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Great Communities – building successful, vibrant communities


The pandemic significantly impacted our communities. Over the last 18 months, our frontline colleagues across our Neighbourhoods, Community Investment and Independence and Wellbeing teams have provided essential services to support our customers.

Community Investment


Our Community Investment service works to improve the life chances of our customers and make our neighbourhoods great places to live. We have extended our services to all customers with a focus on employment support and poverty reduction, maximising the value of partnerships where others are best placed to deliver our aims.

Social purpose is central to the services we provide to our customers. We have continued to explore ways in which we can strengthen our role as community anchors and tackle inequalities in our society. We identify social investment and partnership opportunities and use our skills and resources to support the wider regeneration of our neighbourhoods, with a focus on supporting Covid recovery.

Ways we have supported our customers and communities during the last year include:

  • setting up our Resilience Fund, with £130k made available to community groups;
  • establishing an Emergency Fund which managed over 100 applications from customers in financial hardship;
  • creating innovative services and community projects that engaged with more than 1000 customers;
  • supporting 701 households into employment, training and volunteering opportunities;
  • enabling over 1400 customers to positively engage with their communities;
  • investing more than £100k annually into our network of community centres;
  • securing £105k of social value cash investments for a range of projects and services;
  • securing a further two years of European Social Fund grant for the More Positive Together project in Lancashire, helping customers with complex needs to progress into work;
  • helping 124 customers in financial difficulty through our Money Advice Service, generating over £121k for affected customers.
  • making over 4000 welfare calls to vulnerable customers in our communities.

To read more about how our Resilience Fund has supported local community groups and supported our customers, click here and you can also find out which organisations have benefited.

Anchor Neighbourhoods

As part of our Sustainable Neighbourhoods Strategy, we identified four ‘Anchor’ neighbourhoods across our regions, where we have a large concentration of properties and greater influence to deliver transformational change.

  • Longridge and Shaw Heath in Knutsford
  • Northmoor in Manchester
  • Seedley and Langworthy in Salford
  • Wybourn in Sheffield

We have launched specific plans for each of these neighbourhoods. The plans were reviewed by our customer scrutiny group, Insight and implement what matters most to our customers. We recognise what we do well and where partners are better placed to deliver, to ensure these neighbourhoods are even better places to live.

As well as providing crucial support to our customers and many voluntary organisations across our neighbourhoods through our Hardship and Resilience Funds, our Employability Coaches have supported customers into volunteering, work and training opportunities. We have also helped customers through our Tenancy Coach service, which provides a range of support around finances, mental health and moving home.

Working alongside our customers and partners, we have delivered a range of projects and initiatives across our four anchor neighbourhoods. These include:

Longridge & Shaw Heath

  • Installing a new digital kiosk at The Welcome which will provide customers with access to the Great Places portal and other online services.
  • Developing a partnership with Stockport Homes to collect unwanted furniture from the community, for reuse in customers’ homes.

Read more about the new digital kiosk campaign here


  • Investing £400k into our Northmoor Building (originally built by the Cooperative Society in 1912) and in partnership with Casey and IGL Surveying, we renovated three retail spaces to be made available for rent to small local businesses that bring something new and valuable to the community.
  • We renovated the former home of Northmoor Community Centre’s social enterprise which closed during the pandemic.  This made way for the Northmoor Hub and is home to the Next Step project, which provides free support on benefits, housing, jobs, CV-writing, online training courses and digital skills. The Hub also houses a café, WIFI and computers, a printing and information service, and free libraries in partnership with the Wood Street Mission.
  • Supporting local community groups to significantly reduce fly-tipping to create greener and more enjoyable outdoor spaces.
  • Supporting customers with energy-saving advice, including carrying out improvements to loft insulations.

Seedley & Langworthy

  • Supporting the Build Salford programme, helping young people access opportunities into construction. We have pledged to jointly commission services with partners to target anti-social behaviour and provide employment and skills programmes to support customers back in to work or change jobs.
  • Supporting customers with energy saving advice and servicing solar thermal systems and solar photovoltaics systems.
  • Making improvements to loft insulations and servicing Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery systems.

To read more about the Build Salford Programme click here


  • Working with our contractors as part of our social value offer to clean up community areas.
  • Supporting the Healthy Holiday initiative over the half-term and festive break, providing 400 families across Wybourn with access to essential food hampers.
  • Securing funding to review Wybourn junctions to improve the local area with community art and improved signage.
  • Commencing work on our new £2.5M community centre, providing a community hub for our customers. Located in the heart of Wybourn, the new centre will become a focal point for the neighbourhood and include a community café and space for a range of community groups, events, education courses and other activities.

Read more about the Wybourn neighbourhood initiatives here

Independence and Wellbeing

Great Places provides specialist services and expert support to promote independence and wellbeing for people across our regions.

We are committed to helping our customers develop key life skills and achieve their goals. Click here to view our booklet explaining more about our offer, including our model, framework and guiding principles.

During the last year, our offer and commitment to Independence and Wellbeing included investing £4M in support revenue and employing 133 colleagues to manage services to meet a range of diverse customer needs including older people, young parents, complex families and people with mental health needs or drug and alcohol issues. We also spent around £33k on adaptations.

We directly manage supported housing projects and have 19 accommodation schemes providing short-term accommodation and support for over 300 people. 480 customers received a service in one of our supported housing schemes.

Working with our partners who provide specialist care and support, we accommodated a further 847 vulnerable customers working with commissioners across 22 local authorities.

Alongside services commissioned by local authorities, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and other bodies, we fund a team of tenancy coaches for Great Places’ customers. We invested £364k in our Tenancy Coach service, which helped 291 customers to maintain their tenancies and deliver over 900 wellbeing sessions.

Through our Independent Living offer, we invested £270k in support revenue for older people and we supported 543 customers across 15 extra-care and sheltered schemes.


Our partnership with Equity

Following our merger with Equity in April 2020, the amount of specialist accommodation for older people we provided increased by 200 sheltered housing tenancies across seven services and 55 extra care tenancies across two sites, covering south Manchester, Stockport and High Peak.

The merger created an additional 275 properties allocated to older people with a range of specialist services provided.

Over the last year, we have carried out a comprehensive programme of work to integrate Equity’s former retirement living function into a new Independent Living team.

This was an important step in preparing for the full integration of Independent Living services planned for 2022.


Steering through the challenges of Covid

An important focus for us over the past year has been ensuring we deliver services safely to our older and more vulnerable customers. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our colleagues continued to work onsite within our schemes, helping to protect our customers.

We changed our approach to delivering essential services and introduced new and innovate ways to help our older and vulnerable customers combat social isolation and loneliness.  We made regular wellbeing calls, introduced gardening and book clubs, art therapy packs and provided devices such as e-readers and tablets.

Throughout the pandemic, we continued to carry out visits and crucial checks to ensure building safety compliance. As the restrictions and guidelines of the pandemic changed, we put a strong emphasis on providing our older and more vulnerable customers with clear and regular communications.

Customer Experience

Following our merger with Equity, we created a Customer Experience team with responsibility for improving the experience of our customers, including the way in which we deliver services, how our customers access services and the overall experience of living in a Great Places home.

We also launched our three-year Customer Experience Strategy, which explains how we will improve our services and our customers’ experience.

In the last year we have:

  • emphasised our customer-centric culture by promoting tone of voice, customer service principles, customer stories and the importance of customer experience at our colleague conferences;
  • re-focused our customer and colleague communications to reflect feedback including digital and non-digital information and a regional focus;
  • enhanced our digital offer through the launch of Chatabot, our new digital assistant;
  • prepared to launch our revised complaints model, which will improve the customer experience and centralise our Complaints Team for the new organisation;
  • prepared to launch our Dynamic Resource Scheduler, a new repairs scheduling tool, which will transform the way we schedule and manage repairs.

Customer Voice

Our key customer engagement initiatives over the last 12 months have captured the voice of the customers and informed service design and change. These have included:

  • engagement about our Repairs’ service as part of our Business Transformation approach;
  • the design and launch of Chatabot, our new digital assistant;
  • consultation with customers about our Grounds Maintenance Service;
  • surveying customers around the priorities in our Corporate Plan;
  • engaging with customers about our Customer Voice Strategy;
  • asking customers how we could improve our communications.

Insight Customer Scrutiny Group

Following our merger with Equity in April 2020, we combined our two legacy customer groups to create Insight, our new stronger and more representative customer scrutiny group.

Insight attend and report their findings at Board meetings, ensuring their feedback is direct and unfiltered and over 90 per cent of their recommendations have been implemented.

The new group has carried out reviews on how we develop the Neighbourhood Plans for our anchor neighbourhoods and our adapted customer offer in response to the pandemic.

The group has reviewed how they approach and carry out scrutiny activity, including training with the Tenant Participation Advisory Service.

Pioneering Approach to Social Value

Our pioneering approach to social value remains a priority for us. This year has brought many challenges for our customers and colleagues, with many experiencing hard times through unemployment, illness and additional caring responsibilities.

We have delivered projects and initiatives to support some of the most vulnerable people and organisations across our communities. Through the social value contributions, we have provided life-changing opportunities, support and services to customers and organisations including those impacted most by the pandemic. This includes:

  • £557k total Social Value, comprising of £143k in funding, £24,318 in donations and £390k in social impact;
  • 30 contractors supported 53 social value projects;
  • supported 13 customers into jobs or apprenticeships, plus nine work placements with our suppliers;
  • 429 customers supported during half-term breaks with food and activities;
  • 263 hours volunteered by our suppliers;
  • provided 1000 meals and food parcels to local groups and charities;
  • 60 supply chain employees from seven contractors have received carbon literacy training;
  • Great Places was awarded the National Social Value Award in 2020.

New Sheffield Office

In support of our long-term commitment to the area, we have relocated our Sheffield office to a modern new office in Park Hill. The move means we are more accessible to our customers and provides a more functional office and collaboration space for our colleagues.

Located close to the interchange and Sheffield train station, Park Hill also has ample bike storage and meeting room spaces, which are made available for use by our partners and local community groups.