Member News & Events

Local MP visits young people homeless services in Wimborne

Michael Tomlinson MP took time out of his busy schedule last week to visit Waverley House in Wimborne, which provides accommodation for vulnerable young people within his constituency of Mid Dorset and North Poole.

The service for 16 – 21 year-olds is run by BCHA, a local specialist housing and support provider, who help homeless and vulnerable people access the right housing, health, learning and work opportunities.

The visit followed a meeting earlier this year between BCHA CEO, Martin Hancock and Michael, when he was also a member of the Public Bill Committee for the Homelessness Reduction Act. The new law, which was given Royal Assent in April, will require earlier intervention by councils to prevent homelessness, becoming the first major piece of homelessness legislation for 15 years.

Michael met with staff to find out more about the work of BCHA and Waverley House in supporting the 8 young people who live there and also spoke with resident’s Ella, 18, Joe, 22, about their own experiences and future plans. The MP also talked to Grace Butler, a local a police Community Support Officer, about successful partnership working with BCHA has led to some very positive outcomes within the community.

Michael Tomlinson, said, “I was delighted to be invited to visit Waverley House to see for myself the excellent work that they are doing. It is clear that the young people who use this facility benefit significantly as a result. The dedication and skill of the staff at BCHA is to be applauded.”

Following the visit, Lisa Hudson, BCHA Project Leader for Dorset Young People’s Services, said, “We really appreciate Michael taking time to come and visit us, it really meant a lot to both staff and residents. He took time to talk to everyone individually and find out more about them and find out what more the government can do to help. The feedback from everyone following the visit has been extremely positive.”

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16-year-old’s charity single and event raises £1,000 for Women’s Refuge

16 year-old Bournemouth and Poole College student Nicole Mcnally delivered a cheque for £1,000 last week to BCHA following a successful fundraising launch event for her charity CD single release.

Nicole wrote, recorded and released the track entitled ‘Annabelle’, which is about a woman trying to escape domestic abuse, to raise money for the Bournemouth Women’s Refuge, which is run by local housing and support provider BCHA.

However, rather than just release the single, Nicole decided to singlehandedly organise a special music event and called upon her local music contacts, managing to persuade 16 artists to perform for free and help raise more money for the refuge. The all-day event took place at Chaplin’s Cellar Bar in Boscombe and featured Matt Black, Si Genaro from The Voice, Jonny Phillips, Kimari Raven, Matt Griffiths, Ant Lewis and Nicole McNally herself, plus many more.

Naomi James, from BCHA’s Bournemouth Domestic Abuse Service, said, “We are absolutely overwhelmed by what Nicole has achieved for the women’s refuge and the money will go towards converting a garage at the refuge into a computer room for the children.

Nicole is not only exceptionally talented but clearly has a passion and empathy for supporting vulnerable people and we really appreciate everything she has done. I urge everyone to buy a copy of the single, it’s fantastic.”

Nicole has been performing in public since she was 10 years old and over the past six years has taken part in hundreds of live music events, talent competitions, musical theatre productions and private gigs, performing at local venues including The Pavilion, O2 Academy and Lighthouse, as well as the Queens Theatre and Royal Albert Hall in London. Last year she was a featured artist on BBC Introducing Solent radio show.

The former Avonbourne college pupil was motivated to write the song ‘Annabelle’, after she learnt about domestic abuse during one of her school lessons. Nicole said, “I was inspired to write the song after reading and discussing the topic during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. After playing the song a few times locally and seeing the reaction it received from several survivors, which promoted them to share their own experiences with me, I decided to release ‘Annabelle’ as a charity single and host the event.

It was such a fantastic event and I would like to thank everyone for their support, especially all the artists who performed, the team at Chaplin’s and to Matt Black and Hangover Studios for letting me record my single for free.”

Details of how you can purchase the single can be found at Nicole Mcnally Official on Facebook.

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Graduation success for National Citizen Service teenagers

Around 900 people recently descended on Citygate Church in Bournemouth for the local NCS (National Citizen Service) graduation events led by BCHA.

 400 young people, along with parents, celebrated successfully taking part in the national youth empowerment programme open to all 15-17 year olds. Over the course of four weeks the teenagers from Bournemouth and Poole volunteered 12,000 hours for 30 local Social Action projects at places such as St Walburga’s Catholic Primary School and Bournemouth War Memorial Homes, raising £6,000 in the process.

The graduation ceremony, which was held over two consecutive nights, also featured performances from local dance troupe Passion Dance, as well as Guest Speakers including Natalie Newman from Amelia’s Rainbow, International Citizen Service (ICS) Representatives and BCHA’s local National NCS Leaders Kukku George and Annabel Stalley.

32-year-old Peter Thompson from Bournemouth, who ran 44 Marathons in 44 European countries in 44 days, raising nearly £18,000 for mental health charities Livability Holton Lee and Mind, delivered the keynote talk on both nights.

Bournemouth-based charity organisation BCHA, which helps homeless and vulnerable people access the right housing, health, learning and work opportunities, is the largest provider of NCS in the Poole and Bournemouth area, which brings together young people from different backgrounds and helps them develop greater confidence, self-awareness and responsibility.

Each course encourages personal and social development by working on skills like leadership, teamwork and communication, supporting young people to develop the skills and attitudes they need to get more engaged with their communities and become active and responsible citizens.

Nadir Amouri, NCS Project Co-ordinator from BCHA, commented “It’s always amazing to see the passion and enthusiasm amongst young people grow as they go through the various stages of the programme – from outward bound activities through to skills based workshops right through to the social action project.

He continues, “This story is an example of the positive impact young people can have on their communities; we just need to give them the tools, support and opportunities to realise their potential which is where programmes like NCS are so valuable.”

Anyone interested should get in touch on 01202 410550 or email

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Sky’s the limit for birthday fundraiser Jan

Jan Hawkins-Kitson, who works for BCHA’s Bournemouth Domestic Abuse Service, marked her 60th birthday by completing a 15,000ft tandem skydive to raise money for the Women’s Refuge where she works.

Jan, who has worked at BCHA for 4 years, signed up to do the skydive after approaching the Red Devils at the Bournemouth Air Show. Jan said, “I got involved by asking the Red Devils at Bournemouth Air show how I would go about jumping with them and they told me how to go about it. I went home that night and signed up.”

Jan’s started at BCHA, the Bournemouth-based housing and support provider, by volunteering at its Women’s Refuge in Poole, and within 6 months she had been accepted as a Relief Worker and immediately seconded over to the Bournemouth Women’s Refuge.

Jan wanted to use the skydive as an opportunity to raise money for the refuge, which provides accommodation for up to 18 women and up to 25 children, providing support services including tenancies, welfare benefits, overcoming the effects of living with domestic abuse and violence, maintaining accommodation and school placements.

One in four women will be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime and BCHA helps these women to find the courage they need to leave an abusive situation and we can provide people with the support they need to regain confidence and rebuild their lives.

Jan explains, “I love my work and I have a passion for the refuge and for helping families who have been affected by Domestic Abuse. I self-funded the skydive for my 60th birthday, so any other money raised will go straight to refuge, as I would like to help to make Christmas better for the families who will be living here at the time.”

The skydive, which was organised through Go Skydive, took place at Salisbury Airfield and Jan experienced an adrenaline-pumping 15,000ft (2.8 miles) jump from a plane offering 60 seconds of freefall. Jan said, “The experience was amazing from start to finish and my admiration for the Red Devils is immense, when you consider what they do as a “real job”. I saw a video where the Red Devils jumped out of the plane headfirst and I spoke to my instructor Mike about this. He asked me if I wanted to do it and I said yes and it was absolutely the right decision.”

Jan is hopeful that she can achieve a few more donations for the refuge via her Just Giving page

“Families affected by Domestic Abuse often arrive at Christmas with nothing and Christmas is a very difficult time at refuge so we try to make it the best that we can for the children”, adds Jan, “I am hoping that the money raised will go some way to achieve this.”

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Local MP gives backing to supported housing

BCHA marked the National Housing Association’s recent ‘Starts at Home’ day by inviting Conor Burns, MP for Bournemouth West, to see the refurbishment programme taking place at its St Paul’s supported housing accommodation in Bournemouth.

Starts at Home, now in its second year and run by the National Housing Federation, celebrates how supported housing helps hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people regain their independence and confidence.

Housing associations like BCHA provide a wide range of longer term social housing as well as vital supported housing services including sheltered accommodation, refuges for domestic abuse victims, homeless shelters and housing for those with disabilities, mental health issues or alcohol and substance addictions.

BCHA’s support comes as uncertainty surrounds the future funding of supported housing. The National Housing Federation and Homeless Link and its members are campaigning to persuade the Government to commit to ensuring that every person who needs extra support has the appropriate home and intervention support that helps the journey back into work and independence.

Malgorzata Roj, Team Manager at St Paul’s, said, “BCHA’s Supported Housing helps thousands of vulnerable people regain their independence and confidence, allowing them to gain more skills for life, employment and self-care, as well as boosting their self-esteem, eventually enabling them to live independently.”

St Paul’s is the site of the former night shelter and in 2012 it was repurposed to provide supported accommodation for people affected by homelessness, substance and alcohol misuse and complex trauma issues. With a focus on improving customer health and wellbeing, the current project will see the building refurbished and modernised to provide 40 upgraded bedrooms, 39 now with en-suite facilities, new improved doctor’s consulting rooms and nurse’s room with shower and well as enhanced IT & training facilities to promote digital inclusion, and an internal Recovery Café.

Malgorzata, adds, “The refurbishment programme will improve our customers living conditions, help develop life skills, access to employment, as well as advance the health provision for customers in the project and the wider Bournemouth community.”

Connor Burns, said, “It was a pleasure to visit St Paul’s and to meet residents and staff. Behind every case of homelessness lies a tragedy. Often caused by addiction, relationship failure or mental health the biggest thing we can provide is help and support. The work of BCHA does exactly that. They help people regain control of their lives and offer hope.”

BCHA was awarded a £1m grant from Homes and Community Agency’s (HCA) Homelessness Change Programme to support the redevelopment but has also provided an additional £228,000 of its own money to complete the project. Local construction company Spetisbury is overseeing the transformation, which is due for completion by March 2018, coinciding with BCHA’s 50th anniversary.

Martin Hancock, Chief Executive at BCHA, said, “Supported housing helps people move from a time of crisis or loss of confidence and self-esteem to live independently and achieve their aspirations in a safe and secure home. It is a critical time for supported housing; we must highlight how vital a lifeline it is to so many vulnerable people and show Government why supported housing should be put on a secure and sustainable funding footing for the future.

Furthermore, supported accommodation, like St Paul’s, generates significant cost savings for public services, such as the social services, NHS, police and the criminal justice system, as early intervention does reduce ambulance call-outs and hospital admissions, as well as reduce any re-offending.

We have many examples of life changing decisions being made as behaviours are changed and self-confidence increases to enable many people move-on into learning and work and find a new way forward.

It is very encouraging when MP’s like Conor Burns take time out to learn more about these vital services and engage with residents and we hope can influence decisions at the top levels of the government”

Conor, added, “I warmly congratulate them (BCHA) on the quality of the provision and welcome their desire to provide more locally to help tackle the problem of homelessness we face locally. I would encourage all in a position to partner with BCHA to do so.”

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AFC Bournemouth Cherries Community Fund help for children affected by domestic abuse

A member of staff from a Women’s Refuge in Bournemouth collected a cheque for £1,000 from AFC Bournemouth Cherries Community Fund to support children who are impacted by domestic abuse.

The refuge, which is run by local housing and support provider BCHA, plans to use the donation to convert a garage, which is damp and used for storage, into a computer room for the children to use. Currently the refuge has no computer access for the women and children and the building also has no wi-fi service.

Naomi James, BCHA’s Project Leader for Domestic Abuse Services in Bournemouth, said, “We are very grateful for the generosity of AFC Bournemouth Cherries Community Fund. Our ambition is to have a computer hub with 3 work stations that would give children the opportunity to learn, complete school or college homework tasks and projects and also have fun in a safe environment.

However, the refuge still requires an additional £6,000 of funding to complete the project, so will need to find the remainder via donations, fundraising and grants.

Naomi, added, “While the AFC Bournemouth donation won’t pay for the whole project, it will be an enormous step forward in helping to kick start the refurbishment. If there are local people or businesses out there that could possible donate time, resources or materials to help us complete the conversion, we would really love to hear from them.

When women get into the refuge their priority is their children, so we desperately want to provide a computer room that would benefit both women and children and help promote digital inclusion.”

If you would like to help with the refuge’s refurbishment project, please call Naomi James at BCHA on 01202 410500.

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BCHA welcomes new Head of HR

 BCHA, the Bournemouth-based specialist housing and support provider, has announced the appointment of Melanie Swain as Head of HR.

 Melanie, who grew up in Bournemouth but has worked in various senior HR positions across the country, originally trained as a teacher before changing career and moving into HR. Melanie has had extensive experience in Health, Education and Local Government before joining BCHA in April as a new member of the Senior Leadership Team. Melanie is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a trained Coach and a PRINCE 2 Practitioner.

Melanie believes strongly in the importance of community, collaborative working and providing support, where needed, to help others get back on an even keel and take control of their lives.

Melanie has undertaken a range of voluntary roles in the community including: being a Community First Responder; working as a member of a local Parent Teacher Association; working in a local community café run by volunteers in Bransgore and arranging two street parties.

Of her new role, Melanie said, “I have already met many staff who are passionate about the work they do; I want to use my expertise and passion for HR to help them be the very best they can and to make BCHA an employer of choice – a great place to work, develop and make a difference”

Martin Lucas, Director of Finance & Corporate Resources at BCHA, commented, “I’m delighted that Melanie has joined us, bringing such an excellent range of skill and experience. Her collaborative and supportive approach along with a clear passion for our vision of building better lives, better homes and better communities is a great asset for BCHA and the team.”

For more information on BCHA visit

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BCHA show commitment to housing for young people Local housing and support provider, BCHA, has reaffirmed its commitment to local people, with the recent announcement of two new building projects in the Bournemouth area.

Work has already started on a three story extension, which will see the conversion of its former office space into six 2 bedroom flats.

BCHA has been awarded funding from the Homes and Communities Agency/Department Health ‘Platform for Life’ scheme. This funding has been allocated to help specialist housing providers create low-rent accommodation for young people aged 18 to 24 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Funding is available to support tenants’ participation in work, further education and vocational training and assist residents into long term employment, independence and improved prospects for a successful and healthy life.

Tenancies will be time limited and conditional to participation in work, further education or vocational training. BCHA is working closely with organisations including Bournemouth and Poole College and the Construction Training Board to provide apprenticeships and personal mentors for all the 18 to 24 year olds.

Daryl Gibbins, BCHA Project Leader for Bournemouth Young Peoples Accommodation Service, said, “This accommodation is specifically aimed at helping young people have a better start in life by providing apprenticeships that will hopefully lead them into full-time employment. Not only that, by offering them affordable rent, this gives them the opportunity to save for a deposit for when they move onto independent living.”

In addition to this project the recent purchase of 12 bed former care home in Bournemouth, will see it refurbished into specialist housing for vulnerable adults with complex care needs. This 12-unit refurbishment, will comprise of 10 self-contained flats with en-suite and kitchen facilities and is due to be completed by August this year.

BCHA, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018, supports over 10,000 people every year across the South West to take control of their lives and equips them to find a way forward by helping homeless and vulnerable people access the right housing, health, learning and work opportunities.

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Avonbourne School Head Girls help young homeless people

Avonbourne School Head Girls’ Team have raised over £400 and provided donations of food and toiletries to help young people affected by homelessness in Bournemouth.

Pupils Lauren Parrish, Ellie Watford, Beste Bektas and Isabel Hioco approached BCHA, the Bournemouth-based organisation that helps homeless and vulnerable people access the right housing, health, learning and work opportunities, because of its work with supporting young people locally. The girls choose the organisation as their Charity of the Year and supported them through a number of fundraising and awareness raising initiatives.

Ellie Watford said, “It is our generation who are going to inspire generosity, so why don’t we start now!”

Just before Christmas they generated hundreds of donations for BCHA’s young service users, such as food and toiletries, through the school and also raised £400. The girls recently invited Daryl Gibbins, BCHA’s Project Leader for Bournemouth Young Peoples Accommodation Service, to the school where he was presented with a cheque and gave a talk on how the money will help BCHA support young homeless people.

Paul Tucker, Campaigns Manager at BCHA, said, “The girls approached us because they wanted to do something to help the young homeless people we support. They wanted to not only raise money and generate donations but also increase awareness at school about the plight of young homeless people in Bournemouth, especially as many are of a similar age. We are inspired by the school’s compassion and drive to help combat youth homelessness through BCHA, in such a positive and structured manner. We are extremely grateful to them.”

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