I managed to visit 23 services last week and saw a number of examples of good practice. I was particularly impressed with the work the team are doing at 289 Dyke Road in Brighton, helping the people they support to understand their right to vote and the different electoral choices. In the lounge, there are accessible posters explaining in simple terms, the policies of the main parties. Attached to each poster is a coloured balloon which helps the people living in the service distinguish between each party eg. Tories (blue balloon). Overall there has been a lot of activity across CMG encouraging people to vote, which is excellent.
On a slightly less positive note, I have seen an increase in garden weeds and would encourage all of the people we support and their staff to do weeding regularly as first impressions are important and we don’t want weeds to be the first thing people see when they visit a CMG service.
We have completed our internal quality ratings process in England and will be finalising this shortly in Wales too. I mentioned in an earlier blog that we have developed an extremely comprehensive ‘CQC readiness audit tool’ which looks in detail at the extent to which individual services meet the standards required by CQC in the five areas of: well led, safe, effective, caring and responsive. As you know, we now have Rachael Dodgson’s expertise as former Head of Policy at CQC to enable us to make sure we are rating our services in the same way as CQC. The vast majority of CMG services have come out as ‘good’, there are a very small number ‘requiring improvement’ and we have identified four, which we believe would get an ‘outstanding’ rating if they were inspected by CQC. (This is in addition to our Ridgeway service which already has an outstanding rating). Given that the national average is for one per cent of services to achieve an outstanding rating, we are potentially doing five times better than this, given the number of services we have. My hope is that we can raise the number of outstanding rated services in CMG to ten over the next year or so.
There would appear to be a lack of suitable housing for people with learning disabilities, which seems to make sense to me, given the significant reduction in government capital available for housing association accommodation which has provided a large portion of supported living accommodation in the last decade or so. We work with our housing association partners to identify potential property that provides suitable accommodation and it has been interesting and rather frustrating to encounter some obstacles working with Local Authority colleagues. I had a situation recently where a housing association has been proposing to develop a block of one bedroom flats for people with learning disabilities with us as a potential support provider and I’ve had the most enormous difficulty trying to speak to anybody in the Local Authority to see if they are interested in this new scheme. I have left numerous messages and no one has got back to me. Given the current climate, I would have thought, commissioners would be very keen to seize an opportunity to develop much needed services in their area.
Additionally we recently found a large detached property for rental which would have been ideal for young people in transition. However, on approaching the relevant Local Authority I was advised that their Framework Agreements (the contract terms under which ‘call offs’ are made) are based on providers bidding to support individuals rather than an entire service. Whilst in principle that is a good idea and reflects a person centred approach, in reality it could involve several different providers providing support to a group of individuals sharing one house. This is therefore a big disincentive for support providers to find accommodation.