2018 GSK IMPACT Awards: Birchwood Centre

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Part of GSK IMPACT Awards

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  • Posted:Thursday 17 May 2018

Young homeless people are vulnerable to poor physical and mental health; the Birchwood Centre provides supported accommodation and advice to young people while they gain the skills and confidence necessary for independent living. Its mediation service helps to prevent homelessness by resolving family conflicts and tenancy disagreements, while its Junk Food Café provides work experience for its residents.

The Birchwood Centre is doing fantastic work that is having a real impact supporting vulnerable young people. It is always looking for new ways to better support young people, and we were impressed with the excellent working relationships with the local statutory sector.

GSK IMPACT Awards judging panel

Video transcript

The Birchwood Centre is a charity that works closely with vulnerable young people and their families throughout Skelmersdale. Skelmersdale is recognised as a deprived area and that has major impacts on young people and their families, on their lives. We provide a range of services that attempts to address all the needs that affect families and young people where there may be a homelessness situation.

I think what you notice about Birchwood is the passion, their can do attitude; these are people that make things happen.

The Birchwood Centre to me provides something different in this locality. They work with our home treatment teams, they provide interventions to people who are undergoing a mental health crisis and what they have done for the community is fantastic.

We provide supported accommodation and a range of interventions, while people actually come and live at Birchwood to make sure that we’re putting in the best possible chances and opportunities for them to be able to go on and sustain independent living.

When I first moved in I had nothing, I literally had a rucksack on my back, it was two days until I was on the street and I went for an interview, they were fantastic about it, they found me a room really quickly. They literally saved me from being homeless. 

There are staff here to help you with things like how to do your laundry, how to make your bed, money planning, teaching you how to cook. So the whole process of living here is to train you to then go out and function in society.

For some young people it can be very, very difficult for them then to move out of the communal setting into their own tenancies. So we have two semi-independent flats that would then enable them to test out, in a very supported way, how they will manage to live and cope on their own. 

They’ve got me a flat but apart from the flat they got me a furniture pack, it’s like a little home now thanks to them.

The complex lifestyles that young people face often leads then to stress, anxiety, often young people are suicidal, they feel there is a lack of hope and isolation and that impacts on their health in many, many ways. 

A problem that we have within Lancashire around mental health rehabilitation, there’s a real shortage of beds, they’ve made available to us a facility to take people who need rehabilitation to get better recovery and get back into society.

I was in hospital for quite a long time on a psychiatric ward and because I was so unwell my family thought it was unsuitable for me to go back home and therefore I was made homeless.

People who are on mental health inpatient wards we use Birchwood as a way of discharging them early. They could leave hospital, move to Birchwood, have another period of enhanced support before being ultimately discharged back home. 

We want to prevent young people needing accommodation so what we do at Birchwood through the mediation project is work really closely with the young person who is at risk of homelessness and with their family.

I work with younger families from the age of thirteen upwards. It’s just problem solving, reduce conflict, improve relationships.

Our mediation services have been really, really successful and over two thirds of the families and young people we worked with last year we were able to prevent a homelessness situation. 

The Junk Food Café is a community based project. We were approached by some local supermarkets who were concerned about their waste products, instead of food being junked we would take that food and then we would provide meals on a pay as you feel basis to the local community. 

I started living at Birchwood it’s coming up to a year now and I volunteer here as a chef. They have a whole diverse of jobs. It’s completely changed how I am as a person, I’m enjoying myself, I have fun now, I get to get involved with stuff that the centre run.

It’s just so homely and so family orientated I just feel like I fit in and that’s something that I’ve craved a long time.