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    Henry James

    A SKELMERSDALE charity that provides support and accommodation for vulnerable young people who are homeless or in housing need has won a prestigious national award and £30,000 worth of funding.

    The Birchwood Centre beat more than 350 organisations from all over the UK to be one of the eight winners of the 2018 GSK IMPACT Awards, which recognises charities that are doing excellent work to improve people’s health and wellbeing.

    Officials of the charity received the award at a ceremony held at the Science Museum in London.

    The name ‘IMPACT’ derives from the criteria that winners must have demonstrated in their application submissions: Innovation, Management, Partnership, Achievement, Community Focus and Targeting Need.

    The charity will receive the funding as part of its prize, along with expert support and development from The King’s Fund, an independent charity working to improve health and care in England.

    Based in Heversham, Birch Green, the Birchwood Centre provides supported accommodation, advice and mediation, as well as training and employability programmes and counselling services, to 13 to 25 year olds who have complex challenges and lifestyles.

    Its work is having a positive impact in Skelmersdale and is helping to prevent homelessness. Last year two-thirds of those using its mediation services to resolve family conflicts were able to stay with their family.

    The charity has an innovative approach, typified by its Junk Food Café, which uses food close to its sell-by date donated by local supermarkets; and its Therapeutic Residential Support Unit that provides short-stay beds for people with mental health problems ready to be discharged from hospital but who still need support.

    This approach has been piloted with the NHS and is now due to expand.

    Stella Connell, chief executive of the Birchwood Centre, said: “We are delighted to have received a GSK IMPACT Award, as it is recognition of the quality of the work we are doing in supporting people who are homeless or in housing need.

    “We’re excited to have the chance to work with GSK and The King’s Fund over the months and years ahead, and we hope the award will be a platform for taking us to the next level of being able to support those who need us.”

    Lisa Weaks, head of Third Sector at The King’s Fund, said: “The Birchwood Centre is doing fantastic work that is having a real impact in supporting vulnerable young people who are homeless or in housing need.

    “The judging panel was particularly impressed by the way the charity is always looking for new ways to support young people, as well as the excellent working relationships it has established with the local statutory sector.”

    The Birchwood Centre will now have access to training and leadership development tailored to its needs. It will also be invited to join the GSK IMPACT Awards Network of almost 80 award-winning health and wellbeing charities working together to develop their leaders, find new ways of working, and support others.

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