People at the heart of the Booth Centre

Tuesday, 20 November 2018 - 11:45am

The Booth Centre won first place for Excellence in Co-Production at the Homeless Link Excellence Awards 2018. In this feature their Development Manager, Amy Hinks, explains how the Booth Centre involves people with lived experience of homelessness in everything they do, and the impact it has.

The Centre

The Booth Centre is designed to bring about positive change in the lives of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and help them plan for and realise a better future. We couldn’t do this without our commitment to co-production.

The busy day centre is used by over 250 people every week and is delivered by a team of volunteers and 16 paid staff. People with lived experience of homelessness are at every level of the staff structure. Three of our volunteers also use the Centre, one third of the paid staff have lived experience of homelessness and three members of our Board of Trustees have been homeless in the past.

The Centre’s missions and values have been designed alongside people who use the centre and key part of those values is a promise to “work collaboratively with people who come to the centre to design, deliver and evaluate our service.”

Every day, we provide activities to help people rebuild confidence, learn something new and have fun. We run arts, employment and skills sessions daily and offer everyone a healthy breakfast and lunch. All these services have been designed and delivered involving people with lived experience.

Lived experience 

We encourage anyone who uses the Centre to volunteer using their own skills and talents. They are supported through induction, training and mentoring and last year over 70 people joined us to help run the Centre. People with lived experience are also on and Chair every single one of our committees which meet regularly and make decisions about every aspect of the service – from outcome targets to budgets and evaluation frameworks.

We also redesigned our staff structure to include entry level jobs, ring-fenced for volunteers. This secures a route for people to go from street homelessness, volunteer, and then progress to paid staff. This redesign helps the Centre employ more people with lived experience. People who use the Centre also form a recruitment panel for any new staff interviewing and they co-deliver the volunteer and induction programme.

When we designed our new building, we made sure that it was alongside people who used the service, meaning that the space we have created is welcoming and positive.

Embedding co-production doesn’t stop within the Centre. We encourage people to get involved in strategic decision making in Manchester, where we are based. As part of that, we’ve been central to setting up the Manchester Homeless Partnership, a coalition of organisations working with people with experience of homelessness to redesign services. People from the Centre sit on the Partnership Board, Driver Group and nine Action Groups. Last year, 37 people took an active and meaningful role in strategic work in the City last year, including helping to design, commission and deliver new services. This means people who use the Centre now have a voice and strategic influence which is helping to improve services across the City.

The impact 

Championing co-production has a huge impact both within the organisation and externally. People who are involved say it helps them feel more confident, builds their self-esteem and gives them a sense of purpose. There are also better outcomes for employment, resettlement and improved wellbeing. The Centre itself is more welcoming, well used and respected; it can be responsive, continually adapting and developing based on the skills, inputs and needs of everybody that uses it, and homelessness services in Manchester have benefitted from our input.

The Booth Centre has pioneered and will continue to champion co-production in day centre services. We believe it makes a better, more effective, service for everyone. We will continue to share our learnings with other services and work with Homeless Link to share good practice throughout the sector. Co-production should be everywhere.

Davey is a peer mentor at the Booth Centre. Davey explains how peer mentoring has helped her:

“After leaving the army my marriage broke up, I was rough sleeping for four years.  I ended up in Manchester at the Booth Centre. I didn’t stay long on my first visit and hardly spoke.  But soon they got me involved in the activities and helped me to sort benefits and accommodation.  From day one I was made to feel welcome and part of a family where my skills and experience were valued.  I helped to create the peer mentor programme using my experience of finding it hard to come to the Centre the first time.  Now we have peers welcoming new people every day.  I have a passion for poetry and so I write poems for events like the memorial service we had at the Booth Centre.  I’ve also used my experience of getting a flat to work with Manchester Council to design and commission a new resettlement service which measures success by whether the person has made friends and has a purpose and not just by if they pay the rent.  I’ve helped shape the Booth Centre service and used my experience to improve services in the City of Manchester. We’re all one big unit, that’s what I enjoy. It’s not just the staff, it’s the volunteers, and people using the centre; everyone has the capacity and opportunity to do something positive to help. We work as one.  It has helped build my confidence.  At first, I was so quiet and now you can’t shut me up.  The Centre enables people to find their voice.”

Use Homeless Link's toolkit to find out what co-production is, some of the key ideas behind it and how to start applying the principles of co-production to your service.

Watch a video made by Homeless Link and The Booth Centre about co-production here.