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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CQC readiness tool, beating the national average and lack of suitable housing for people with learning disabilities

6th May 2015  Add comments

I managed to visit 23 services last week and saw a number of examples of good practice. I was particularly impressed with the work the team are doing at 289 Dyke Road in Brighton, helping the people they support to understand their right to vote and the different electoral choices. In the lounge, there are accessible posters explaining in simple terms, the policies of the main parties. Attached to each poster is a coloured balloon which helps the people living in the service distinguish between each party eg. Tories (blue balloon). Overall there has been a lot of activity across CMG encouraging people to vote, which is excellent.

On a slightly less positive note, I have seen an increase in garden weeds and would encourage all of the people we support and their staff to do weeding regularly as first impressions are important and we don’t want weeds to be the first thing people see when they visit a CMG service.

cqc logoWe have completed our internal quality ratings process in England and will be finalising this shortly in Wales too. I mentioned in an earlier blog that we have developed an extremely comprehensive ‘CQC readiness audit tool’ which looks in detail at the extent to which individual services meet the standards required by CQC in the five areas of: well led, safe, effective, caring and responsive. As you know, we now have Rachael Dodgson’s expertise as former Head of Policy at CQC to enable us to make sure we are rating our services in the same way as CQC. The vast majority of CMG services have come out as ‘good’, there are a very small number ‘requiring improvement’ and we have identified four, which we believe would get an ‘outstanding’ rating if they were inspected by CQC. (This is in addition to our Ridgeway service which already has an outstanding rating). Given that the national average is for one per cent of services to achieve an outstanding rating, we are potentially doing five times better than this, given the number of services we have. My hope is that we can raise the number of outstanding rated services in CMG to ten over the next year or so.

There would appear to be a lack of suitable housing for people with learning disabilities, which seems to make sense to me, given the significant reduction in government capital available for housing association accommodation which has provided a large portion of supported living accommodation in the last decade or so. We work with our housing association partners to identify potential property that provides suitable accommodation and it has been interesting and rather frustrating to encounter some obstacles working with Local Authority colleagues. I had a situation recently where a housing association has been proposing to develop a block of one bedroom flats for people with learning disabilities with us as a potential support provider and I’ve had the most enormous difficulty trying to speak to anybody in the Local Authority to see if they are interested in this new scheme. I have left numerous messages and no one has got back to me. Given the current climate, I would have thought, commissioners would be very keen to seize an opportunity to develop much needed services in their area.

Additionally we recently found a large detached property for rental which would have been ideal for young people in transition. However, on approaching the relevant Local Authority I was advised that their Framework Agreements (the contract terms under which ‘call offs’ are made) are based on providers bidding to support individuals rather than an entire service. Whilst in principle that is a good idea and reflects a person centred approach, in reality it could involve several different providers providing support to a group of individuals sharing one house. This is therefore a big disincentive for support providers to find accommodation.

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Encouraging the people we support to vote, family forum and piloting a new advisory service

28th April 2015  Add comments

I visited twelve services last week and was very impressed with the activity that is going on helping the people we support, understand their right to vote and using accessible information to help them understand the choices that they face. As you probably know, the vast majority of people with learning disabilities don’t exercise their right to vote and we are working hard in CMG to help people understand that right.

I have mentioned in previous blogs about the staff representative meetings that we have set up recently as one of the actions from our Driving Up Quality day last year, when it was identified that there is scope for us to improve communication with staff. These meetings work really well and, with hindsight, we should have set them up years ago. One of the topics we talked about was pay and we are at that point in the year where we see whether we are in a position to give our staff an annual pay rise. We managed to do that in 2012 and 2013 and last year we gave staff a 2% pay bonus just before Christmas. This is in a climate where most Local Authorities have not given us any fee increase for at least 4 years. We are still chasing up most of our Local Authority commissioners for a decision about this year’s inflationary increase and meanwhile we have had increased activity from Care Managers reviewing poor packages that they purchased to see whether they can reduce them. I do hope we will be in a position to give staff a pay increase because they really deserve it, but these continue to be very challenging financial times for the sector.

We met with members of our family forum last week. They are relatives who help us look at how we can make CMG a more family friendly provider. It was following one of their suggestions that I started doing this blog. They also helped us plan our very successful family conference in March which we will make a regular annual event. Helen Woods became our Relative Liaison Officer just over a year ago and an important part of her role is helping to improve communication with families, including being a channel of communication if any families have concerns about the care of their son or daughter. One of the things Helen also does is to send out information packs to any new family members whose next of kin join CMG. I would be keen to hear from relatives if there is anything else you would like to see us to do to make CMG a more family friendly organisation.

advisory-serviceOne of the other things we discussed in this meeting was the difficulty which parents of young people in transition face trying to understand and navigate a very complicated system. We are going to try piloting providing an advice and support service in which families can receive either telephone or face to face advice about how to navigate the transition system. We are going to pilot this amongst special schools and colleges in Surrey. I have no idea whether this will be successful but I do think as a national provider we have a duty to help families during this difficult time.

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A sad week for CMG, ‘growing our own’ and a good approach from Redbridge

22nd April 2015  Add comments

It has been a very sad week for CMG. We lost three of the people we support over the weekend. Though people we support do of course die from time to time, we have never lost three people within the space of 2 days before. All of them died in hospital, with the staff teams supporting them, and demonstrating a huge level of commitment being with them at the end of their lives. CMG’s Board has asked me to pass on its condolences to families, people we support who knew them well and our staff.

I visited 15 services last week and went to the New Forest to see how the new services that have recently joined CMG are bedding in. That process is going well and staff seem to be happy and comfortable with us as their new managers. Whenever we take over a service, we put a lot of time and effort into helping the staff adjust, reassuring them and dealing with the inevitable rumours that people hear.

We are continuing to receive inspection reports from CQC and overall, since the new CQC inspection system started, we have had one outstanding rating and 10 good ratings. These services and their ratings will be outlined in our family newsletter, CMG Times, which is being published next week. I also received an inspection report from one of our Welsh services this week. They are inspected by CSSIW and have a different system to England. The report was very positive with no requirements.

We have a Regional Director vacancy and held interviews for the post last week. We appointed Jayne Dakic to the role who is a very good CMG Home Manager. I am always delighted when we ‘grow our own’. One of the things we try and do in CMG is encourage people to make a career with us rather than just having a job. We are good at internal promotion and over half of our Regional Directors, and a similar proportion of our Home Managers have been promoted internally.

I would like to congratulate Redbridge Council on the approach they have taken to selecting providers for inclusion on their supported living framework. Aine Ni Chonchuir, our Assessment and Referral Manager, and I, were interviewed by Redbridge on Tuesday for inclusion on their Framework. We should know the result in a couple of weeks’ time. We were interviewed by two people with learning disabilities who had prepared their own questions, some of which were pretty tough, and they were clearly in the driving seat, though two staff from Redbridge were there to support them. Aine and I thought it was great that people we support are genuinely making important decisions about what happens in their borough.

We had mixed news on the tender front, winning three in Croydon, Hampshire and Newport, then hearing in the last couple of weeks that we were unsuccessful with another two. I’ve vented my spleen previously on the vagaries of the tendering process and find it a frustrating process.

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Rumour busting, safeguarding case and continued frustrations with the tender process

14th April 2015 5 Comments

I visited 10 services last week and was particularly pleased when I visited Ty Nant, a supported living service for people with a diagnosis of autism in Newport, where we won a tender recently and took over the service, to hear from the staff how positive they were about CMG and how impressed they’ve been by our professionalism.   They still had a few anxieties about the change which we are going to address at their induction this week. We have learned when taking over services that staff imagine we are going to do all sorts of dreadful things to them and the rumour mill starts. We have found it very helpful to have a ‘rumour busting’ session at the start of each induction, to get all the rumours out on the table and then put them to bed.

I was also very impressed when I visited our Chetwynd Road service in Portsmouth where there was a great deal of activity promoting social inclusion. This includes a young man who has been supported to have a voluntary job at the local library he really enjoys. They are also actively involving people in a whole range of sports activities.

On a less positive note, I attended a safeguarding meeting where the parents of a young man we support were very concerned that they visited his home and found that he didn’t have a member of staff supporting him. Their son is allocated a 1:1 staff member at all times and a second staff member to enable him to access the community. The young man was asleep and the member of staff had only left him for a minute to go and get a colleague to help her, but it was still not acceptable for this to happen. We have a Safeguarding Board at CMG with an independent Chair, Roy Taylor, CBE, former Director of Kingston Social Services. At our Safeguarding Board, we review every case, to ensure each one is being managed appropriately and to identify any lessons to be learnt. We discussed this particular case last week and have issued guidance to staff across the organisation that they should never leave a person we support unsupervised if they are allocated 1:1 staffing.

Another challenge we are facing is recruiting good registered managers and middle managers for our domiciliary care division. It does appear to be particularly difficult to recruit high performing managers in this sector. We started an active recruitment drive last week and if anybody knows any good managers in the domiciliary care sector, please point them in our direction.

We found out last week that we were unsuccessful in a tender that we recently submitted. Having won three recently, it is to be expected that we will have some failures. However, we did think some of the marking was rather harsh. When we reviewed our answers, with similar content, against answers that we had used in a successful tender in an adjacent authority, we found that we had been given lower scores. As I’ve said before in previous blogs, this does highlight to me that the whole tender process is something of a game, which tests your essay writing skills and your ability to tick boxes, rather than your ability to actually deliver good quality services.


New services in CMG family and our annual programme of events

8th April 2015  Add comments

I visited 12 services last week mainly trying to get around new services that have recently joined CMG. As well as acquiring two small companies, Heathdene in Abergavenny, South Wales and the Glyn Group in the New Forest, we have been successful in winning 3 tenders to take over services from existing providers. Those services are in Croydon, Basingstoke and Newport in South Wales. We held inductions for the Glyn Group and Basingstoke staff last week to explain to them how CMG works and our ethos and values. We always work very hard to make new services feel welcome and part of the CMG family.

At CMG, we have a very active programme of company-wide events that are aimed at promoting wellbeing, bringing people together and having fun. Please see below for our events programme for the remainder of this year.

Awards Ceremony – 15th May 2015

Venue:                         Imber Court, East Molesey, Surrey

Who can attend:           By invite only for all award winners and associated family members

Driving Up Quality self assessment day – 30th June 2015

Venue:                            Imber Court, East Molesey, Surrey

Who can attend:           By invite to all staff, people we support and family

Conference/Talent Show – 16th July 2015

Venue:                            CMG Lilliputs service, Essex

Who can attend:           All staff and people we support

Supportive Therapies Day – 23rd July 2015

Venue:                            CMG Lilliputs service – Essex

Who can attend:            All people we support, staff and families

Athletics Championship – 25th August 2015

Venue:                             David Weir Leisure Centre, Sutton

Who can attend:            All people we support, staff and families

Celebrating Culture Day -15th October 2015

Venue:                             Fairfield Halls, Croydon

Who can attend:            All people we support, staff and families

Staff Awards – 19th November 2015

Venue:                            Copthorne Tara Hotel, Kensington, London

Who can attend:           By invite only for all staff award winners


If you would like further information on any of these events please contact Sue Pym Marketing and Events Manager





I would also like to make a correction to last week’s blog. In order to gain a CQC outstanding rating, a service needs to gain an ‘outstanding’ result in 2 areas and a ‘good’ result in 3 areas (not 5 areas as I previously stated).


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Welcoming new services, CQC inspections and judging at The National Learning Disability Awards

2nd April 2015  Add comments

My blog is going to be shorter this week because I had two days annual leave last week. As a result, I was only able to get round and visit seven of our services. I popped into our Chandon service in Ashtead and was very pleased with the efforts that the staff team had gone to, to help one of the people living there have a fabulous birthday party. It was well attended, including by her advocate.

Last week was busy preparing for taking over services in different parts of the country following CMG’s successful winning of various tenders. We took over providing supported living services in three sets of accommodation for people in the Basingstoke area on Monday, took over the provision of supported living services for two groups of people living in Croydon on Tuesday and took over the provision of specialist support for people with a diagnosis of autism in a supported living service in Newport in South Wales.  We would very much like to welcome both the people we support and their staff in joining the CMG family. As well as introducing ourselves to people we support and their families, we have arranged inductions for staff transferring to us so that we can explain about who CMG is and our ethos and values.

A big congratulations to the staff team of our Albion Road service in Sutton which received a good overall rating in their recent CQC inspection. They were rated good on each of the five areas that CQC now look at, well led, safe, effective, caring and responsive. CQC has been inspecting using their new approach since October, so some of our services were inspected in their pilot phase during last summer. So far, ten of our services have been inspected, with nine rated good and one, The Ridgeway as outstanding. Our Kings Road service in Hampshire came very close to getting an outstanding rating; you have to get outstanding on two areas and good on five to get an overall outstanding rating. Kings Road had one outstanding and four good. At our recent family conference, Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector with CQC, told us that only about 1% of services inspected so far have received an outstanding rating. We hope to get significantly more than one in CMG.


I was delighted to be invited to act as a judge for the National Learning Disability Awards and went to the spectacular Edgbaston Stadium last Thursday to be a category judge for the trainer award. There were eight nominees and both I and my fellow judge were very impressed with the calibre of the entrants. CMG was shortlisted for two awards (Newcomer Award and Sporting Chance Award) and my colleagues were also there being interviewed.



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