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.
One 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.