Social inclusion, Staff Awards and the Housing and Support Alliance conference

I visited 10 services last week and was particularly impressed by the great work that The Ridgeway supported living service in Essex does promoting social inclusion and employment with the people they support. All of the tenants there either have a paid or voluntary job as well as being regularly supported to access the local community to take part in their hobbies. All of the tenants are huge fans of karaoke, they often attend a local diner and Chinese restaurant to take part in karaoke evenings and recently they chipped in to buy a karaoke machine for the home

CJ Karoke
CJ at a recent karaoke event.

Staff Awards

The Ridgeway featured again in our annual staff awards evening which took place on Friday. It was a great and inspiring occasion where we recognised the fantastic hard work and commitment of our staff. I was particularly pleased to receive a large number of great nominations this year from families. The category winners were:

Team of the Year 1st Bluetts House
2nd Tamerisk House
3rd 290 Dyke Road
Manager of the Year 1st Kim Long, Masons Hill
2nd Lorraine Allen, South Hill
3rd Harissing Luchmineea, Egmont 31 &33
Deputy Manager of the Year 1st Charlotte Boulter, The Ridgeway
2nd Monika Aguirre, South Hill
3rd (joint) Emeka Azih, Croydon Road
3rd (joint) Julius Fayemi, Oakdale
Lead Support Worker of the Year 1st Kerry Griffiths, The Ridgeway
2nd Robert Bartlett, Egmont 33
3rd Ruben Choque-Aquino, Lilliputs Farmhouse
Support Worker of the Year 2nd Carleen Duncan, Beddington
3rd (joint) Cesar Reyes, Carlton Avenue
3rd (joint) Robert Lawson, Dyke Road 283
Night Staff of the Year 1st Catherine Wamuchiru, Bushey Hall Road 31
2nd Maricel Lopez, 283 Dyke Road
Excellence in Promoting Service User Inclusion 1st Oghomwen Okuonghae, Bushey Hall Road 31
2nd The Ridgeway
Excellence in Active Support 1st Jodie O’Flynn, Bushey Hall Road 31
2nd The Ridgeway
Excellence in Inclusive Communication 1st Kings Road
2nd Tuscany House
3rd Rachel Webb, Hillview
Excellence in Person Centred Planning 1st Ty Gorsaf
2nd Nola O’Connor, Dyke Road 283
Excellence in Promoting Employment 1st The Green
2nd The Ridgeway
3rd Tyrone Whyte, 31 Bushey Hall Road
Best Contribution from Central Office 1st Ruth Amoroso, Central Office
2nd Trevor Madden, Central Office
3rd Sue Pym and Tom Leslie, Central Office
Excellence in Intensive Interaction 1st Hazel Sloper, Bushey Hall Road 29
Excellence in Postural Care 1st Dyke Road 290
Excellence in Positive Behavioural Support 1st (joint) Jade Martin, Brook Lane
1st (joint) Matt Chandler, Brook Lane
2nd Jaymylee Colyer, Rogerstone House
3rd Andrew McCall, The Droveway 3a
Excellence in Epilepsy Support 1st Charmandean
Excellence in End of Life Care 1st Shardeloes
Spirit of CMG 1st Kevin Berryman, New Dawn
Outstanding Contribution to CMG 1st Onyekwere Ogueri, Central Office
20 Years Service Sarah Reilly, Dyke Road 287
Clare Newnham, Dyke Road 287
Patricia Rolfe, Regional Director
Wendy Randall, New Dawn

Housing and Support Alliance conference

I also went to the annual Housing and Support Alliance conference last week. It’s the only conference I attend and it always inspiring, reminding me of my values and the reasons why I work in social care. There was a particularly thought provoking presentation by the mother of a young man with learning disabilities who spoke about her struggles with “the system” to get good quality person centred support for him. She was extremely passionate and energetic, but seems to have been labelled as a “difficult parent”. She talked about institutions being a state of mind, rather than just a building. I think she is absolutely right and I think that there can be a problem with judgemental attitudes by both providers and commissioners.

CMG Service User Conference 2014

Individuals supported by CMG were inspired to become more involved in every day life in their communities during the leading provider’s annual Service User Conference.

Following suggestions made by CMG’s Service User Parliament it was decided that this year, the annual Service User Conference would have more of a focus on helping individuals find a job, take up new hobbies and gain formal qualifications. As well as taking part in the usual talent show and art competition, people were also encouraged to visit three different zones where they could find information and get advice on what they can be doing in their local areas.

In each zone, people could get advice from CMG staff on the options available to them. For example, in the Employment zone CMG’s Pure Innovations Employment Officer, Andy Wasley was on hand to talk over the different types of jobs available to people. Several were inspired to look for work and Andy will be supporting them over the coming weeks and months to help them find the right the job.

Lukas Kokolas - Employment Zone

At the Sports and Leisure zone, each individual could find out exactly when and where activities were taking place near them – giving them opportunity to pursue their newly found passions.


In the Education zone, people had the opportunity to learn more about the qualifications they can obtain. All of the individuals CMG supports are encouraged to take ASDAN courses should they wish to. The courses give individuals skills which allow them to live more independently – from helping them to prepare for job interviews to enabling them to use public transport.


Peter Kinsey, Chief Executive of CMG said:

“The Service User Conference is always a special event as it brings together all of the people we support under one roof. This year was even better because people could take away something from the event.

Whether it was inspiration to join a new sports club or being on the path to find a job, it was great to see everyone going home with a fresh purpose. We look forward to supporting them to achieve their goals over the months to come.”

Rock bands, new style CQC inspections and CMG’s annual staff survey results

I visited 11 services last week, and was particularly impressed with the support tenants receive with their hobbies at 283 Dyke Road, one of our supported living services in Brighton. Tenants living there are supported to be actively involved in a rock band, to be a DJ and also to be actively supported as a graffiti artist. These are great examples of what we can and should be doing to really help the people we support to get the most out of life and be active members of their community.

Do you know of any great hobbies people are being supported to get involved in? Let me know in the ‘leave a reply’ section below.

Zombie Crash - rock band from 283

New style CQC inspections

On the subject of quality, I received the second of the new style CQC inspection reports which rates services between outstanding and inadequate. The service concerned was our Warminster Road supported living service in South Norwood. It received a ‘good’ overall rating and was rated as ‘good’ in each of the five areas of the new system: well led, effective, safe, caring and responsive. It was an excellent report and I have already congratulated the manager and staff team. It did, however, leave me wondering what you need to do in order to get an outstanding rating.

Warminster was one of seven services that we put forward for the CQC pilot of the new inspection system which took place during the Summer. We are still waiting to receive the reports of the other five services, which included the very best in CMG. I would hope and expect them to receive an outstanding rating.

CMG’s Annual Staff Survey

I think I mentioned in an earlier blog that we had given very careful consideration to the feedback from our annual staff survey. Whilst it was generally positive overall, there were a number of comments about staff not feeling valued by the organisation. This concerned me because I think we make a special effort to recognise and appreciate our staff. This includes our annual staff awards ceremony which is coming up this week, our employee of the month award and our culture of recognising and thanking people for their contribution. For example, every month we receive around 20 compliments, usually from families and external professionals and, in every case, I send an email to the manager congratulating them and asking them to thank their staff team.

However, having spoken to a number of staff on my visits to services, it is clear that the kind of appreciation people want from CMG is either money or a gift. We gave staff pay rises in 2012 and 2013 and this year we are giving all staff who have been with us for more than 8 months a bonus in their November pay, equivalent to 2% of their salary. This is against a backdrop of fee pressures from local authorities and virtually no inflation increases for the last 4 years which means a real term cut to our income of over 10%.

Clearly, in the current financial climate, it is difficult to give staff extra money over and above the increases I’ve mentioned. However, working with several of our home managers, we have come up with a proposal which should generate savings whilst improving quality and enabling us to give some money back to staff.

The proposal which we are going to pilot between December and February in eight of our services, involves services meeting specific targets in relation to staff turnover, short term sickness and training cancellation. If the services hit those targets, all members of the staff team who have been in post in the previous six months will be paid a bonus. That bonus will be paid every six months as long as the targets are met.

– Peter

Hobbies, recruitment and MP visits

I visited 10 services last week and was asking about people’s hobbies, which is my theme for November. I was particularly impressed by St. Helen’s House in Newport where the tenants are supported to get involved in a range of sporting activity. I think there is scope to do more to help the people we support to get involved in hobbies which give them the opportunity to build relationships with people in the community and I would encourage our staff and managers to think creatively about how they can enable this to happen.

Pauline Fretwell, the Regional Director for Surrey and West Sussex, has resigned and will be moving on which is a shame for us as she has worked very hard and with a great deal of commitment in her time with CMG. We are advertising for her replacement. We have been experiencing recruitment difficulties recently, but I’m pleased to say that we seem to be turning a corner. We monitor the number of staff joining and leaving CMG every week and for the last 3 weeks there have been more joiners than leavers. We have seen a spike in agency usage, which we have always kept very low in CMG, but we should see that start to drop.

I would like to thank Chris Grayling MP for taking the time to visit our Heathcote Road supported living service in Epsom on Friday. He is the MP for Epsom and Ewell as well as being the Justice Secretary. He met a number of the tenants who were very positive about the support they receive. They were particularly complimentary about the manager of the service, Lovemore Ndlovu

Chris Grayling MP and Alex Viney
Chris Grayling MP for Epsom and Ewell with Alex Viney from CMG’s Heathcote Road

It has been a busy week on the tender front. We submitted the first tranche of mini-tenders for the Hampshire supported living process. Altogether we will be applying for 25 geographical clusters out of 54. Hampshire are re-tendering all their supported living services. We will be submitting another 3 tranches over the next 3 weeks. We also heard on Monday that we were invited to an interview with Hillingdon on Friday for a tender that we submitted a little while ago. Hillingdon are tendering for providers to run 6 supported living services consisting of groups of one bedroom flats. Lorraine Allen, the manager of our Uxbridge Road supported living service and Donna Thompson, our Regional Director for West London, came to the interview with me and I think came across as knowledgeable and with good values. We should find out the result in January.

CMG’s annual Service User Conference, SCIE and tender updates

This will be a shorter blog than usual as I had a couple of days off last week. We had our annual Service User Conference last Tuesday which was very well attended. The highlight of the day was the talent show as usual. The standard was very high this year and congratulations to the winners, 283 Dyke Road in Brighton. The people who live there and the staff who support them formed a rock band and a dance troupe and did a great rendition of “Happy”. We experimented with a slightly different format for the day and also had 3 zones where people could try out new things under the headings of “Employment”, “Education” and “Sports and Leisure”. The zones were well organised,  but we did have a bit of a traffic jam with people trying to get up and downstairs at our Lilliputs site. We will have to re-think the logistics next year.


I met Tony Hunter, the CEO of SCIE (The Social Care Institute for Excellence) who have been commissioned to provide guidance to support implementation of the Care Act. One piece of guidance relates to safeguarding which is a really hot topic for providers. I spoke to a senior manager in another provider organisation last week who is experiencing a really difficult time with a local authority that is being completely disproportionate about a safeguarding issue which they are dealing with as effectively as they can. The key for me is proportionality, common sense and mutual respect. Not every single incident that involves a disabled person should be a safeguarding alert. We need  a sensible approach where we prioritise the situations where vulnerable people are generally at risk of serious harm. At the moment, there is a tendency to require providers to report absolutely everything to safeguarding which then overloads the system. There can also be an accusatory culture where providers are severely criticised when they are clearly trying to do their best. Whilst there are a small number of poor providers that should frankly be driven out of the market, most organisations are run by people with good values who genuinely want to do their best to support disabled people and to help them have the lifestyle that they want. Organisations need to be treated with dignity and respect, in the same way the people we support should be.

I was please to hear that we have been successful in getting through to the tender stage for accommodation based prevention and inclusion and services in Lewisham and Southwark. We have been doing a lot of work on the Hampshire tender, which is a very ambitious programme in which the authority is re-commissioning all of its supported living services. They have split Hampshire into 54 clusters and we are applying to run services in 25 of them. Each cluster is effectively a mini-tender consisting of 5 questions that need to be answered very specifically in relation to that particular locality. I would like to say a big thank to the Assessment Team who have worked really hard helping us complete all the relevant documentation.

Before I forget…I will be discussing November’s ‘Theme of the Month’ in my blog next week and remember, you can always submit your suggestions for future themes using the box below.

ASDAN, Staff Survey and November’s ‘Theme of the Month’

I got back to my usual routine and visited 12 services last week, 7 of which were in Hampshire. I’m very impressed with our Hampshire services which are generally well led and very person centred. I would particularly like to highlight the work that the team at Stubbington Lane are doing implementing the ASDAN programme which is a structured way of teaching people we support independence skills which leads to a qualification. I was also impressed with the team at Mays Lane who focus each month on a different room in the house and look at how they can make it more personalised and homely, fully involving the people living there.

I am very pleased with the focus on healthy eating I have witnessed in the services I visited this month. There are a couple that have really gone the extra mile, namely our 29 and 31 Bushey Hall Road services in Hertfordshire, but generally all that I have visited have been at a good standard of actively promoting healthy eating.

I have had two responses from an earlier blog post where I asked for suggestions for themes that I can focus on in my visits to services; this month’s is healthy eating. The suggestions are the role of night staff and hobbies. We have recently set up a working group in CMG involving some of our night staff looking at how we can improve the way we communicate with and support them. I suggest that I give up an update on the work of the group in a later blog. I will focus on hobbies in my November visits.

We have received the results of our annual staff survey and had a better response rate than last year which is great. Overall the results were pretty good and there was positive feedback about a number of the teams in CMG which support our staff, including the Learning and Development Team and the Clinical Team.

Staff Survey 2014 poster small (2)

There was some feedback that people think CMG should listen more to the views of staff. We are revamping the way our staff representatives system works which should hopefully help with this. There was also some feedback about staff wanting to feel more valued by CMG, though this was patchy. I have spoken to staff on my visits this week about what being valued means and a lot of people have talked about pay. It is a difficult financial climate and just this week I have had 3 sets of correspondence from commissioners wanting fee cuts. We were unusual in giving staff pay rises in both 2012 and 2013. We aren’t giving staff a pay rise this year but will be giving staff who have been with us for more than 8 months a bonus in November equivalent to 2% of their annual salary. We are also proposing to pilot an approach where staff teams identify savings which don’t directly affect the quality of support that they provide, for example through reducing sickness, and they then receive a proportion of that money to spend on a team event, like a meal out. Six managers have expressed an interest in being involved in the pilot and I am meeting them in a couple of weeks time to firm up how the scheme will work.

I met Stephen Bubb this week who was asked by NHS England to prepare a report on how the Winterbourne View programme can be implemented, reducing the number of people living in assessment and treatment units and bringing them back to the community. His draft report should be ready for his advisory group to consider on Monday and hopefully it will be published by Christmas. I got the impression that the rights of people with learning disabilities will be at the heart of it, which is great and I’m very pleased that he will be recommending the establishment of a national Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) Academy to champion best practice in supporting people with challenging behaviour. CMG has played a role in shaping the PBS Academy proposal.

Leg pain, CMG values and the Learning Disability Programme Board

I only managed to visit 5 services last week. I was on track to visit my usual target of 10 and then had a back injury resulting in the most awful nerve pain in my right leg. I’ve never known anything like it and spent Thursday and Friday doing e-mails and phone calls in bed. After spending half of Wednesday night in A & E and two visits to the doctor, I’ve finally got some painkillers that are helping.

Continuing with my theme for this month, healthy eating, I visited our Parchmore service and was very impressed with how proactive they are in encouraging the people who live there to choose healthy meal options, keep it up! I have also started to look at the cleanliness of kitchens on my visits to services. I found one where the cupboards were grubby and I gave them a clean (there isn’t an embarrassing photo of me with my rubber gloves on to match the recent one of me weeding!). I’ve asked the team to make sure high standards of cleanliness are maintained in the future and I would be grateful if all CMG services could ensure this. On a more positive note, I did my usual test of the staff I met to see if they could remember CMG’s values and a high proportion of them could.

Our values are:

Print Shared Responsibility

Print Dignity and Respect

Print Opportunity to Achieve

Print Sustainability.

As well as covering them in our induction programme, they are printed on the front of our communication books, which staff complete every day.

I received a CQC inspection report for one of our services this week which was non-compliant. That’s very disappointing as our target is to be 100% compliant across the organisation.  I know the service very well having been there many times over the years. It’s a good service and I don’t think the report is balanced or proportionate and we are going to send CQC a detailed factual accuracy challenge.

We also heard this week that we have been successful in getting on the Croydon Integrated Care Framework in the “enabling care” categories for learning disability and mental health. This is good news as we do a lot of work with Croydon and have a number of services there. We are hoping to expand our provision of outreach and home support services in the borough.

The Care Services Minister, Norman Lamb, kindly invited me to join the Learning Disability Programme Board as a provider representative and I went to my first meeting last Tuesday. It is effectively the national policy forum for learning disability and involves families and self-advocates, as well as senior representatives from the Department of Health, NHS England and the Association of Directors of Adult Services. Topics that were discussed include the Winterbourne View Programme, employment, the way people with learning disabilities are treated in the criminal justice system and action to reduce early deaths and improve hospital care.