I visited 10 services last week and was very pleased to see the level of activity encouraging the people we support to vote in the general election. We had over 88 people we support register a vote.
One of the services I visited has recently come over to us following a successful tender. There are some aspects of the culture which we would like to change and I was very pleased with the positive feedback from both the team and the manager about how well supported they feel by CMG and their openness to change their ways of working. In most cases when we win a tender, we usually inherit services with quality concerns where we need to make changes and where front line staff say they never saw senior managers, including their Chief Executive. As you know, I have a passion for visibility of senior managers in services and CMG has a reputation for doing this well. I do think there needs to be more encouragement in the sector, for senior managers to regularly visit services. Perhaps CQC should look at ‘well-led’ at an organisational level, rather than individual services. For the last seven years, I have been the responsible individual with CQC, CSSIW and Ofsted. This means that I am legally responsible for the care and support of all the people in receipt of services registered by those regulators. Never in that time have I been asked how often I visit services, or what steps I take to ensure that I am monitoring the wellbeing of vulnerable people. I do think this is an area which could be improved.
I was really pleased to hear from one of our Local Authority Commissioners last week that they regularly read my blog. A big hello to them and any to other Commissioners that read it. I think that it is important that we have a better dialogue between commissioners and providers as the relationship is too often tainted by mistrust. I regularly meet up with my fellow Chief Executives of the main learning disability provider organisations across England. They are an impressive group of people, very experienced, able, with good values and a can-do attitude. They are an asset to this country which, currently, the social care system does not exploit because commissioners lead the system and providers are more passive recipients. Yet the Chief Executive community generally has more experience than the commissioners who are commissioning their services. Whilst we have the Care Act and the Winterbourne View programme, I don’t think there is a clear overarching framework for learning disability services and I see on the ground considerable variation from one authority to another. Provider Chief Executives could make a real contribution here, given both their knowledge of a range of different authorities in which they work and their extensive experience in the sector.
CMG is always hot on keeping agency staff usage to a minimum. We monitor it on a weekly basis and it is usually below 1% of our staffing expenditure. We have seen a peak in April and it looks like that will continue in May. There is some specific one off reasons for this, but we are also having more difficulty recruiting in a couple of geographical areas. I hope this doesn’t become a trend as the economy picks up. We only want to recruit people with the right values.
Our social inclusion campaign continues and I continue to send an email each week to everyone across CMG celebrating good practice. Last week I congratulated the team at 29 Bushey Hall Road who have supported a man with Autism to get a job at his local chip shop distributed leaflets. This man has quite a severe disability and other teams could perhaps have decided that he would not be able to work. It is a credit to this staff team that they looked beyond his disability.
We piloted last week, our new Advanced Leadership programme for Registered Managers. We already have a very effective Home Manager development programme, but we wanted to develop a programme that took our first line managers to the next level, equipping them with the skills to lead services that will achieve an outstanding CQC rating. A lot of effort went into planning the programme which took place over two days in a residential setting. We used a range of creative ways of helping managers identify the key competencies they require and assessing themselves against those competencies. This included role play involving professional actors and outdoor activities where their teamwork skills were tested. One particularly fun activity involved teams of three people assembling a cake in which the person doing the assembling was blindfolded and one of their colleagues gave them verbal instructions. This was a very effective way of learning the importance of clear communication. The programme was extremely successful and we had very positive feedback from attendees and I genuinely believe we are breaking new ground here in the social care sector. Skills For Care are very interested in the programme and will be coming along to observe it later in the year