Festive food for thought – making time to talk about mental health

‘Food for Thought’ is the focus of our 2018 Christmas video which we have produced in partnership with organic food company, Abel and Cole.

The film shows Ashley, who we support in Ealing, his mum and Certitude staff members Nisha Gharu and Sam Mason baking some fabulously festive mince pies. The idea behind Food for Thought is to create a cookery club for people with learning disabilities to come together and cook in an environment where they feel comfortable.

We have found that cooking from scratch in a relaxed setting provides an excellent opportunity to talk about mental health issues. Sessions take place across 10 weeks and are overseen by our expert support workers and a trained therapist. At the end of each course, everyone is given a pack of 10 healthy new recipes and a list of tailored techniques they can use to support themselves and safeguard their mental health.

After our recent Food for Thought pilot attendees told us they had experienced better overall wellbeing and felt more able to cope with difficult emotions independently. Because of this success we would like to be able to support more people with learning disabilities to explore their mental health and build their resilience, all while learning how to cook delicious, healthy meals.

To do this we need your support because Food for Thought is only possible because of income from fundraising. Our fundraised income means we can change lives through imaginative projects like this and we’re so grateful for all the support we get from generous individuals and organisations all year round.

If you would like to support our Food for Thought programme and support the mental health of people like Ashley, you can donate here

Enjoy the video and please share it on social media.

Certitude Goes Gold!

Certitude has been awarded ‘gold’ accreditation against the Investors in People Standard, demonstrating their commitment to realising the potential of their people.

Investors in People is the international standard for people management, defining what it takes to lead, support and manage people effectively to achieve sustainable results. Underpinning the Standard is the Investors in People framework, reflecting the latest workplace trends, essential skills and effective structures required to outperform in any industry. Working with clients across the globe, Investors in People enables organisations to benchmark against the best in the business on an international scale.

Paul Devoy, Head of Investors in People, said: “We’d like to congratulate Certitude, Investors in People accreditation is the sign of a great employer, and an organisation committed to achieving success by realising the potential of their people. Certitude should be extremely proud of their achievement.”

Commenting on the award, Cheryl Newsome, Director of Human Resources said: “We are delighted with the findings of our recent Investor in People reassessment and that the hard work of colleagues across the organisation has been recognised with our GOLD status! Certitude will continue to work with staff to ensure they are supported, developed and engaged to deliver excellent services for the people we support.”

John and James are Learning Disability and Autism Leaders

We are so proud that James Morris and John Keaveny have been announced as Learning Disability and Autism Leaders in a list officially published in the Guardian this week.

James and John were chosen from 600 entries for the first national listing of its kind. It celebrates people determined to bring about social change. The Leadership List was published in the Guardian and online this week and each leader is profiled in detail; James for his work around advocacy, policy and media and John for his work in work and education.

The listing describes James’ contribution and how he “has come far in his own life, from being viewed as challenging to educating and supporting others. He is making a real difference and is a worthy winner of a place on the Leaders List.”  James was involved in the development of our Hops Not Hate Beer.

John is praised for his work with Treat Me Right!, “training thousands of medical staff in learning disability and autism awareness, creating on-ward champions at hospitals across North West London.” It goes on to describe that “not only does John provide this training, but he also speaks about his work at local and national events, to ensure that the message is spread far and wide.”



As part of their ongoing mission to influence change for people with autism and learning disabilities, John and James have both written blogs which are available to read here.

Read about James on the official Leadership List

Read about John on the official Leadership List


View the full Leadership List


Read John and James’ blogs



Awards to celebrate our inspiring people

On November 22nd we recognised the commitment, passion, skills and enthusiasm of our staff, peer supporters and volunteers at our annual Michael Rosen Awards. This was our eighth awards ceremony and the biggest yet.

CEO Aisling Duffy hosted the awards ceremony which took place at the Hurlingham Club in west London

Over 80 nominations were received for people and teams in five categories – Best Team, Best Volunteer, Inspiring Leader, Best Colleague and Transforming Lives. Nominees from all of these categories were eligible for the overall Michael Rosen Award which this year was awarded to the Treat Me Right! team. The awards are made possible from a donation by Sheila Rosen, the widow of Michael Rosen, a previous Chair of Support of Living which later became part of Certitude.

Lulzim Osaj was thrilled to receive the award for the Best Volunteer which was presented by Sanjay Shah, Certitude Director of Finance, Housing and IT, and Marianne Selby Boothroyd, Certitude Director of Development.
The Southwark Cluster were presented with the award for Best Team by Philippa Laughton, Certitude Board member and Nicholas Campbell-Watts, Certitude Strategic Director of Operations

Nearly 200 staff, people supported by Certitude, families and volunteers came together for drinks and dinner at the Hurlingham Club in London followed by an awards ceremony hosted by Chief Executive Aisling Duffy. Current Certitude Board members were partnered up with members of the Leadership Team to present the awards to the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman.

Melissa Layton and Alexandra Del Toro were joint winners in the Inspiring Leader category. (L-R) Aisling Duffy, Certitude CEO, Kate James, Certitude Board Member, Liz Durrant, Certitude Director of Mental Health Support, Melissa Layton, James Morris and Alexandra Del Toro.
Sue Burgess received the award for Best Colleague. (L-R) Aisling Duffy, Certitude CEO, Sue Burgess, Cheryl Newsome, Certitude Director of Human Resources and Dianne Greyson, Certitude Board member.

Aisling thanked everyone nominated for their “drive and determination to help people achieve what they want from life” and their “imagination and unconditional affection for the people we support”. Sheila Rosen paid tribute to her husband’s commitment to Certitude and described her own eagerness to begin volunteering for Certitude now that she had retired.

Kim Aldridge was a popular winner for the Transforming Lives Award for her work supporting families. (L-R) Mary Schumm, Director of Learning Disability Services, Professor Sally Glen, Certitude Board member, Kim Aldridge and Aisling Duffy, Certitude CEO.

All the winners were presented with their certificates and after the presentations were over, everyone joined in with the celebrations by dancing the night away to DJ Paul O’Connor’s fantastic disco.

The Treat Me Right! team picked up the prestigious Michael Rosen Award. Now in its 10th year, the TMR project offers learning disability and autism awareness training delivered by people with learning disabilities and autism.

The Results

Best Team

Winner – Southwark Cluster

Runner up – Payroll team

Best Volunteer

Winner – Lulzim Osaj

Runner up – Lucy Sangster

Inspiring Leader

Joint winners – Melissa Layton and Alexandra del Toro

Best Colleague

Winner – Sue Burgess

Runner up – Anthony Olofinnika

Transforming Lives

Winner – Kim Aldridge

Runner up – Roger Bogaert

Michael Rosen Award

Treat Me Right!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Twas the month before Christmas and all through the house, nothing was stirring, except our community choirs who’ve got a big concert coming up and they’re very busy rehearsing!

It’s our third ever Christmas Carol Concert and we’re cranking it up a notch and are being supported by Just Voices! This year promises to raise the frosty bar even higher than last year! Join us at the utterly gorgeous and fully accessible Bromley Parish Church on Tuesday 18th December from 7pm for a fabulous night of Christmas carols, wine, mince pies and seasonal schmoozing.

Tickets are £5.50 on the door, or £5 in advance from See Tickets.

Book in advance to avoid disappointment, we’re a big deal now and space is limited. Tell, nay, bring your friends.

For more information or if you have any questions please contact Sam Mason at sam.mason@certitude.org.uk.

Treat Me Right! cited as best practice in Parliamentary debate

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, mentioned Treat Me Right! in a parliamentary debate on avoidable deaths of people with autism and/or learning disabilities which took place recently (October 2018).

The debate was prompted by an e-petition by Paula McGowan, the mother of a patient called Oliver who is autistic and died in circumstances that his family believes to be avoidable. The petition calls for the introduction of mandatory training for health professionals to ensure staff fully understand autism and learning disabilities, to reduce avoidable injury and death.

Treat Me Right! provides learning disability and autism awareness training which is co-delivered by people with learning disabilities and/or autism who are able to talk directly about their experience. Ms Siddiq is aware of Certitude’s work in her constituency after Treat Me Right! was nominated by the North West London CCG for the NHS70 Parliamentary Awards earlier this year.

Certitude provided information for Ms Siddiq’s speech including statistics which demonstrate the positive impact of Treat Me Right! She held up the work of Treat Me Right! in Brent as an example of best practice in this field.

The government has responded to the debate by agreeing: “We want all staff to receive the support, training and professional development they need to support people with learning disabilities and autism, in line with employers’ existing responsibilities.”

Health and Social Care Minister Caroline Dineage accepted the case for change and said that the government would consult on the details, and look at legislation in the next year. As part of this consultation process, Treat Me Right! trainers and staff will be part of a team hosting a MP’s Drop-In session at the Houses of Parliament. The event in November is being undertaken in partnership with Dimensions and Books beyond Words and will give MPs the chance to learn more about the difference peer-led learning disability and autism training can make.

You can watch a video extract Tulip’s speech here (full debate can be found on Parliament TV as well).

Winning support

Teams and individuals from Certitude have been receiving lots of awards this month.

We are very proud that both James Morris and John Keaveny have been awarded places on Learning Disability and Autism Leadership List. This is a new award which recognises people with autism and learning disabilities who are working to make things better. James won his place for the work he does advocating on behalf of people with autism and John for the learning disability awareness training he provides with Treat Me Right! In the next couple of weeks’ we’ll be publishing blogs on our website from James and John about the changes they would most like to see happen.

Congratulations also go to our Solidarity in a Crisis team who were highly commended in the Suicide Prevention Category at the Positive Practice in Mental Health Awards. Certitude were also jointly awarded the ‘Third Sector Working in Partnership with the NHS Award’ with Navigo and Mental Health Matters.

Last but not least, the support team at Princes Road in Richmond are London Regional Finalists of the Great British Care Awards. The awards take place on November 10 so we’ll post an update to let you know how they get on.

Taking a ride on the Magic Carpet

Earlier this month, MP for Ealing Southall, Virendra Sharma, took a ride on a ‘Magic Carpet’, explored sensory boxes and met with some of the local people with learning disabilities who are supported at The Dominion Centre, Southall.

Mr Sharma was invited to experience it’s latest innovation – a ‘Magic Carpet’. Day Opportunities Manager Andrea Ricci explains: “The Magic Carpet is a machine which projects images onto the floor. When you interact with them it responds with lights or sounds. For the people we support, who have profound and multiple learning disabilities, it is stimulating and fun to use.”

As well as exploring the sensory tools available at the centre, Virendra Sharma MP learned about the total and sensory communication techniques which are used by Certitude support workers at the centre. This approach enables people with complex learning disabilities – who find it hard to communicate – to have more choice and control over their own lives.

Mr Sharma commented: “I am delighted to witness for myself how state of the art technologies and pioneering communication techniques are being used by Certitude to support people with profound and multiple learning disabilities in Southall. It’s good to see people enjoying themselves and inspiring to meet staff who are passionate about what they do.  It’s also very encouraging to know that such wonderful support is available here in my constituency. With my previous experience of working with people with learning disabilities, it’s wonderful to see improvements in support by the use of assistive technology.”

Mr Sharma was accompanied on his visit by Certitude’s Chair of Trustees, Eleri Ebenezer and CEO Aisling Duffy, who appreciated the opportunity to showcase the positive work of their organisation.

Ms Ebenezer said: “At Certitude we measure our success on the happiness and richness of the lives people lead. The ‘Magic Carpet’ at The Dominion Centre has been instrumental in helping achieve this and we are grateful to Mr Sharma for coming to see first-hand some of our amazing work.”

In addition to a providing a wide range of sensory and communication activities, Certitude also offers group sessions in story telling, art and design, musical therapy, massage and sports and games at The Dominion Centre.

Certitude joins Equally Well UK

On 13 September 2018 Certitude joined the launch of a new nationwide collaborative, Equally Well UK and signed the historic ‘Charter for Equal Health’.

The Charter for Equal Health offers a vision for improved physical health support for anyone living in the UK with a significant mental ill-health. It sets out how organisations working nationally and locally will tackle one of the biggest inequalities in health anywhere in the UK.

Today, people living with mental ill-health, such as schizophrenia, have a life expectancy up to 20 years shorter than average. Equally Well UK will bring together organisations that have a part to play in reducing this inequality to take concerted action to achieve significant and sustained change.

At Certitude, we believe that everyone has the right to a good life. We focus our support on helping people to define what a good life looks like to them and helping them to achieve it – this includes supporting people to improve and maintain their physical wellbeing.

People we support have told us they want to learn to cook healthy meals, want help exercising and want support around their substance use. We have established a physical wellbeing steering group with an initial focus on:

  • Developing materials, details of online and local help for people we support and staff to use. This includes monthly health briefings for people to increase knowledge on a range of health conditions.
  • Developing a harm minimisation approach across our mental health services
  • Developing new opportunities for people to learn healthy cooking skills
  • Increasing people’s access to and confidence in using a range of exercise opportunities.
  • Defining our role in advocating for people’s physical wellbeing, access to healthcare and support.

Liz Durrant, Director of Mental Health at Certitude said:

At Certitude we believe everyone has the right to a good life and that means a life they live to a grand old age, filled with hope, opportunities and good mental and physical health. We are not comfortable with the current truth that having a mental health need puts you at risk of dying 15 – 20 years younger due to physical illness. We want people to feel able to access physical health support and to not have to rely on harmful coping mechanisms in response to their distress. Ultimately, we must create a system where we stop accepting people’s premature mortality as inevitable”.

Liz attended the launch on 13 September with Karen Simpson, Delivery Lead for Transforming Care at Certitude. Karen said of the launch:

It is exciting to be part of a shared commitment alongside the range of professionals who were also at the launch event – the collective desire to address these health inequalities through the Equally Well UK network came through loud and clear. Through our involvement in Equally Well UK, we will develop the work of Certitude’s Health & Wellbeing Steering Group.

Certitude is proud to be part of the growing membership of Equally Well UK and encourage our peers to sign the Charter for Equal Health to work together for a better, healthier future for people experiencing mental ill-health.

I’ll be there for you…

Each year, more than 800,000 people take their lives across the world.

More than 6,000 people take their life in the UK and Republic of Ireland every year – an average of 18 a day.

A crucial point could be reaching out to people who are going through a difficult time. Certitude’s Solidarity in a Crisis supports people in distress by providing out-of-hours emotional support over the phone and in person. The service is run by Peer Supporters who have their own experience of facing and overcoming crisis.

Here, Solidarity in a Crisis share what you can do if you encounter someone with suicidal intentions, these guidelines could help you save a life while you wait for the emergency services to arrive…

Try to keep the person calm until expert emergency services arrive

It is important for them to be listened to – so be present and listen

Never give advice or judge someone on why they might feel like this

Would they like a glass of water, cup of tea or a blanket?

Ask open questions like what would keep them going? Do they have any plans? And when were they last happy? This may help someone picture the kind of life they would find rewarding

There are lots of people you can talk to about your own mental health if you are unable to talk to people around you. Some of these include:

Solidarity in a Crisis (Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham)

0300 123 1922 or text on 0778 975 6081 or 0778 975 6083

The Samaritans

116 123

Rethink Mental Illness

0300 5000 927


0300 123 3393

Your GP

You can also join a free training course with the Zero Suicide Alliance, who are committed to suicide prevention. You will learn how to identify when someone is showing signs of suicidal thoughts or behaviour, talk about it with them in a supportive manner and help them identify the services or support that might help them.

Here at Certitude we understand the value of sharing experiences and life stories and we support people to build trusting, lasting relationships with people they can turn to for support. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook today to hear more about how talking about mental health has helped people across Certitude.