them a really good insight into the views of those who are connected or concerned with the care of people with learning disabilities, including those with the learning disability themselves.

Hi res 2

Hi res 1

As a provider, CMG can never claim to be perfect, but I am really passionate about trying to continually improve our service provision and we can only ever do that by gaining feedback from the people we support and all the stakeholders involved in their care. My thanks to all those who attended.

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Employee of the Month, too weedy and recruitment issues

1st July 2015  Add comments

I visited 18 services last week, one of which was our Carlton Avenue service in Harrow. I was there to present a £100 gift voucher to our Employee of the Month, Cesar Reyes. He is a fantastic member of staff and I have included an extract from the nomination that was sent in about him from his manager:

“Cesar understands the vision of CMG and continually reiterates this to his colleagues and family members. Cesar’s work colleagues respect and trust him and they value his advice. He has positive relationships with all the people he supports and encourages them to learn new skills, fulfil their potential and reach their set goals in life. I believe these characteristics represent all that is good in CMG.”

We recently re-launched our Employee of the Month scheme significantly increasing the value of the gift voucher that the winner receives. There are also gift vouchers for the people in second and third place and I am now going to the service where the winner works to give them their voucher in person. It’s all part of our efforts to demonstrate that we value and appreciate staff who do a fantastic job. On that note, one of the things we also try to do is to ensure that, where we take over services from other organisations, we work hard to make the new staff feel part of the CMG family. I was therefore very pleased when I visited 3 supported living services in Basingstoke last week where staff transferred to us from other providers, to hear that they were very happy with the way they had been treated and made to feel welcome by CMG.

When I visited Carlton Avenue I was extremely impressed with the range of activities that the people who live there are supported to participate in by the staff team, particularly given that they have profound and multiple learning disabilities. The service has a fantastic activity folder which contains large quantities of photos of people participating in a wide range of activities in the community and also at home.

On a less positive note, several services I visited are looking rather ‘weedy’ and I did pluck out a weed that was over 2 foot tall at one of our services, which will remain nameless. I know my obsession with weeds is well-known across CMG, but it is really important that services give a very positive first impression. The service that does this really well is Trafalgar House in Bexhill. The front garden always looks immaculate and gives a great first impression. I am including a photograph of it below.

Recruitment continues to be a challenge in certain parts of CMG. New staff are coming through but it is taking a lot of effort, particularly as we are very choosy and only want people with the right values. One of our services is having a pretty serious staffing crisis and we are having to transfer staff from other parts of the country to make sure that people living there are properly supported. Our agency usage is still higher than I would like and has crept above 1% of our total staff expenditure. I would like to get it back below 0.5%.

We received a complaint from a parent towards the end of last week following an incident involving their son. The Regional Director who oversees the service has been very responsive and has arranged an urgent meeting with the family to discuss the issue. However, it transpires that none of that would have been necessary if a member of staff dealing with the situation at the time had communicated more effectively with the parent. This is something we cover in our induction training for staff, but unfortunately is still not always practised.

We held our 2nd Driving Up Quality self assessment day yesterday. I will give more details of this in next week’s blog.

Misc 2

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Qualifications for the people we support and good examples of best practice

23rd June 2015 2 Comments

I’ve got a few developments in CMG I’d like to highlight in my blog this week. We are piloting a new system for monitoring outcomes that we help the people we support to achieve which includes independence, education and employment. We are implementing the ASDAN system which involves a structured way of supporting people to develop a range of independence skills, for example, in relation to cooking. Each person we support obtains a qualification once they have demonstrated evidence that they have completed the necessary stages in a specific task (a little bit like a simplified version of the NVQ). We have piloted ASDAN in 13 of our services and overall it has worked very successfully so we will now be looking to roll it out across CMG.

I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate a couple of really good examples of practice in services I have visited in the last week or so. I managed to visit 16 services last week. I was particularly impressed at 53 Rutland Gardens to hear about a young man with Autism who has particularly complex behaviour and often chooses to isolate himself as he finds it difficult to be around others. The staff team have supported him to go wheelchair ice skating and to the cinema which for him are major achievements. To top it off, he is being supported to attend football matches at Brighton and Hove Albion along with 30,000 other supporters.

A group of older men live at our Shardeloes service in Ashtead and I was very impressed to see the system that the home manager has developed for both ensuring people living there are offered choices around the food they would like to eat, using accessible tools and the way in which that is recorded as evidence for CQC and Local Authorities. I was also impressed to see one of the people living there being supported to make choices about how he spends his day using their very comprehensive activity picture board.

I am planning to introduce a video blog for staff each month so that I can share what is happening in CMG and hopefully continue to improve communication. We filmed the first one today and I am very keen to have feedback from the staff to understand what they think and what they would be most interested to hear about.


Frustrations with sloppiness in care, key categories of complaints and reducing hospital admissions

16th June 2015 3 Comments

I had a busy first week back from holiday last week including visiting 12 services. I also received two more CQC reports, one for our Birdhouse Rise and one for our Beulah Road services, both in Croydon. These services were rated as ‘good’ in all 5 areas and ‘good’ overall, and the description of services provided was ‘excellent’. Congratulations to the staff team at both services. It just shows how high a bar we now have to reach to gain an ‘outstanding’ rated service.

On a less positive note, I received complaints about quality of care of one of the people we support, from their family. I went to the family’s home on Friday evening to discuss their concerns which I’m sure we can put right very quickly. One of my frustrations with the care sector is a sloppiness and lack of attention to detail that sometimes creeps in. We put a strong emphasis on attention to detail in our training with staff, but still sometimes, they don’t get things right. The analogy I use is that you wouldn’t send poorly prepared, half cold food out in a restaurant, otherwise you would soon go out of business, so why should it be any different in care?

Because we have an increasing number of active parents involved in the people we support, we created the post of Relative Liaison Officer about a year and half ago to make sure that we had effective communication with them and that any concerns families had are acted on quickly and responsively. I’ve asked our Relative Liaison Officer to be in fortnightly contact with the family I saw on Friday evening to make sure every one of their issues is addressed. Rather depressingly, concerns from families tend to fall into the same half a dozen themes and my meeting on Friday was no different: activities, food, clothing (including lost and damaged in the wash), health or health appointments and always communication. For any CMG staff and managers reading this blog, I would urge you to pay attention to these issues and above all communication, because if that is working well, all the other issues can get addressed quite easily.

I found out last week that there is a working group within the Winterbourne View programme structure, whose remit is to develop new staff service models for community based services that will be an alternative to hospital care. It sounds like a sensible initiative however when I looked at the lengthy list of attendees, I didn’t see any providers with expertise in actually running those types of services. The list was mainly NHS, Local Authority and Department of Health figures. With all respect to them, they don’t run residential and supported living services for people with complex needs and challenging behaviour. Doing that well is a very different ball-game to running hospital services. This is an issue I will be raising with NHS England.

I do think one of the keys to ensuring we stop the continued high level of admissions of people into assessment and treatment units is to provide appropriate community based alternatives, including crisis support. CMG has a very good crisis team and we are offering that service, initially to London Boroughs, to see if we can be of any help in trying to stop inappropriate hospital admissions. I am also very keen to see if we can develop this type of service either working in partnership with other providers or with local specialist learning disability services run by the NHS. Crisis Response Team


Employee of the month, staff reps and two more good inspections

9th June 2015  Add comments

I’m now back from leave and straight into another busy week.  Whilst I was away,  we announced the winners of our newly re-launched Employee of the Month scheme.  Rachael Dodgson, our Operations Director was one member of the judging panel along with Alex Starley who lives at our Charmandean service.  Rachael tells me that she was really impressed with the nominations and quality of work that our employees are achieving and with over 25 nominations, judging was really hard but I would like to add my own congratulations to the winners and all the nominees.

1st prize went to Support Worker Cesar Reyes who works at our Carlton Avenue service.  I will be presenting him with £100 of vouchers.  Aside from his dedication, passion and commitment to his role, Cesar hasn’t had a day off sick since he joined CMG 4 years ago. In 2nd place, Support Workers Lillian Ward and Cheryl Cootes win £50 for being really creative with re-decorating a sensory area at our Meeson’s Lodge service.  And in 3rd place, Richard Hussey, who managers our payroll at Head Office for his consistent concern about the welfare of our staff.

As I’ve said in previous blogs, valuing our staff and recognising good practice at CMG is of real importance to us.  It was also one of the key subjects raised at last year’s Driving Up Quality self assessment day as well as our recent Family Conference so we have put in place a number of initiatives to ensure that we do this better.

Employee-of-the-MonthAnother one of these initiatives is our staff representatives’ scheme.  We now have a staff representative in each of our services and Sarah Evans, our HR and Learning and Development Manager and I, meet with them every 3 months in each region. I am always impressed by their positive attitude and good ideas and we are currently implementing some of their ideas.

I’d also like to say well done to staff in Beaulah Road and Birdhouse Rise whose CQC inspection reports were issued last week.  Both services achieved ‘good’ in all areas.

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Acquisition of Farisean, our 2nd CQC outstanding rating and DUQ self assessment day

2nd June 2015 4 Comments

This will be a short blog this week as I am on leave, but I wanted to share two excellent pieces of news. Firstly, CMG has acquired the ownership of Farisean, a Surrey based learning disability provider with 12 supported living services in Surrey and Croydon. Like CMG, Farisean specialises in the care and support of adults with autism spectrum conditions, challenging behaviours, mental health and physical disabilities and its services include supported living, outreach and domiciliary home care. I have already met with all of the staff, and although there are slight differences in their culture to our own, they clearly have a similar service provision to CMG, and are excellent at responding to the needs of individuals in a person centred and creative way. We are busy integrating them into CMG and we very much look forward to continuing their positive work and welcoming the individuals they support, their relatives and staff into the CMG family.

Kings Road - CQC outstandingThe second piece of good news is that CMG achieved its second CQC outstanding rating. Our Kings Road residential service in Hampshire became the second of our services to have been rated Outstanding by CQC since the regulator changed its system of inspection. CMG Kings Road is a residential service which specialises in supporting individuals with Autism Spectrum conditions and challenging behaviour and was recognised by the CQC for its work in putting its six tenants at the heart of everything it does and empowering them to live independent lives. The manager of the service, Sophie Hare and her staff team, do an excellent job and I am delighted by their achievements and those of the people they support. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the national average for achieving an outstanding rating is one percent of services, so we are really pleased that we are now ahead of that average. We recently undertook our own quality audit of services using our ‘CMG CQC readiness audit tool’ and as a result, we are hoping that an additional three of our services will be rated outstanding in the near future, which will put us well ahead of the national average.

We are busy preparing for our second Driving Up Quality Self Assessment day which takes place on 30th June at Imber Court Sports and Social Club in Surrey. I firmly believe that our event last year was one of the best in the sector and was a really creative and fun way to allow people to give feedback in an open and honest way. This year, we are going to be equally creative and have once again invited people we support, staff, family members and external professionals to the event. As well as gaining their feedback, we will also report on the progress we have made since last year’s event, in tackling the action points raised. I am committed to ensuring that we are on a road to continuous improvements and the feedback we receive is crucial in ensuring this happens. If you are interested in attending this event, please contact our Marketing and Events Manager:


New Regional Manager for Wales, concerns about staff turnover and new Crisis Team

27th May 2015  Add comments

I only managed to visit seven services last week, so missed my target, although I was on leave for one day. I was in Wales on Thursday interviewing candidates for a new Regional Manager post that we have created to support the growing number of services we have in South Wales. I was extremely impressed with Jaymylee Colyer, currently the manager of our excellent Rogerstone House service. She did an outstanding interview and was appointed. It’s always great to ‘grown our own’.

One of my concerns at the moment is staff turnover levels in some of our services. I had an interesting conversation with some of our staff when I went to visit a service in Merton which has a particularly stable staff team and a low level of turnover. The staff told me that the reason turnover rates were so low is that the manager and deputy include them in decision making and that they also have an open culture where the management team actively share information with their staff.

This is clearly recognised good management practice which we are actively promoting through our Advanced Leadership Programme which we launched recently. The challenge for me is how we can help managers identify whether their style is helping or hindering staff retention.

I know all the managers in CMG personally and they are generally a great bunch of hard working and motivated people. However some of them may think that management involves telling people what to do and the key is helping them to learn that good management involves listening and sharing as much as instructing.

I know a number of CMG managers read my blog. I hope they can reflect on their management style and to ask themselves whether they are, I’m sure unintentionally, behaving in a way which their teams may perceive as slightly dictatorial rather than involving.

CrisisWe are keen to play our part in developing effective community based services in line with the Winterbourne View programme. I don’t see a huge amount of progress nationally in commissioning really good alternatives to hospital care and it is something I feel passionate about, having spent a large part of my career being involved in closing some pretty dreadful institutional long stay hospitals. In order to try and move things along, CMG is going to be marketing its Crisis Team as a resource that will be available to Local Authorities who want to buy skilled staff support in order to help people in a crisis and avoid unnecessary hospital admission. To begin with, we will be offering this service in the London area. I have no idea whether there will be any take up, but as a national provider with expertise in supporting people who can present with significant challenges, I do think we should try and take a lead in this area.

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A fantastic evening of celebration and achievements

19th May 2015 1 Comments

This week was all about our Awards ceremony for the people we support. We held this event on Friday evening at Imber Court Sports and Social Club in East Molesey, Surrey and it was attended by 140 people we support, families and staff.

It is definitely CMG at its best and is the reason we all work in social care. A fantastic evening of celebration and achievement, tears of joy and laughter (I’m told even the manager of the venue, who watched the awards being handed out, was choking back the tears).

We have 12 categories and a first, second and third winner in each of the categories.

Best Achievement in Paid Employment

Best Achievement in Voluntary Employment

Best Achievement in Education

Best Achievement in ASDAN

Best Achievement in Sports and Leisure

Best Achievement in Performing Arts

Most Inspirational Individual

Most Inspirational Group

Most Inspiring Positive Risk Taking

Most Inspiring Health Outcomes

Excellence in Advocacy and Rights Promotion

Excellence in promoting Social Inclusion

My thanks to families who have given us such great feedback from the evening, but I would like to share one in particular as I think it sums up the evening perfectly. This is an email I received from Roger Garside, the father of one of our award winners:

“Many thanks for inviting me to the Awards Ceremony. We have all heard the word “inspirational” misused by other organisations, but its use was truly justified on this occasion. To be frank I came with misgivings about sitting through a ceremony that was scheduled to last one and a half hours, but it proved to be not a moment too long. The range of achievements was wonderful, the happiness and unity of spirit would have shamed many other organisations, and the combination of spontaneous delight and noisy eruptions of support was exhilarating.

The whole was a tribute to CMG, and to all who helped the winners of the awards to their achievements. It was the proudest day in Rebecca’s life. I wish every family and carer could experience one of these ceremonies.”

And in the words of our Chairman, Sir William Wells who presented the awards; “last night was a huge success! It was both very rewarding and moving – the achievements were considerable and my respect and thanks goes to both service users and staff alike.”

Here are just a selection of the reasons why people we support won awards:

Best achievement in Sport and leisure – Second place

“MB goes round to elderly care homes and raises awareness of the benefits of exercise, health and religion. He has introduced new activities as well as conducting cooking classes. This is all from the qualifications he gained through CMG’s Tottenham Hotspurs partnership.”  (Home Manager)

Best achievement in promoting social inclusion – First place

“When CJ started going to the Church of Rock he became instantly accepted by other music goers. I started seeing him on Facebook being cool and trendy with non-disabled young people and am blown away by how many non-family friends he has! Just when you think that isn’t inclusive enough, he is now Djing at the venue!”  (Carl’s mum)

Most outstanding individual – First place

“Over the last 4 years, WB has achieved so much. Despite being registered blind, he has a part time job, a voluntary job and is a quality checker. He is a popular figure in the community and when you are having a bad day, spending time with WB completely brightens it up. He constantly amazes me with the things he achieves and his zest for life.” (Home Manager).

Award winner MB Award winner Wilson, his mum and Rachael Dodgson











Congratulations to all those people who won awards, all those who got nominated and our staff who do such a fantastic job on a daily basis helping the people we support achieve their goals.


Exploring the knowledge of the Chief Executive community, visibility of senior managers in social care and our Advanced Leadership programme breaking new ground.

12th May 2015  Add comments

I visited 10 services last week and was very pleased to see the level of activity encouraging the people we support to vote in the general election. We had over 88 people we support register a vote.

One of the services I visited has recently come over to us following a successful tender. There are some aspects of the culture which we would like to change and I was very pleased with the positive feedback from both the team and the manager about how well supported they feel by CMG and their openness to change their ways of working. In most cases when we win a tender, we usually inherit services with quality concerns where we need to make changes and where front line staff say they never saw senior managers, including their Chief Executive. As you know, I have a passion for visibility of senior managers in services and CMG has a reputation for doing this well. I do think there needs to be more encouragement in the sector, for senior managers to regularly visit services. Perhaps CQC should look at ‘well-led’ at an organisational level, rather than individual services. For the last seven years, I have been the responsible individual with CQC, CSSIW and Ofsted. This means that I am legally responsible for the care and support of all the people in receipt of services registered by those regulators. Never in that time have I been asked how often I visit services, or what steps I take to ensure that I am monitoring the wellbeing of vulnerable people. I do think this is an area which could be improved.

I was really pleased to hear from one of our Local Authority Commissioners last week that they regularly read my blog. A big hello to them and any to other Commissioners that read it. I think that it is important that we have a better dialogue between commissioners and providers as the relationship is too often tainted by mistrust. I regularly meet up with my fellow Chief Executives of the main learning disability provider organisations across England. They are an impressive group of people, very experienced, able, with good values and a can-do attitude. They are an asset to this country which, currently, the social care system does not exploit because commissioners lead the system and providers are more passive recipients. Yet the Chief Executive community generally has more experience than the commissioners who are commissioning their services. Whilst we have the Care Act and the Winterbourne View programme, I don’t think there is a clear overarching framework for learning disability services and I see on the ground considerable variation from one authority to another. Provider Chief Executives could make a real contribution here, given both their knowledge of a range of different authorities in which they work and their extensive experience in the sector.

CMG is always hot on keeping agency staff usage to a minimum. We monitor it on a weekly basis and it is usually below 1% of our staffing expenditure. We have seen a peak in April and it looks like that will continue in May. There is some specific one off reasons for this, but we are also having more difficulty recruiting in a couple of geographical areas. I hope this doesn’t become a trend as the economy picks up. We only want to recruit people with the right values.

Our social inclusion campaign continues and I continue to send an email each week to everyone across CMG celebrating good practice. Last week I congratulated the team at 29 Bushey Hall Road who have supported a man with Autism to get a job at his local chip shop distributed leaflets. This man has quite a severe disability and other teams could perhaps have decided that he would not be able to work. It is a credit to this staff team that they looked beyond his disability.

We piloted last week, our new Advanced Leadership programme for Registered Managers. We already have a very effective Home Manager development programme, but we wanted to develop a programme that took our first line managers to the next level, equipping them with the skills to lead services that will achieve an outstanding CQC rating. A lot of effort went into planning the programme which took place over two days in a residential setting. We used a range of creative ways of helping managers identify the key competencies they require and assessing themselves against those competencies. This included role play involving professional actors and outdoor activities where their teamwork skills were tested. One particularly fun activity involved teams of three people assembling a cake in which the person doing the assembling was blindfolded and one of their colleagues gave them verbal instructions. This was a very effective way of learning the importance of clear communication. The programme was extremely successful and we had very positive feedback from attendees and I genuinely believe we are breaking new ground here in the social care sector. Skills For Care are very interested in the programme and will be coming along to observe it later in the year

ALP cake making

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