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.

  Add comments

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.

  Add comments

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 sue.pym@cmg.co.uk.





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).


  Add comments

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.



  Add comments

Visiting services, disappointing CQC outcome and judging awards for the people we support

25th March 2015  Add comments

I had a busy week last week and only managed to visit 6 services. This included two of the 15 services in Abergavenny that have recently joined CMG. I would very much like to welcome the people we support, their staff and families to the CMG family. I would also like to welcome the people we support, staff and families of the Glyn group in the New Forest who also joined us recently.

On my visits to services last week, I was particularly impressed when visiting our Willesden Lane support living service in Brent to see information about the sensory stories which staff have been using with the people we support. These can be really effective in providing interesting and stimulating activities for people with the most profound level of disability. I met some relatively new staff in the service and was very impressed by their enthusiasm and commitment.

We received one of the new style CQC reports last week. The service concerned was rated overall as good but was found to require improvement on one area, effectively, mainly because there was evidence that the people being supported didn’t always have a healthy and balanced diet. This is a concern which we are addressing straight away and we will also be sharing lessons to be learnt with other services across CMG. It was a frustrating finding given how much emphasis we place on supporting people to eat healthily. We cover healthy eating in our training and also developed an accessible “healthy lifestyles pack” which we distributed to all CMG services. So far, we have received 10 of the new style inspection reports, 9 services are rated as good and one is outstanding. I am keen to increase the number of outstanding rated services which CMG has, but I don’t underestimate the challenge. At our family conference on the 14th March, Andrea Sutcliffe, chief inspector with CQC, told us that out of around 1,500 services inspected so far across England, only 18 have been rated outstanding.

I continued to receive some very positive emails from family members last week saying how much they enjoyed our family conference. We will definitely make it a regular occurrence.

Carl Johnson - 1st Place (joint) Most Inspirational Service User 2014We had the judging for our Service User Awards take place this week. We had over 100 entries in 12 categories and some incredibly inspiring stories, so there were some really hard choices to make.   Thanks to our Service User MP’s who helped the panel with their decision making. All winners will be notified shortly and invited, with family members, to our Awards Ceremony which will be taking place on 15th May 2015.

  Add comments

Success at our Family Conference, impressive audit by Regional Director, and finding creative ways for Local Authorities to engage with providers

18th March 2015  Add comments

We had our first ever CMG Family Conference on Saturday and I was delighted that it was so well attended and went so well. We had around 80 family members attending and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. People said that they found it very informative and appreciated the opportunity to meet other relatives of people we support. The idea of the conference came from our Driving Up Quality Code self assessment day last year when we identified that there was scope to improve the way we communicate with families. We worked with a number of family members who kindly gave up their time to help us plan the format for the conference. We had two excellent keynote speakers; Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector for Adult Social Care for CQC and Viv Cooper, Chief Executive of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation.

Andrea SutcliffeViv Cooper










We also held the four following workshops:

Positive Behaviour Support – promoting positive coping skills and reducing challenging behaviour

Best practice in supporting people on the autistic spectrum

Transparency and quality in CMG – How do you really know what is going on?

The Mental Capacity Act and DoLS (Deprevation of Liberty Safeguards) – challenges and changes

I visited 10 services this week and was particularly impressed with two things; the excellent implementation of person centred support at 5 Fengates in Reigate, Surrey where I observed the people living there being actively involved in a wide range of domestic activities including cooking and cleaning. I was also very impressed when I visited a service in Sutton to meet the Regional Director who has been there since 7 o’clock in the morning and was carrying out an incredibly thorough quality audit. It is this sort of attention to detail that really makes a difference in ensuring our services are of high quality.

I also went to a ‘market warning’ event with a Local Authority. The purpose of the event was to warm up local provider markets that this Local Authority is about to carry out a re-tendering exercise and what objectives they are trying to meet. I go to events like this reasonably regularly and they usually involve Local Authorities giving a presentation followed by some questions and answers. The one I went to this week followed that format and it made me think that perhaps Local Authorities are missing a trick in not finding more creative ways to really engage and have conversations with their providers. In my opinion the split between commissioners and providers has created an element of suspicion and mistrust from both parties when really what we need to be doing is working together to help vulnerable people have the best possible quality of life.

  Add comments

Standards slipping, new government green paper and shortlisted finalists in National LD Awards

10th March 2015  Add comments

I managed to visit 18 services last week including 11 in Wales. I visited a couple of services where I noticed that standards had started to slip. To me that shows the importance of constant vigilance; it doesn’t take long for standards to drop even in services that you think are well managed. Whilst quality assurance systems are important, I don’t think you can beat walking around services and seeing for yourself what the atmosphere and quality is like. We are taking action to address the concerns that I had. They were relatively minor but indicated to me that the service was moving backwards rather than heading in the right direction.

On a more positive note, I was very pleased to see the great deal of person centred active support in evidence in our Welsh services. This includes service users being supported to do their own ironing and one person very rigorously and enthusiastically cleaning their own bathroom without any visible prompting from staff at all.

The new government green paper was issued for consultation last Friday on strengthening rights and choices for people to live in the community. I would encourage everyone to read and comment on it. I agree with the aspirations that it contains; my only concern is whether it will make a difference to people and their families on the ground. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/strengthening-rights-for-people-with-learning-disabilities

I was very pleased to hear that two of our staff in CMG have been shortlisted for the National Learning Disability Awards. Congratulations to Karen Macmarters, who has been shortlisted in ’The Newcomer Award’. Karen is a Support Worker at one of our services in Dorking and has hit the ground running since starting at CMG, despite having no previous experience. She soon learnt to understand the complex needs of the people she helps support and has demonstrated excellent person centred communication. Michael Fullerton, our Clinical Director has been shortlisted for ‘Karina Bryant with Cossima Paradine (centre) and Stephanie Nash (right)The Sporting Chance Award’. Aside from the excellent work that Michael does on a daily basis in his clinical and quality role, he is also a fantastic advocate of healthy lifestyles and ensuring as wide a range of sporting options are available to the people we support. Michael is the inspiration behind CMG’s highly successful Annual Athletics Championships and has also set up a number of sporting enterprises including a CMG Options Academy which sees instructors from Tottenham Hotspur Foundation coaching individuals from CMG.

Last year, Sarah Evans, CMG’s Head of Learning and Development, won ‘The Trainer Award’ so we wish the best of luck to both Karen and Michael this year.

  Add comments

Excellent work in our services, winning a tender and CMG’s annual programme of events

4th March 2015  Add comments

I visited 14 services last week and was particularly impressed when I went to our Tuscany service in Dorking. I got there early in the morning, just after a potentially difficult incident had been de-escalated by the staff on duty. I was impressed with their knowledgeable and calm attitude and the fact that they had successfully followed an individual’s positive behaviour support plan to the letter. I was also very impressed to see a pictorial menu board in the kitchen showing lots of tasty looking and healthy meals which the people living at Tuscany had been supported to choose. On a separate note, I was also very pleased to hear about the excellent work of our Chetwynd Road staff team in Portsmouth who supported one of their tenants to get back in touch with her son who she hadn’t seen for many years.

We heard this week that we were successful in winning a tender for two supported living services. This is the third tender that we have won in the last few months and we are having a busy time at the moment making the necessary preparations and planning the transfer of existing staff to become CMG employees. We have detailed communication plans in place to make sure the people we support, their families and staff find out about CMG and are encouraged to feel part of our organisation.

Family conference invite_Page_1

We have a busy programme of events throughout the year and this year could be the busiest so far, starting with our Family Conference on 14th March at Imber Court Sports and Social Club in East Molesey, Surrey. This conference is open to all families of people with learning disabilities and will include keynote presentations from Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive of Adult Social Care at CQC and Viv Cooper, Founder of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation.


Our 2015 events programme is as follows:

Family Conference – 14th March 2015

Service User Awards – 15th May 2015

Driving Up Quality Day – 30th June 2015

Service User Conference – 16th July 2015

Supportive Therapies Day – 23rd July 2015

Athletics Championship – 25th August 2015

Registered Managers’ Conference – 28th September 2015

Celebrating Culture Day -15th October 2015

Staff Awards – 19th November 2015

If you would like any information about these events, please contact our Marketing and Events Manager, Sue Pym.

  Add comments

Appointment of Rachael Dodgson, social inclusion and the expense of tenders in an age of austerity

26th February 2015 2 Comments

Rachel DodgsonRachael Dodgson joined us last week as Operations Director for England and has made a good start. I have already received positive feedback about her and I am sure she will fit into CMG very well. She has already made a useful contribution by helping us word a factual accuracy response to a draft CQC report which we received recently for one of our best services. The service received a good rating but we are hoping to get that changed to an outstanding one.

I visited ten services this week and was impressed with a number of the things that I saw. At our Rogerstone service in South Wales, I was really impressed by the huge commitment of the staff team to the people they support. The individuals living there have profound and complex autism and the staff team are incredibly tuned in to their needs and wishes and use a range of communication methods to help the individuals express their wishes. One of the people at Rogerstone has been poorly for quite a long time and the team has shown huge commitment in supporting him to get the right medical intervention. He is now back home and looking much better. I was also impressed when I visited 283 Dyke Road in Brighton to see a young man being supported to iron his own shirt. In CMG, we talk a lot about active support which is an approach where staff do things with the people they support, not for them. He was going out on a date and it was important that his shirt looked the part. I was also impressed that the tenants, with staff support, where planning to discuss the important topic of human rights at their forthcoming meeting. On a different note, I was also impressed by the manager of Brook Lane who actively invites different external speakers to attend her staff meetings to talk about a range of topics. This included, for example, their CQC Inspector. It is excellent that she is being so proactive in broadening the understanding and perspective of her staff team.

Our social inclusion campaign continues and services across CMG are regularly posting updates showing good practice and we have produced out first ‘Social Inclusion at CMG’ newsletter. I was very impressed with a proposal put forward by a person we support at Burlington Street in the Vale of Glamorgan, that she wanted to set up a social inclusion committee in the area involving other people supported by CMG to plan a range of activities and events.

We also spent time this week finalising another tender application. This one is actually a framework application but is called a tender which is very confusing. It was long and a particular challenge as some of the questions weren’t written very well. As you know, I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about tendering as it is a lengthy and tedious process which incurs a great deal of cost on the part of both Local Authorities and providers in what is supposed to be an ‘age of austerity’. I heard anecdotally this week that there have been problems in a particular Local Authority area where a major tendering exercise was carried out and a provider which isn’t known for high quality won a significant chunk of work. Apparently because of quality concerns, a number of families are choosing to move their sons and daughters to alternative providers. I think that says it all. Instead of being a test of an organisation’s essay writing skills, I really do think tendering should test a provider’s actual ability to provide a service. For example, we are never asked, things liked ‘what is your CQC compliance level’ (98%) or how many people have you successfully supported into paid employment (60).


Members of