Last week, I attended the launch of the Big Boat, billed as a ‘healthy living centre on water’ in Poynton, near Stockport.
Despite it being a typical November day in the North – cold and wet – more than 40 people enthusiastically crowded into the small marquee in Lord Vernon’s Wharf to see its launch and have a look round.
The Big Boat is aimed at mental health groups, who can book it out and use it for meetings or wellbeing days – the relaxing effects of cruising through the Manchester countryside, for instance – as well as those with learning or physical disabilities, or just those who want a day out on the canal.
The boat has been specially designed and built to accommodate wheelchairs – including a disabled toilet – and has a fully-functioning galley, as well as mood lighting throughout.
The idea for the boat first came from a group of service users, who put their idea to mental health services in Stockport Council, who ran with the idea and secured funding for it. It was project-managed by a team from Big Life Centres (part of the Big Life Group, which includes the Big Issue) and the boat was built from scratch.
It has received a tremendous amount of interest so far, and it’s easy to see why; not only is the boat fantastically well equipped, it is also quite different to traditional care services, such as day centres, and gives service users a different experience.
It is great to see such innovative approaches being taken to social care projects and has really engaged service users – they have been involved at every stage of the Big Boat – and creates something good for the whole community.
Hopefully, other local authorities will take note of schemes like this and start thinking about new ways they could deliver care services too.