Another great Annual Achievement Award Ceremony for the people we support!

27th April 2017  Add comments

I would like to dedicate this week’s blog to our Annual  Achievement Awards for the people we support, which took place last Friday evening.  I’m always so proud to attend all of CMG’s annual events as I think we do these so well and I know of no other provider that has an events calendar like CMGs.

This Award Ceremony is a particular favourite though as it is such a great celebration of achievements of the people we support.  The awards are treasured by those who receive them and often displayed proudly in an individual’s bedroom. Some services even have a special display cabinet to showcase all the awards they receive.  The awards give individuals a real sense of pride and in many cases increase their confidence to continue their achievements still further.

The Awards evening, which took place at Imber Court Sports and Social Club in East Molesey, starts with a 3 course meal and then we move on to announce the winners in each of the 12 categories.  Staff and family members of the finalists are also invited to attend the ceremony and join in the celebrations.

This year I was particularly struck by the really wide range of achievements that had been made.  I am also told that we had a particularly high number of nominations made in the education and employment categories which I was really pleased to hear as this has been a real focus for CMG.

For example, LM, who has learning difficulties and behavioural issues joined a mainstream college and has exceeded expectation. Now he attends the higher level maths class, joins in literacy, art, drama and dance.  When GC moved to CMG, she couldn’t read or write and was dyslexic. Staff acknowledged her desire to develop her skills and began to include reading and writing sessions in the shift.  As a result, GC’s reading, writing, and math skills have improved tremendously.  ST, who has Autism, does training for CMG and other organisations.  At the end of last year, ST presented to a conference of teaching professionals for 2 days in succession to approximately 350 people. He negotiated, and was paid a commercial rate for a speaker and was a great success.

Many individuals took to the microphone after receiving their awards and thanked CMG, staff at the service they lived in and often their family members for helping them accomplish their achievements.

It really was a great evening and my thanks to all those who attended.  Thanks also to every individual who was nominated for the Awards.  I’m told by the judging panel that there were so many worthy winners, that choosing a top 3 in some of the categories was incredibly difficult.

Here are just a couple of photos from the evening.


Achievement Awards
Achievement Awards for the people we support

Achievement Awards

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CMG becomes the only major learning disability provider in England to achieve four CQC ‘outstanding’ ratings!

20th April 2017  Add comments

Chetwynd Road in Portsmouth has become CMG’s fourth service to achieve an outstanding rating by  CQC.  It joins our Kings Road service in Hampshire, our Ridgeway service in Essex and our Avenue Road service in South Norwood.

We now have 95% of our services rated as either good or outstanding which is a great achievement.  Without doubt, this success is very much down to our excellent managers and staff teams who work so hard to ensure the people we support are cared for in an appropriate way and given every opportunity to achieve their goals.

Not only do these ratings put CMG well ahead of the national average but we are now also the only major learning disability provider in England to achieve four outstanding ratings.

Many congratulations to everyone at Chetwynd Road. By way of celebration I presented a hamper of goodies to them this week.

Lorraine Nash, manager at Chetwynd commented:

“Chetwynd had been going through a difficult time and lacked morale, but in a short time the team came together for the needs of the tenants. With some encouragement and valuing of each other, motivation was boosted.   The service is a large spirited house which requires organisation and routine. The team are very knowledgeable about the tenants which helps us to be responsive to their needs and make it a happy home.

One staff member suggested the morale has come from an enthusiastic management team who are happy to help in all aspects of the day.  I am very passionate about both staff and tenants and I am  fortunate to look forward to each day.”

CMG’s Welsh services are inspected by CSSIW. All CMG’s Welsh services currently have ‘no requirements’ for improvements.

I know that we have many CMG services who are working really hard to achieve an outstanding rating and I would like to thank them also.

CQC Outstanding
Chetwynd Road gets fourth CQC Outstanding



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Purple Day for Epilepsy and Employee of the Month

31st March 2017  Add comments

Purple Day is an annual day to raise awareness and raise money for Epilepsy. Many of our services support people with Epilepsy and many hold events on Purple Day.  This year it was on 26th March and I spent part of the day at Vallance Gardens in Hove. They did a fantastic job of organising an excellent Purple Day.  Service users wore purple and the house was decorated with purple balloons and drawings.  The deputy manager, Joan, had approached many local businesses and asked them to donate raffle prizes such as; restaurant meals, treatment vouchers and luxury soaps. She also asked many local shops to put up posters to further raise awareness.  Well done to the manager and all the team at Vallance who made this such a great day and to any other service that celebrated Purple Day.

Epilepsy is a complex neurological condition, and 1 in 5 people with epilepsy have a learning disability (20%).  Epilepsy is a tendency to have recurrent seizures that start in the brain.  Anyone can develop epilepsy, at any time of life and it happens in people of all ages, races and social classes. There are around 600,000 people with epilepsy in the UK, so around 1 in 100 people.  Most seizures happen suddenly without warning, last a short time (a few seconds or minutes) and stop by themselves and will present differently in each person.  It is often a lifelong condition, with frontline treatment being anti-epilepsy medicine and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

CMG currently support around 200 people with an epilepsy diagnosis, and benefit internally from specialist support and training from our learning disability nurse trainers and clinical nurse trainer who is qualified in the Post Graduate Cert in The Epilepsies.  They also facilitate CMG’s Epilepsy Special Interest Group.

I also visited Hawthorn Crescent this week to present Sherrie Durrant, a Support Worker, with a cheque for £100, as she was the winner in last month’s Employee of the Month competition.  This is such a great scheme and is an excellent way of recognising some of the fantastic work our staff do.  It is always such a pleasure presenting these awards in the service.  Don’t forget this scheme runs every month, and as of this year, we are also introducing a Team of the Quarter scheme. The winning team will receive a visit from me with a hamper of tasty goodies!

Purple Day - CMG
Purple Day for Epilepsy
Purple Day - CMG
Purple Day for Epilepsy
Purple Day - CMG
Purple Day for Epilepsy


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Focus on support for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities

24th March 2017  Add comments

I would like to focus this week’s blog on services for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD).  Quite rightly in the learning disability sector there is a strong focus on supporting people who present challenging behaviour and the importance of positive behaviour support.  However I am concerned that very little attention is given to the needs of people with PMLD and very little is talked about regarding best practice in this area.

We support a large number of people with PMLD in CMG and generally do it very well. Two people who are critical to our expertise in this area are Katie Reid from our Clinical Team and Erren Wheatland from our Learning and Development Team.  They both have huge expertise in supporting people with very complex health as well as learning disabilities.  I popped into the training session they were running this week on sensory stories.  There was a very positive atmosphere amongst the staff and it was a fun and very informative session.  Sensory stories are a really good way of engaging people with the most profound disabilities.

I carried out a social inclusion audit at Chandon in Ashtead this week, which is a supported living service, supporting 4 people with profound disabilities.  The audit scored very highly and the people living there had a really good quality of life with lots going on and a very person centred ethos.  I was particularly impressed that the manager, Kitty McAvoy, is looking to help one of the people who lives there to find employment. Kitty has been with CMG for 5 years and has worked her way up from a Support Worker.  I am hugely impressed with her dedication to the people that she supports.  I have known the individuals at Chandon for many years as they used to live at the Ethel Brady Close NHS campus which I was responsible for managing back in my NHS days.  The change in quality of life for those individuals since they moved to Chandon has been huge.

I was asked to attend a manager’s meeting this week because the managers in a particular region wanted to raise a concern that I hadn’t carried out social inclusion audits in their area or celebrated the good work that they do. Since then I have carried out 2 audits in that region and will be carrying out more.  If any CMG manager feels that they have an example of best practise in social inclusion that they would like to celebrate, please let me know and I will make sure that I visit in the near future.

CMG supports people with PMLD
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Making pledges Drives Up Quality with real evidence of improvements!

15th March 2017  Add comments

Making pledges Drives Up Quality

In this week’s blog I would like to focus on the Driving Up Quality (DUQ) initiative.  The government and leading organisations, like CMG, launched the DUQ Code in 2013 to set out 5 key standards for learning disability care.  These include things like ‘focusing support on the person’ and ‘supporting the individual to lead a meaningful life.’  The launch of the Code followed the atrocities and abuse that was discovered at Winterbourne View.

The purpose of the Code is for provider companies to ‘self assess’ their organisations against the 5 areas by gaining feedback from relevant stakeholders ie. people they support, families, staff, external professionals etc about how their company is performing.

I think CMG has organised some really creative ways of gathering this feedback.  In 2014 and 2015 we held company-wide self assessment days focusing more on points 4 and 5 of the Code around organisational culture.  Rather than simply ask people to fill out forms, CMG wanted attendees to give their views in an open and engaging manner, via a series of creative, accessible and fun workshops.  The feedback on what CMG could do better was then prioritised into key action points.

In 2016, we organised a series of ‘roadshows’ focusing on points 1-3 of the Code around supporting people to live meaningful lives. Members of CMG’s Clinical Team, Learning and Development Team and operational teams facilitated five ‘areas’ where attendees could get information, tools and ideas on five key themes identified as really important for the people we support.

These five areas are:

  1. Relationships
  2. Being out and about
  3. Being healthy
  4. Coping with emotions
  5. Employment

We then had a ‘pledge tree’ where individuals were asked to hang a ‘pledge’ of what they would like to achieve in one or more of the 5 areas.  We have had some fantastic achievements made as a result of these pledges.  For example: L pledged to lose weight and has since joined a slimming club and lost 3 stone!  A wanted to find a girlfriend and has since joined Heart Venture dating agency in Brighton.  N wanted to ensure she asked for help when she experienced painful emotions and now her keyworker uses pictorial cards to support her to express herself.



We are now planning our activity for 2017 and will be running another series of roadshows, this time assessing ourselves around our company values.

More information on the 2014, 2015 and 2016 events, feedback and action plans can be found in CMG’s DUQ Reports.

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After Dispatches; Stop locking vulnerable people up and sign the petition

2nd March 2017 1 Comments

I hope you all managed to watch the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary last night: Under Lock and Key?  It was a shocking and disturbing insight into the bad practice at St Andrews in Northamptonshire, one of England’s large specialist hospitals.  Indeed, I think this is scandal which regrettably will raise many of the same issues raised by the Winterbourne View documentary in 2011.  The learning disability sector is once again working together to raise awareness and seek change as a result of this documentary.

It is such common sense that the starting point should always be to treat every person as an individual to be nurtured, rather than as a problem to be contained. Clearly St Andrews solution to good care is exactly the latter.  Seclude, sedate and restrain ‘whether they liked it or not’ and effectively punish people for their Autistic behaviour.

This is in stark contrast to the absolutely brilliant and person centred, autism specific care the young people featured in the documentary are now receiving in Alderwood.  As Fauzia’s mum said; ‘it’s as different as night and day’.  I know Alderwood has received many calls and texts this morning from family members of people in their care to say how blessed and grateful they are that Alderwood is in charge of the care of their loved ones.  I am so proud of each and every member of the Alderwood staff team. You are doing an amazing job and what a great demonstration of the fantastic transformations you make to the lives of some of the most vulnerable and challenging people.

I am also pleased to say that Norman Lamb MP, who featured on the programme, will be hosting our STOMP (Stopping Over Medication of People with Learning Disabilities) event in June at The House of Commons, to launch our Best Practice Guide. Matthew’s mum and dad and Fauzia’s Aunt will also be speaking at the event.

I have dedicated my career to making care more personalised by closing long-stay institutions and moving people back to the community with bespoke care packages.  There is mounting evidence in favour of personalised care, and a move away from the type of institution featured in the programme. The £45 million investment in the facility featured in the documentary is money that could be far better spent on services that match the government’s stated policy of moving toward independent living in conjunction with bespoke support.

The Challenging Behaviour Foundation has launched a petition today to the CEO of NHS England, to stop sending people with a learning disability to large inpatient units. Please do sign and share.

Matthew - Alderwood
Dispatches Under Lock and Key
Fauzia - Alderwood
Under Lock and Key

Large scale institutions are not the answer

24th February 2017  Add comments

Large scale institutions are not the answer to good quality support

I visited 26 services this week including a number who have joined CMG in the last 6 months.  I was very pleased with the positive feedback I received from staff in those services about their experiences since joining the CMG family.

I was also very impressed with the quality of the daily diaries at Chetwynd Road in Portsmouth. They are extremely detailed and provide really good evidence of the support we are providing and the outcomes people we support are achieving.

I became aware recently that a Local Authority in England is planning to develop a block of over 40 supported living flats for people with learning disabilities.  This really concerns me as it would be a return to ghettoisation for disabled people and the development of an institutionalised service model.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve come across a Local Authority developing large scale supported living services in order to save money and deal with their cost pressures.  Whilst I appreciate Local Authorities do have cost pressures, there are different and more creative ways of finding savings rather than re-developing outdated service models which have a very poor track record.  Just because a service is called ‘supported living’ that doesn’t mean it is necessarily good quality.  An institution is an institution whatever it’s called.


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Working as a paid member of a rock band and reducing the need for ‘chemical restraint’

14th February 2017  Add comments

I visited 15 services last week and was particularly impressed by our 283 Dyke Road service in Hove. I carried out a social inclusion audit there and they scored top marks. Eight young people live at 283 and seven of them work in either paid or voluntary employment, including being a paid member of a rock band. They are all actively supported to participate in a range of clubs and sporting activities, including boxing and street dance and clubs for non-disabled people. They are also all supported to maintain relationships with their friends and family.

Social inclusion - CMG
Dyke Road doing great social inclusion

I don’t think I’ve mentioned STOMP before in my blog. It stands for: Stopping Over-Medication of People with Learning Disabilities. A shockingly high proportion of people with learning disabilities are prescribed excessive amounts of psychotropic medication. This is medication prescribed for treating mental illnesses which is often given to people with challenging behaviour to ‘chemically restrain’ them or sedate them . A lot of people who challenge and who are prescribed psychotropic medication do not have any diagnosed form of mental illness.

NHS England has launched new guidance about STOMP, which has been signed up to by the Royal Colleges of Nursing, Psychiatrists and GPs, as well as the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the British Psychological Society. Many learning disability providers are also supporting STOMP including CMG. We have a number of excellent examples in both CMG and Alderwood of people being supported to either come off psychotropic medication entirely or for their dosage to be substantially reduced.

Effective use of positive behaviour support is one of the most important ways of helping people come off medication, as is effective working with GP’s and psychiatrists. CMG is developing a good practice guide which includes information on how to help people come off excessive amounts of medication. We will be launching this guide at the House of Commons on the 13th June thanks to Norman Lamb MP who has kindly agreed to host the event. I would actively encourage everyone in CMG to look at the levels of medication that the people we support are receiving, particularly if it relates to their behaviour. If you would like any advice on how to safely help people reduce the level of medication they are on, please contact Michael Fullerton, our Quality and Clinical Director.


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Shift planning, CQC and supported living versus residential

6th February 2017  Add comments

I visited 18 services last week and was particularly impressed by Kings Road’s ‘fun fruit Friday’.  Every Friday they think of a fun activity to encourage the people they support to make and eat healthy snacks and desserts involving fresh fruit.  What a great idea!

Composition of various exotic fruits isolated on white background

At another service I got engaged in a discussion with staff about shift planning. It’s always seemed fairly obvious to me that shift planning, by definition, means planning at the start of the shift what’s going to happen as people go through their shift.  In this service, some of the staff thought shift planning involved recording afterwards what’s taken place.  Shift planning is a really important tool as it makes sure that the right staff are allocated to the right people we support and that they participate in meaningful activities.  I would be grateful if our managers could remind and re-enforce this point with our staff.

With a degree of trepidation, I am going to put my foot into the very controversial waters surrounding ‘registering the right support.’ This is a new initiative by CQC to try and make sure no new services are opened for people with learning disabilities which are large and institutionalised. Having spent a large part of my career closing dreadful old long stay hospitals, I feel very passionately that I don’t want to see any new institutions develop for people with learning disabilities. However, I am not sure I agree with CQC’s view that services should generally be for no more than 6 people. I have certainly seen larger services that can work very well for people.  For example, our Avenue Road supported living service, that was recently rating ‘outstanding’ by CQC supports 9 people each in their own studio flat. Sometimes, when we take over tenders from other providers supporting people in 3 person and smaller supported living services, they can feel quite lonely compared to some larger services which have a more buzzing atmosphere.  As non-disabled people, we all choose to live in a wide variety of different living situations and I don’t see why it should be different for people with learning disabilities.  In my experience, what matters most is the calibre of the registered manager and the values of the staff team.  However,  I do draw the line at larger services for people with very challenging behaviour.  Firstly services of that nature can easily become controlling and abusive with a punitive approach to responding to peoples’ behaviours. Secondly, people with very complex and challenging behaviour do require highly skilled and personalised interventions.

I am going to finish by reverting to a topic I’ve mentioned before; the downside of supported living which nobody apart from me seems to mention.  I am not anti supported living; in my time at CMG we have opened more than 30 supported living services. However I do feel frustrated by the simplistic attitude prevalent across our sector that residential care is bad and supported living is good. The quality of the manager and the staff team is far more important than the label over the door in determining the quality of life that people will experience. One of my concerns about supported living is the lack of inspection and oversight compared to residential care. For example, last week I visited a provider who has around 30 supported living services, all under one registered domiciliary care office. At their last inspection, the CQC inspector visited the registered office and only two of the services.  How can this be right?

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Supporting some of the most challenging and complex people in the country

27th January 2017  Add comments

I am going to focus this week’s blog on profiling Alderwood; the outstanding subsidiary of CMG which became part of our organisation just over a year ago.  I have visited Alderwood services regularly in the year since they have been part of CMG and I never fail to be massively impressed by the work that they do.  Alderwood support some of the most complex and challenging people with a diagnosis of Autism in the whole country and recently have been taking a number of people being discharged from hospital under the transforming care programme.

Whenever I visit Alderwood services, the staff are always hugely positive and motivated even if they have just experienced a very challenging incident and have been personally injured. The level of structure in place is quite exceptional; people have activity programmes broken down into every 15 minutes, which gives the people we support the security about what is happening in their lives that reduces the anxiety that can often lead to challenging behaviour.  Any time I visit an Alderwood service, the activity for the individual is happening exactly as planned and on time.  Alderwood also use a great deal of visual communication methods which work really well with many people with Autism and they have their own studio that designs bespoke visual tools for each person.

In CMG, as you know, we strongly emphasise social inclusion, particularly the importance of employment.  Every single one of the people supported by Alderwood has a voluntary or paid job.  Given that these are some of the most complicated people in the whole country, this is an amazing achievement.

I would like to finish with a brief case study of a young man who spent ten years in hospital settings. When he was living in hospital, he did very little and was heavily medicated. He very rarely saw his family.  Now he sees his family regularly, has learnt skills like managing simple financial transactions, how to dress himself and plays an active part of the community including developing a real passion for football. He is a Chelsea supporter and recently went on a VIP tour of the Chelsea football ground.  Last but not least, he was on a huge cocktail of medication which has now been significantly reduced.

Fauzia - Alderwood
Under Lock and Key
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