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Year End Reflections 2023


All throughout December I kept thinking I really must say something on social media, I really must. Several times a day. There must be something I can share, celebrate and show people what we are up to at Backup North West.  The truth is I was overwhelmed; with life, work, menopause and experiencing ‘paralysis’ which I can only describe as self sabotaging anxiety. I didn’t know where to start. I felt quite pressured to be honest.

December 2023 has been the most difficult time I have ever known except for the lockdown to cover shifts at Backup for a variety of reasons.

Already short staffed with 4 vacant posts alongside, a colleague having a totally unexpected heart attack/heart surgery, a colleague collapsing with herniated discs requiring surgery, 5 cases of Covid, plus a few with flu and novovirus, a colleague who’s adult son died suddenly and unexpectedly, a colleague with a broken arm, another colleague who’s relative died suddenly, a colleague who’s dog, her absolute fur baby, passed away unexpectedly, a colleague fretting as her adult daughter was randomly physically attacked and hospitalized requiring months of treatment, other colleagues feeling really stressed and more…………… Myself personally, I burst into tears in a Trustee Board meeting because I REALLY over reacted to something that was raised. Making me realise I was quite simply exhausted. I AM PASSIONATE but this was irrational.


This is in addition to a service that never sleeps, day to day 365 days a year, round the clock services to young people who are experiencing homelessness.


I kept seeing ‘reflections’ of 2023 on social media, amusing stories, heart warming, inspiring and thinking come on Maura; stop faffing about.


Each day I kept thinking “I am doing my best” because as soon as I started to self critique I started crying. Thank you menopause.


I had agreed to work through the holidays and I booked the first week of January off instead. I am very much looking forward to that. I really am. I have not had any kind of epiphany, I am not playing the martyr and I have no wisdom to impart. It is Christmas Day night and I am on shift with a colleague doing a sleep shift. It is quiet at the moment.  

All I can tell you is what I have seen and know about December so far.


  • The colleague with heart surgery is ALIVE, doing well, things could have been a lot worse
  • Our colleague who collapsed has returned to work and is managing (surgery waiting list)
  • Those with Covid/Flu have recovered and are back at work except 1who tested positive today
  • I bumped into the colleague with a broken arm in the supermarket, cast on, pins holding her arm together and their removal delayed. ‘Please let me come back to work she said; I’ll sign a disclaimer’.  I said NO.
  • Colleagues have worked over time, swapped shifts, covered at other projects, helped each other
  • Colleagues have reached out to those struggling and experiencing trauma
  • Managers have picked up shifts, covered sites to allow colleagues to have a break or attend the Christmas staff lunch
  • I was proud to stand with 15 colleagues attending the funeral to show support to their colleague after the death of her only son
  • Every site we have is filled with trees, tinsel, baubles, chocolate and love
  • Sponsors, donors, families and friends have contributed beyond our wildest dreams to ensure young people had an amazing time
  • I have been able to submit 2 funding bids. £25k and £3k. Fingers Crossed.
  • We received lots of donations including a cheque for £10k
  • I attended the first few hours of the Christmas Party Night and watched some of our colleagues dance, laugh and celebrate each other.


There has been a collective ‘surge’ leading up to the 22nd to produce 106+ hampers of food, gifts, toiletries, vouchers, money and more. A tsunami of support. Gifts like - Umbrellas, hoodies, earphones, purses, designer socks, weighted blankets, slow cookers…………. Money for a trip to Smithills Farm, Bowling and Christmas Dinners. Plus money to pay for electric on the meters.


I want to tell you about someone. A young man in our service, been here three years so far…………… he’s the 4th of 5 siblings to be in our services since 2013. Neglect from Mum led to Foster Care and Adoption outside Bolton and he returned aged 16 to reconnect with family, his Mum, which did not work out. 18 months ago we nearly asked him to leave due to “non engagement”; failing to attend meetings, dirty flat, up all night online gaming, some outstanding rent……… so he had what we refer to as a ‘pre term meeting’. Last chance saloon to engage and set some targets.  The person holding this meeting was off sick and no one available except me to do so I did it. Colleagues didn’t want to delay it. They were worried about him. I hadn’t done any “work”  with young people directly for many years. What could go wrong?


I went into his bedsit with his support worker and we chatted. The flat was messy but I have seen a LOT worse. The bed had no bedding on and there were 5 full bin liners against the wall. We talked about how he was feeling. He said his Mum was causing drama and he was tired of it. He said to me; you knew my Mum didn’t you? What was she like?


I told him I did know her years ago when he was a new born baby and I was part of the team trying to support her and her children. She was unable to grasp the reality and responsibility of being a parent. I took his older sister to her first day at primary school and on my arrival she was wearing yellow wellies several sizes too big as she had no school shoes. I had to buy her some. When I tried to do budgeting work his MUM would NOT budge on the money for the POP MAN for 12 bottles of fizzy pop delivered every week? The children were in my opinion – feral – through necessity. Every new partner who said they care for her and her family, left her, usually pregnant, until she had 5 kids under 10. She just didn’t comprehend risk and became overwhelmed with responsibility.


The tears rolled down his face. He never spoke.


I asked where his bedding was, he pointed to the bin liners and said ‘in there. That’s all dirty washing’. I explained that anyone would struggle with 5 bags – that’s too much.  I suggested he take out the bedding and some clothing and we will do that for him today. Then he can do a bit each day.

I asked my colleague to get him a new set of bedding including duvet today so at least he feels like going to bed and resting. Clean clothes and underwear will feel good and he can have a shower and look after himself.

We will assist you to clean this flat up, I can see it’s just got out of hand. We can help.

I suggested some boundaries around his routine and online gaming.

My colleague talked to him about volunteering on The Van.

We talked to him about a colleague from Chances assisting him with medication which he’d neglected. He agreed to go.

I then explained the consequences of not doing  this. He said he was disappointed he’d been overlooked for a move on flat recently.  I promised him he could have the next flat but needed to earn it.

The choice is yours……………


A life time of service intervention like your Mum or a broken generational cycle and you achieve your potential.

To be asked to leave Backup accommodation means a legal assessment of intentionally homeless and no help.  You need to let us help you now or you need to accept you are on your own. You are officially an adult and can leave anytime.

He said, I have nowhere else to go and no one else to help.  

I said. “Stay then, Be better, Be well.” We will help you to be happier.  He agreed. He had assumed we would evict him and resigned himself to that.


I left his room and carried on with my day/life/work. I thought I hope he’s going to be ok.


The service manager told me the following week that the support worker who’d been present with me in the room that day was raving about it. She told him that I had been magnificent. She assumed we were going in to “tell him off” and was pleasantly surprised by my approach. She said she now truly understood what trauma informed meant. It was her sparkling moment. (a positive experience we have at work which we share and celebrate) She could see he totally listened to what I said because I had listened to what he had to say. That made my week!


A month later he moved on to the next Backup service as we had promised as he did everything we asked; and more.


Last week on the Manager Whats App group we received this message.


“OMG I have just taken a call from XX who’s just moved into his move on flat and Karen (our colleague) went today and dropped all his stuff off with a key. He’s just walked in from work and was absolutely blown away, crying on the phone saying thank you so much to all of you at Backup, I never expected this. He’s blown away with the slow cooker!” She went on to say that this has been the best year ever for things for the young people.


This young man is the same person we nearly let go 18 months earlier.   


To anyone reading this I’d invite you to consider this:-


  1. Backup are supposed to move young people on within 2 years maximum, but young adults are not always ready. We are person centred.
  2. Bolton is a small place and we have lots of family connections and second generation clients whose parents/relatives were here in the 90s. I met a 16 year old last month who’s 2 cousins were here in 2000 and 2017.  
  3. Why is a young person over the moon with a slow cooker as a Christmas Gift? He is 20.
  4. Homelessness is temporary. Memories and feelings will last a lifetime.
  5. Family is a concept, the Backup Family is as real as any other.


If you contributed to Backups Christmas in any way I want you to know this is the impact you had. Not just on one person; on 100’s. I cannot stress how every piece of chocolate, voucher and £1 has collectively given Backup the honor and privilege of being Santa, corporate parents, guardian angels all rolled into one, to 120 young people. We had enough for some young people who have moved on this year but have no family support, one just lost his Mum. You have made young people FEEL valued and cherished and for some it will be a first.


Everyone at Backup has worked their socks off. The cherished memories made here aren’t just for young people. We will never stop doing that as long as we have you..

Backup Charity values infographic

What We Do!

BACKUP provide multiple services across Bolton to young people aged 16-25 years who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness. Read here about all the supported accommodation which includes emergency housing, temporary accommodation, short and medium stay supported housing. Also the non accommodation based support work that focusses on mental health, employment support and much more.

Young people can live in more than one Backup service as they make progress and develop more independence prior to moving on completely. The different services are designed to meet various levels and ranges of needs.


This year
we accomodated

young people

Our Events

Every year Backup delivers multiple events for fundraising. Each one is designed to raise awareness and much needed money to support young people who are homeless. Annually we have our core events; Gala Ball, Golf Day and Ladies Lunch. We also have other events that are different each year so that we can have a wider appeal to all.

Fundraising and Events

Back Up North West's cartoon character called Charlie