Published: Monday, 10th Jan 2022

Bolton Council is looking for ways to improve and personalise the support we provide for people with a variety of needs in Bolton.

What is the Your Life, Your Opportunities project?

We think it’s important that people with a variety of needs can flourish through varied and fulfilling opportunities, for example through hobbies, employment, art, outings, leisure, learning, fitness and friendships. We aim to provide services that support people’s independence and help them live good lives with positive links to their community.

To do this, we are leading a review of the way that day services are provided in Bolton. The voices of people who use the services will be at the centre of this exciting piece of work and we hope to make services available in ways that are more flexible, creative and convenient.

We have asked other organisations in Bolton to help, including Bolton Cares, Age UK Bolton, Bolton Dementia Support, Bolton Carers Support and others.

What was the Big Conversation?

The first step in the project was to encourage people to have their say on how services can be modernised for the future, as well as how and where they should be provided.

This was called the Big Conversation and it took place between 18 October and 05 November 2021. Almost 300 people gave their views.

At the end of the Big Conversation, some people were asked to join focus groups, which met in November 2021. The groups heard what everyone said and helped to develop a vision for support in Bolton.

What did people say about the future of day opportunities in Bolton?

During the Big Conversation, an artist used the things people said to create the illustration below. Starting on the left, it shows the progress of the Your Life, Your Opportunities project and the kinds of things people said. Click on the image to open a larger version in a new window.

We have also described what people said, below.

Graphic showing the Your Life Your Opportunities process

What people said about day services in Bolton:

  • “This isn’t just about day services. Access in Bolton is poor – it stops me doing things.”
  • “It doesn’t feel safe – there is a lot of local crime.”

What people who need support said:

  • Generally, older people felt the support they got was good and that day services worked well.
  • Some younger people were not confident that services could support them to reach their goals.

What families and carers said:

  • Families and carers had mixed feelings about how well people are supported.
  • “I’m happy with the support I get for my wife.”
  • “The support is OK. It doesn’t always meet my needs.”
  • “I could not manage without the support I get from the local authority.”
  • “I don’t expect much will change.”
  • “How do you expect people to care for loved one when you don’t care for carers?”

What staff and professionals said:

  • Staff and professionals thought it would be great to explore more options and introduce new ideas.
  • “Services can be inflexible. One size doesn’t fit all.”
  • “We have a limited ability to support people’s aspirations.”
  • “Our services are not attractive to young people coming through transition.”
  • “Services exist but they are not individually tailored.”

What people said about their relationships:

  • “I like spending time with my friends and family.”
  • “I know looking after me can be a strain for my family and friends.”

What people said about making a contribution:

  • “I’d like to be a teacher.”
  • “I’d like to find ways I can make a contribution and help others.”
  • “I would like to work.”

What people said about connections with people:

  • “I’d like a girlfriend.”
  • “I’d like a boyfriend.”

What people said about their communities:

  • “I enjoy linking with my neighbours.”
  • “We want to be able to support each other and we need help to do this.”
  • “I’d like to be a better neighbour and meet new people.”

What people said about activities and hobbies:

  • “There are all sorts of things I’d like to do in my life.”

What people said about support and services:

  • “Covid has been hard. We need help and support to get back to normal.”
  • “I need support that is closer to home.”
  • “I’d like to see people outside of the day centre.”
  • “I just need more support.”
  • “I want more and different things to do.”
  • “I’d like to spend more time at the day centre.”

What people would like support services to offer:

  • Time to have a break from caring
  • To be able to plan for the future
  • To have good support that is flexible and person-centred
  • Support that enables the person to live a fulfilled life
  • To have information and advice when it’s needed.

What people said about the changes they would like to see:

  • More resources like staff, buildings, transport, equipment and time
  • More flexibility and choice in the ways services are delivered
  • Being more creative in the ways support is offered
  • Have more specialist services for people who live with dementia or sight loss, are learning disabled, have autism or have specific cultural needs
  • Improve partnership working with organisations and people who have support needs and their families.

In future, people would like day centres to:

  • Be used as community hubs with access to community organisations and groups
  • Make better use of technology to enhance the day centre offer, such as online activities
  • Develop a more focused offer for young people.

For people with dementia, in future people would like:

  • A whole family approach to dementia, integrated across sectors and across Bolton
  • To see a more sensitive and specialist offer of daytime support
  • Day centres to act as information hubs.

For travel and transport, in future people want:

  • A wider range of connected travel options
  • Further development of travel training schemes.

For services and support during the day, in future people asked for:

  • More creative commissioning
  • A focus on outcomes and choice
  • Community groups to work alongside Bolton Cares to increase opportunities
  • The use of community buildings and partnerships to bring services closer to home
  • Adoption of a whole family approach to supporting the needs and aspirations of carers.

In terms of employment, internships and entrepreneurialism, in future people would like:

  • Links with local employment services, including self-employment
  • The creation of more posts to directly employ people
  • More supported internships
  • Support for people to set up their own enterprise, using day centres and services as a base.


  • People want to be able to spend time together, feel safe and have a break
  • People want choice, person-centred practice and commissioning, strengths-based practice, creative solutions and a review process that is co-produced
  • The required change is bigger than day services, it is a whole system change from top to bottom
  • People are looking for transition planning that recognises people’s aspirations, explores their strengths and develops a clear plan for them
  • People would like to see the potential of direct payments unlocked.

Who responded to the Big Conversation?

It was important to hear from a wide range of people, such as people who use the services, their families and carers, younger and older people, and people who provide the services. We wanted to hear ideas about what already works well and how the services could work better in future.

So that all sorts of people could take part in the Big Conversation, including those who have a quiet voice, or no voice at all, there were a variety of ways to get involved. These included an online survey, online meetings, phone calls, questionnaires and face-to-face meetings, as well as ways that involve observation and hearing from people through advocates. Some of the materials were available in Easy Read.

Who led the Big Conversation and focus groups?

To make sure that we gathered all of the important information we need, Bolton Council, Bolton Cares and our partner organisations asked an independent social enterprise called Community Catalysts to lead and run the Big Conversation and focus groups.

Community Catalysts specialises in social care and health, including gathering people’s views. They are highly experienced and have worked on many projects.

Following the Big Conversation, Community Catalysts put the things people had said into a report to inform the way we move forward. Their job is to gather people’s ideas and suggestions and they did not make any recommendations on how services might be modernised.

Will services change?

Yes. We are looking for ideas to modernise services so that people have better opportunities and enhanced lives.

Is this about saving money?

Bolton Council and its partners are always striving to improve services. The council needs to ensure that the money it has is spent wisely and that people get the support they need.

Some places have already found ways to improve these services and Bolton will look at how they have done this.

This is a great opportunity to improve people’s lives and the support they receive to help them reach their goals for the future.

What are the next steps?

We are committed to designing future day services alongside the people who use them, their families and carers, and the staff who provide them. There will be opportunities to be involved in the process during 2022.

How can I find out more?

If you have questions or queries, please email