The Burton Street Foundation is a community benefit society in Sheffield. It provides support for people with learning disabilities, working with almost 250 clients every week.
Burton Street Foundation employs around 150 local people, and its site is used by around 2,500 people each week, with many facilities open to the wider community. These include office and meeting spaces, event spaces, a bar, a gym, and a sports hall.
The foundation uses a social model to craft its sessions, encouraging clients to express themselves through creative art and drama classes, discussion groups, cooking classes, or physical activities like swimming and cycling. These sessions help clients build confidence and learn independence, focusing on what they themselves want to do within their community.
Helping people on an individual basis in a newly refurbished building
The refurbishment of the Bamforth building doubled the capacity of the foundation. Operations manager Clare Mappin described the renovations as “fantastically successful – every room is used every day, morning and afternoon.” Apprentices from Kier Group helped with the refurbishment, developing their skills and allowing the Foundation to make its grant go even further.
With more space and staff, Burton Street Foundation has expanded its services. Prior to the renovations, it was lacking in rooms where team members could work one-to-one with clients with the most profound needs. A third of the Bamforth building is now a specialist centre for doing exactly that.
Adapting to Covid-19
Operations were disrupted by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic at Burton Street Foundation. Its clients were within the bracket of people advised to shield for 12 weeks, even before the first lockdown. The Foundation quickly established a project called ‘Client Connect’, providing weekly and daily telephone support for clients. Through this outreach, it could ensure people were coping, and take action to provide additional support if it was needed.
Burton Street Foundation also developed an online programme of sessions for clients to use from home, supplying anyone who needed equipment with laptops and tablets. Staff not working from home also helped out at homecare services in Sheffield.
Despite the difficulties, the Foundation remotely supported its clients incredibly well until it could welcome people back onsite in small numbers in May 2020. To minimise contact, the onsite café was closed, larger sessions were downsized, and groups were spread across different buildings.
Burton Street Foundation also made some positive changes during the pandemic which the team has decided to continue. One is an increase in longer sessions where clients remain in the same group throughout the day doing various activities. As well as giving clients more consistent support, it has also positively impacted the staff.
“People now have social breaks with their clients, rather than taking a break away from them,” said Clare.
Burton Street Foundation intends to set up a special needs parent and toddler group, assisting those with children born with a disability, or who have very young children newly diagnosed. It also plans to do more to address the difficult transition phase people with learning difficulties face when moving to adult services on their 18th birthday. The Foundation also wants to move some sessions out into the community, freeing up capacity onsite.
With the number of referrals still coming in, Burton Street Foundation hopes to secure another building in the near future.