Inspirational Individuals Celebrated At the Annual Achievement Awards

24th May 2018  Add comments

The annual awards is always one of my favourite events in the CMG calendar. It fills me with pride to see what each person has achieved over the last year. This year was no different.

People were awarded with 1st, 2nd or 3rd place for various categories including sports, health, employment and education.

After a 3 course sit down meal, the award ceremony began. Each nominee had their photo displayed and a brief description why they had been nominated. The awards were presented by David Spruzen (CMG chairman) with the help of Michael Fullerton.

The whole evening was filled with many surprises, laughter and emotions. One moment in particular has stayed with me. A young man called A has been with CMG for a number of years and I know him well. He has quite severe autism and finds anything new rather frightening and distressing. Originally when he was first nominated for an award no one thought he would be able to come to the event let alone collect his award. So a plan was created, A would collect his award outside away from the crowd and noise. A’s registered manager and key support worker spent time over a number of months driving to Imber court, walking up the stairs to the ballroom and practicing to collect his award. Imagine my surprise when I saw him walk into the ballroom, through the middle of all the guests to collect his award at the front. He even managed to pose for a photo. This was such an amazing achievement and I am so very proud of A and the team at Tuscany house. It really shows what careful planning, time and consideration can do towards the personal outcomes of an individual. The staff told me how after collecting his award he was so chuffed, and couldn’t stop smiling.

The night was finished off with some great music and disco provided by DJ Jamie from The Green.

Congratulations everybody!

Please see below for some of the nominations:

Best Achievement in Education

“R has been attending college regularly and I’m pleased to say at the end of 2017 she passed her GCSE in Maths. She is now working towards her GCSE in English. R works really hard and is very dedicated to her studies”

Voluntary Employment

“S delicate and considerate in his approach and a role model to those around him. He treats everyone with dignity and respect, and always offers a smile and gives a positive response.”

Best Achievement in Sports

“A few months ago B participated in the special bike Olympics in Sheffield, where he won two gold medals and many other top ten finishes. Every Sunday B rides with his bike group, there’s not a day where B isn’t participating in some kind of sport.”

Excellence in Advocacy and Rights Promotion

“S has also been working on a composing a song which deals with bullying, and is hoping to record it along with a video. He is now employed as a Self-Advocate in the Campaigning for Change group.”

Here are a few photos from the night, please head over to our Facebook page to see more:

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The Fantastic Work of our Relative Quality Checkers

17th May 2018  Add comments

In this week’s blog I would like to celebrate the work of our relative quality checkers. This is a dedicated team of family members who give up their time voluntarily to carry out unannounced inspection visits in CMG services. We set the scheme up around 6 years ago and several of our original quality checkers are still going strong. The idea is that we provide an extra layer of assurance by asking relatives of people we support to visit services and give us their views of what is working well and what could be better. They bring the unique perspective of caring relative looking at what is important to them for their son or daughter or brother or sister. Working with the checkers, we developed an assessment format which they complete which identify those aspects of quality that they feel are particularly important. The Checkers chat to the people who live at the service, and staff to gain an understanding of how people feel about their support, staff morale etc. Following the visit, the Checkers compile a brief report using a tool that they have developed, with recommendations for improvements as relevant. For understandable reasons, people cannot carry out checks in the service which supports their next of kin.

I would like to profile one of our longest standing quality checkers, a fantastic lady called Verna:

Verna has pretty much been with us from the start, and is a brilliant quality checker. This could be due to her matron and midwifery background or purely because she has the interest of others at heart. Verna has been involved CMG for a long time, firstly through her son living at one of our houses. He’s an unforgettable character! When Verna heard about the relative quality checker scheme, she was keen to get involved. She thought it would be a great way to give something back, and make a difference to people’s lives. But not only that she wanted to see what was going on behind the scenes, get a feel for what the company does for individuals like her son.

All relative quality checkers have a format in which they follow, to see if the services are performing efficiently, affectively and safely. When Verna visits a service she speaks to the staff first leaving the manager to last. This is to identify if the staff have adequate training, and to offer support. She checks to see if the residents are happy in their home environment, well presented and if they have engaging interaction with the staff. She likes to see pictures on the walls, individualised rooms, evidence of days out and regular activities. The personal touches that you would expect to see in someones house. Verna says this hands on approach really gives her the chance to see what is transpiring in the homes, then highlight any issues and feed this information back to head office. She is particularly impressed with the cultural and ethnicity efforts that go into the services. She told me how over the years she has built lovely relationships with some of the residents, and how they recognise her when she visits.

I will finish with a quote from Verna:

“I started to be a relative quality checker to keep an eye on what was going on in the organisation, and pleased to say that most of the services really are a home from home with real quality care”

We are always keen to increase the numbers of Relative Checkers, in England and Wales, so if you are curious or interested please contact Dan Dunman (Quality Support Manager) via


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Obesity in the Care Sector

4th May 2018  Add comments

In this week’s blog I will be focusing on a topic that is on a global issue, with more prevalence in the care sector, obesity.

There are many reasons that can lead to people becoming obese. These could be due to genetics, medical conditions, medication, societal or environmental factors or purely down to lifestyle choices.

Firstly, I would like to share some UK statistics with you which are rather worrying. It shows that 1 in 4 people in the general public are obese, this rises to 1 in 3 in the learning disability population.

Research also shows that only 10% of adults with a learning disability, living in supported accommodation, eat a balanced diet and 80% of people with a learning disability do not engage in recommended amounts of physical activity.

Research has identified the following barriers:

  • Staff lack of knowledge about purchasing food and cooking healthy meals
  • Lack of time: shopping for and preparing healthy meals can be time-consuming which often leads to the frequent use of ready meals
  • Use of food and drinks as a reward or means of control
  • Over-reliance on unhealthy activities, for example driving to a café or pub
  • Staff making unhealthy choices themselves ; staff need to be encouraged to become healthy role models
  • Limited staffing can make it difficult to attend exercise classes or take part in health activities. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, mobility difficulties, mental ill health and some cancers. The subsequent risks to health are greater in individuals with a learning disability, who may already have underlying health conditions.

Staff have a duty of care to work with health professionals to provide people we support with information about the risks of being overweight or obese, helping people to make informed choices about their lifestyle.

CMG staff can help by:

  1. Motivating people we support to eat more healthily and take more exercise, and by being a good role model!
  2.  Encouraging people to attend their annual health check.
  3. Suggesting people join a local slimming club, gym and exercise class.
  4.  Asking people what activities they are interested in (indoor and outdoor) and organizing regular physical activities, and make sure it happens!
  5.  Using the government eat well guide to support people to eat a well-balanced diet, minimising intake of processed food as these tend to be high in saturated fat/sugar/salt and can increase weight and threaten health.
  6.  Using the CMG Healthy Lifestyle Pack to help people menu plan and to offer tips on diet, nutrition and exercise; educate people using the activities within the pack about healthy food swaps, food labels and five a day.
  7.  Attending the CMG ‘Supporting Good Health in Adults with Learning Disabilities’ work shop, as there is a strong focus of diet, nutrition and physical exercise.
  8.  Helping CMG fulfil their commitment to the VODG Health Charter. Obesity is a key focus area. Our aim is to help people improve their diet and physical activity to either reduce or maintain weight, minimising risk of developing health conditions associated with obesity.
  9. Supporting people to attend the ‘let’s get physical event’ this summer where we will cover health promotion in general for adults with LD.
  10. Celebrating people’s success and achievements, losing weight and maintaining weight is a big deal!

I would like to share with you all a lovely case study from one of our services in Hove.

The staff at Rutland Gardens recognised that all of the people they support were overweight and didn’t have much confidence. So they actively decided to do something about it.

They asked each person what they enjoyed doing, what they liked wearing and what they liked to eat. Their focus was on empowering the people rather than ‘losing weight’.

Hannah Bailey, service manager told me how one individual had always wanted her hair long, yet always had it cut short, as she thought she couldn’t grow it. Now she has long her and is always telling the staff that she looks like a princess.

Alongside building self-esteem and body image confidence of the people they support, the staff have reviewed menus and food choices. They support people to cook using fresh ingredients to reduce salt, sugar and calorie intake. When introducing new food they make it fun with themed food nights and taster sessions.

All of the people they support take part in various exercises/ activities. The staff have helped support the individuals to achieve some amazing outcomes. These include attending the gym, badminton, tai chi classes, line dancing and they all love to walk!

One lady has joined slimming world and walks to and from which is around 3 miles, she also walks to her new voluntary job which is another 3.5 miles twice a week.

These changes didn’t happen overnight and it has been a slow challenging process. But it really does show the effect good roles models and a strong support system have on the lifestyles of the people that are supported.

Well done to everyone at Rutland Gardens!

Please see below for photos of the weight loses of some of the people that are supported at Rutland Gardens.





Lisa has lost over 4 stone and has gone from a size 24 to a size 16. Lisa attends the gym and walks over 6 miles a week. She plays football, badminton and goes swimming with her boyfriend and wants to start Zumba Classes.







Michelle has made huge changes to her life, most of all her confidence. She has really grown as a person and is making choices for herself and not letting others decide.




Sharon now attends the gym twice a week, walks and uses her exercies bike. She swapped crisps and choclates for healthy snacks. She has gone from 19 stone to 14st 13lb. She is currently the lightest she has been in 11 years.














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Sunshine and National Care Home Open Day

25th April 2018  Add comments

What a beautiful weekend we had. On Saturday I managed to get out into the sunshine and visit several of our services who were celebrating ‘National Care Home Day’. I had a fun day seeing what the services had on offer. There were BBQ’s, bouncy castles, games, activities, music and much more. I visited Dyke road, Brighton and watched a performance by the residents. It was very entertaining!.

Rachael Dodgson too was out visiting services and enjoying the festivities. This is what she had to say:

“I was struck by how many of our staff brought their family members which was nice to see.” and “At St Helier the neighbours and local shop keeper came along and they had specially designed CMG balloons.”

The national care home initiative was started 6 years ago, to improve and strengthen links between the local communities and care homes. Their key values are friendships, making connections and celebrating older and vulnerable people.

Care homes all over the country open their doors to the local communities to celebrate people, cultures and relationships. Not only does this link communities and bring people closer together, it changes perceptions that care homes are dull places, where nothing interesting happens.  On the contrary services are welcoming places to visit, with fascinating and unique people and a full calendar of events and daily activities.

It is impressive the hard work and dedication that goes into care work, to enrich people’s lives and encourage personal development.  I visit around 10 services a week and I am always proud to see the compassion and support that the staff give. It is wonderful to see the meaningful relationships that are built within the services over the years.

Kings Road in Hampshire had various activities happening throughout the day. With attendance from family members, people from the local community as well as their local MP Caroline Dineage (pictured below).




The Ridge







Little Orchard had over 60 guests, who all seemed to have had a lovely day.






Dyke Road, Brighton.







St Helier, personalised CMG balloons.










The tenants at South Hill cooked various cultural dishes.

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2018 Driving Up Quality

19th April 2018  Add comments

This week’s blog is dedicated to ‘Driving Up Quality’. Yesterday we had our annual event, which was a great success. I would like to thank everyone who came and participated and also to all of the facilitators who provided informative and engaging workshops. The CMG magic was definitely in full bloom!

For those of you who don’t know, the driving up quality initiative was conceived by the provider sector, of which CMG was a leading partner. This was to make sure that the atrocities and abuse that were discovered at Winterbourne View would never happen again.

The DUQ code was launched in 2013 to set out the following 5 key standards for learning disability care:

  • Support focussed on the person
  • An ordinary and meaningful life
  • Being happy and quality of life
  • Good culture and the organisation
  • Lead and run the organisation well

The day started with my welcome and introduction, followed by presentations from 3 of our services, discussing how they have driven up quality in their services over the last year.

Firstly Sophie talked about the EE (encourage and empower) club. The EE club meet on a weekly basis, for the people we support to network and share ideas. Various events and activities are held throughout the year, and the people we support are recruited to coordinate.

The second presentation was by Charlotte from Carden Avenue, speaking about the Coastal post newsletter. It updates everyone on what’s been happening in those services during the last months. These include new developments, news, local events, activities and personal outcomes.

The third presentation was by Zofia, she presented with some of the people we support from Dyke road Brighton, they spoke about the self assessment they did as a service

After the presentations the group broke off into 3 workshops:

Health & screening

Erren and Katie gave an informative session on screening for breast and testicle cancer, with model breast and testicles to practice looking for lumps. This workshop was enjoyed by all, albeit there were quite a few giggles throughout the sessions.  This was followed on by Sarah and Mark, who did a great session on feelings and emotions, and how to ‘interrupt’ these negative emotions/feelings with different activities and exercises.


This session focussed on STOMP, the health campaign to stop the over-use of psychotropic medication to manage people’s behaviour. The workshop was run by Aine and Michael who reviewed the progress from last year’s DUQ and also looked at how CMG can further reduce the over medication of people with learning disabilities. Workshops discussed side effects of psychotropic medication and looked at alternative ways we can help the people we support and manage their beahviour in a positive way.

Employment and Education

This workshop was broken up into different areas; identification of everyday signs, experimenting with different paints, colours, shapes and textures and employment table focusing on work opportunities, and different ways on how to achieve paid and voluntary jobs.

To wrap up the day services and the people we support wrote pledges for the upcoming year.  Afterwards they had the opportunity to share their pledges with the rest of the group.  Here are some of the topics they chose:

  • Support and reminders to do breast and testicle checks
  • Increase activities and day out trips
  • Further promotion in independence (ASDAN)
  • Decreasing the intake of sugary drinks
  • More encouragement for employment
  • Stress management sessions
  • More medication/health reviews
  • More assistive technology


Watch this space, for more photos and the CMG ‘Driving Up Quality’ 2018 video.

Peter's speech


Wilson & Peter

Wilson & Peter

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Mindful Use of Language

10th April 2018  Add comments

It is very important for us that the people we support are able to voice their opinions and are heard. Within CMG we have a group of self advocates called ‘Campaigning for Change’; they are a group of people we support from different parts of the country who represent the people we support. They campaign for various topics that are important to them and for people with learning disabilities in general. Currently CFC has 7 members: Mary from Greenwich, David from Greenwich, Stevie from Brighton, Leon from Sutton, Alex from Blackwood, Mark and Christopher from Watford. The CFC members have given us permission to use their names.

CFC (Campaign for Change) are currently involved in various campaigns including improving the environment in the local area, raising awareness against hate crime towards people with disabilities, promoting no early bedtimes and healthy relationships.

A new campaign CFC (Campaign for Change) are getting behind and we are promoting at CMG is #MindYourLanguage. This is a campaign to raise awareness of how people receiving support are spoken to and addressed. It is important to understand that there are some widely used words and phrases that can give offence, as they reinforce prejudice and perpetuate discriminatory attitudes and practices among the general public.

Some staff and health care professionals can occasionally use certain words and phrases to label, and refer to people they support which can feel demeaning. Staff may use this language without a harmful intent, more often it is through habit or from brevity. In some cases, people are described by their diagnosis and challenges rather than their personality. This denies the individual their value, their worth and their individuality.

Language is the way we communicate with people, it is a powerful tool and if used positively, has the ability to lift people up, to inspire, and support.  With #mindyourlanguage, our aim is to prompt staff to be mindful of language and to encourage them to use it in a way that empowers and strengthens the people we support.

Mary ‘Campagining for Change” member said “When staff use the term ‘Service User’ it sounds a bit like we’re children or students at school,”.

CFC has told us they don’t very much like the word ‘Service User’. If I’m honest, though I’ve used it for years, I’ve never been particularly keen either. A few other organisations that support people with learning disabilities have moved away from this term and in CMG we are intending to do the same. Instead of referring to people as ‘Service Users’, we are now going to refer to people either simply as ‘People’ or ‘People we Support’. This will take a bit of time and I am sure I along with other people will fall back into old habits. If I do, please remind me. I’ll be grateful if we could all try and start referring to people in the way I’ve described as they find it more respectful than the term ‘Service User’. It will take some time for this change to embed and it will also take time for our policy and training documents to catch up with this.

I really would appreciate your feedback on this: please contact me via

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The Grand Opening of Carden Avenue

29th March 2018  Add comments

The grand opening of the new supported living at Carden Avenue 22a & 22b

I’m happy to announce this week that two of our services have moved to Brighton and changed from registered residential living to supported living. This move has provided tenants with more independence and flexibility of their own care, through bespoke care packages and person centred plans based on individual and varying needs.

At CMG we are continually improving our services, to offer the best care and opportunities possible to all the people we support.  In this case some of the tenants have been with us for over 20 years. During this time their personal, health care and mobility needs have changed.

The two new supported living services are side by side. They are eight bedroom purpose built properties, all with accessible en-suite wet rooms, hoists and lifts to all floors. The move was fulfilled to provide residents with more comfort and increase daily independence. These services are suited to, cater for people in their senior years, meaning they wouldn’t ever need to move again.

Each person was reassessed by CMG’s referral and assessment team to ensure their most up to date and current needs were recognised and support funding would be in place to meet those needs.

Personal relationships are very important to us. To keep continuity all tenants were moved together, along with their support staff and managers. This was great for the tenants and staff, as relationships have already been built, the staff have an in-depth understanding of the needs of each tenant and it has minimised any anxieties people may have had. .

Positive experiences are gained from working together, to ensure a smooth transition each tenant was involved as much as possible with the move; they got to choose their own bedrooms, colours and coordinating curtains. They had the opportunity to visit the new services at least once prior to the move to familiarise themselves with their new home.  They could see the transformation of their individual rooms, reflecting their style and personality. Those with the capacity were fully involved in the tenancy signing. Easy read tenancies were available from the landlord which helped with understanding.

Every tenant had their own individual transition plan developed by CMG which explored visits to be made, equipment needed on moving, room allocation and engagement with external professionals where required, such as occupational therapists.

The move was a success and the new services look great, everyone seems to be settling in well and enjoying their new homes. B and Michael were happy to share their stories. Please see below:

B’s story

B had been living at Walsingham Road for nearly 31 years; she lived there before CMG took over ownership in 1987. B has health issues as well as a learning disability and an anxiety disorder. As you can imagine she was very worried and nervous about the move, she believed that she would be left behind, or that she wasn’t really moving at all. B’s transition has been based on ‘owning’ her own room. Every week leading up to the move, staff would place something in B’s new room, so she could see that it was truly hers.

M’s story

M has autism along with a learning disability.  He moved from Rutland Gardens so hadn’t previously met or lived with the Walsingham residents.  The move was always going to be a bit challenging to get right. However, M transitioned amazingly into his lovely new home. His move was focused on getting to know everyone. He would have weekly tea and cake with the Walsingham residents and join in with any parties they had. Since the move he has settled in well, he sits and chats with others and goes out onto joint trips into the community.

Charlotte Barns on M’s move:

“I watched him yesterday evening giggling with two of our service users together in the lounge and thought how amazing he has been, and the others have just accepted him into the group with no issues. He appears to have a great connection with them all, particularly the males of our house”

Charlotte Barns, Service Manager at Carden Avenue said “. I am extremely proud at how successfully they have transitioned, in my opinion they are much happier to have the space, more independence in terms of their own en-suite bathrooms and to have such a beautiful area to live in – we back on to a forest type area – all you can hear is birds in the back garden!”

22a Carden Avenue family
Site visit December 2017








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Congratulations to Alderwood

20th March 2018  Add comments

I’m proud to announce that our subsidiary Alderwood has received 4 “Outstanding” ratings in their latest CQC report; this is a fantastic achievement and demonstrates the hard work and dedication of all their staff. Alderwood cares for some of the most challenging people with Autism in the UK.

The CQC report highlights strong themes throughout the reports across the services in the following areas –

‘Staff were passionate and dedicated to their roles and had belief in the ethos of the support they received, and that of the provider in general. Staff were innovative in their approach to support, and were enthusiastic about supporting people to overcome life’s hurdles.’

Person- Centred Care
“People with complex needs and behaviours that may challenge, were being empowered and enabled to feel a part of their community, and to achieve their goals and more”
“The service was flexible and adapted to people’s changing needs and desires, enabling positive outcomes for all concerned. People felt a part of their community, and were able to take pride in their achievements.”

Social Inclusion
“One person was encouraged to attend a local church group. They had been supported to bake some cakes which they could then take to the church group and donate. We saw that the person’s family history, culture and religion were being respected and encouraged, and the person was able to feel part of a community that was important to them.”

“People using the service had the opportunity to walk and care for a dog on a daily basis, each person’s journey was documented and involved social stories, and gradual introduction to the dog and the tasks surrounding its care.”

“An allotment project had been started by the service as another activity for people. We saw the service had custom made pictorial guides to explain how numerous different vegetables could be grown and when.”

“Alderwood provides a very high quality and safe service to people with learning disability. I personally have found Alderwood staff very courteous, professional, responsive and reliable.”

One relative said, “It’s remarkable really what they have achieved. I don’t think there is anywhere better.”

Well Led
“All the staff we spoke with spoke positively about the management and the provider, and proud to call themselves employees.”

A staff member said, “The company like to grow their own managers, which is quite inspiring and motivates you to do a good job.”

Once again congratulations to everyone for this wonderful achievement, none of this would have been possible without the continual support and commitment from the managers and staff at those services. They go above and beyond to ensure the best quality service to everyone in their care.

I will finish this week’s blog with a quote from our operations director and head of services at Alderwood, Linda Fish –

“We are both very dedicated and passionate about our work and over the years, we have strived to feed our passion and practices on to others. We know we have some fantastic managers and staff members who, alongside ourselves, will continue to lead the way in providing services that support the most challenging and vulnerable people in society today.”

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Staff dedication in adverse weather conditions

8th March 2018  Add comments

I was on annual leave last week and happened to miss all of the snow that hit various parts of the UK, but this week I’ve heard a number of stories regarding the effort support staff across CMG made to get into work despite the adverse conditions. I wanted to highlight some of these as we always appreciate the dedication many of our front line staff show when the weather takes a turn and isn’t on our side.

At Telegraph Road in Southampton, the Deputy Manager and Lead Support Worker both stayed at the service for three days, sleeping over for two nights, as other members of staff were unable to get in and they were unable to travel back home. Beulah Crescent in Thornton Heath experienced a similar scenario to Telegraph Road, and at Hillview in Merstham, staff willing swapped shifts to accommodate those who couldn’t reach the service and ensured good staffing levels were maintained. At 29 Bushey Hall Road, meanwhile, one member of staff managed to travel from East London to Hertfordshire, where the service is located, to get to work in spite of multiple train cancellations and a treacherous walk.

Wales was one part of the country that was particularly badly hit last week, with up to 30-40cm’s of snow in some places. Yet this didn’t stop several of our support staff from making the journey into work and Claire Pritchard, our Operations Director for Wales, has designed and given out certificates of appreciation to those who coped and handled the situation. Ty Gorsaf and Cwrt-Y-Bella were two of our most severely affected Welsh services and were cut off from the local community for almost a week.

At The Ridgeway in Essex, staff made an extra effort to ensure that the people they support didn’t get bored, bringing in games, foot spas, face masks and more. Whilst their service manager was unable to get access to the service, the staff rallied around to make sure that every shift was covered and service users did not become distressed by the change to their routine. During the four days that they were snowed in and unable to leave the house, no medication was administered for challenging behaviour and staff supported anxieties well.

We also saw some incredible dedication from our agency staff with one individual who works at Park Avenue and Clandon Close sleeping on the floor of one of the services so that they wouldn’t miss their shift the next day. Thanks to their commitment, and the strong relationship that has been built between the agency and the services, both Park Avenue and Clandon Close were able to run at their normal staff ratio.

These are just a few examples of the effort that has been made by staff at CMG services across the country. I couldn’t be more appreciative of the lengths some have gone to to guarantee that they were able to work their planned shifts. For some of the people we support, sudden change to their routine or being supported by someone who isn’t their usual key worker can cause a great amount of distress and anxiety. In many cases we were able to avoid this due to the perseverance of our excellent staff teams.

Below are just a few of the photos we have been sent of staff and service users enjoying the snow.



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Shining a spotlight on our successes

14th February 2018  Add comments

As many people will know, I am incredibly passionate about the people we support becoming more independent and securing jobs, whether paid or voluntary, in the local community. I believe that through obtaining employment, individuals can learn a number of new skills and it enables them to become more self-sufficient as they earn their own money, can, where possible, travel to and from their workplace by themselves, and will develop a greater understanding of accountability and taking responsibility for tasks assigned to them.

At CMG, we have seven people who live at one of our services and who hold jobs at our Head Office in Leatherhead. Simon Tobin is one of these individuals and this week, I’d like to discuss his journey.

Simon has autism and moved to our Hillview service in Merstham in mid 2012 (he is now based at Heathcote Road in Epsom), having previously lived at a residential boarding school in Hampshire. Prior to joining CMG Simon had already begun holding talks where he discussed his experience of living with autism, but these were sporadic due to both his lack of confidence and knowledge of who to contact to spread his message on a wider scale.

In early 2013, not long after Simon had joined us, Andy Wasley (our Employment Officer) got in touch with Sarah Evans, our Head of Human Resources and Learning and Development, to make Sarah aware of Simon’s prior experience speaking to groups of people and his passion for advocating on behalf of those also diagnosed with autism. This led to Sarah offering Simon the opportunity to run training sessions for new members of staff specifically around autism awareness. Titled ‘Autism and Me’, Simon has now been running these sessions for almost five years and where he used to only do a session every couple of months, Simon is now employed by the L&D team to hold 3 to 4 sessions per month.

In his presentation to new members of staff at CMG, Simon covers a breath of topics related to his autism specifically as well as autism in general. He discusses sensory needs, behaviour and communication and emotional and sensory overload. Simon has become so comfortable at talking in front of a group of people that he is now able to tailor his presentation to suit a number of different audiences. This has also led to Simon being approached by external organisations who ask him to present to their staff or at national conferences around the country. An example of this is the National Autism Show which Simon spoke at in both 2014 and 2015.

If you thought Simon is busy enough as it is, this isn’t his only job at CMG. Simon also spends 4 hours a week working on reception at our Head Office. Simon shares this role with a number of other people who we support and who live in services local to Leatherhead. At first Simon undertook the role on a voluntary basis, working just 2 hours a week, and he was always supported by another member of staff as he did not feel confident enough to be by himself. It didn’t take long, however, for Simon’s self-belief to greatly improve and now he really enjoys the responsibility of working by himself on the front desk, answering the phone and being the first port of call for questions from staff across the company.

For Simon, moving into a Supported Living service for the first time and then starting a paid job role within the space of half a year was quite a “shock to the system”. Learning how to manage his money was particularly difficult at first due to the high level of residential support he received at his previous placement. Now, however, Simon is 95% independent in the community and lives a very busy lifestyle, regularly attending the cinema and meeting up with friends.

This is a fantastic example of how encouraging the people we support to become more integrated into the local community and to secure work opportunities can have a fantastic impact on their long term wellbeing.

Simon (right) and I
Simon (right) and I
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Members of