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.