Abbeycroft Leisure logo

Abbeycroft Leisure – creating impact in local communities

Abbeycroft Leisure is at the heart of the communities in which they serve. One of the largest, independent leisure trusts in the UK, Abbeycroft manages 18 facilities across Suffolk and one in Cambridgeshire, with an annual turnover of £12M.

They are a shining example of a not-for-profit social enterprise, and are immensely proud of their social impact, which last year was valued at over £6.2million. Their values are easy to understand and underpin everything they do;

  • community focused
  • deliver together
  • pride
  • acting with integrity

Delivering with Allied Health Professional Suffolk

Warren Smyth, Chief Executive at Abbeycroft explains how he believes ‘delivering together’ not only makes perfect sense, but it’s the right thing to do not just for their members, but for the wider community.

Warren Smyth“We’ve worked well with a range of partners for a long time, including our two local councils, West Suffolk and Babergh District Council, who own several of the facilities we manage on their behalf. But we felt we had a responsibility to impact on the wider health agenda and we knew that physical activity plays a vital role in that, if the approach is joined-up.

“So last year (2019), we signed a memorandum of understanding with both Suffolk Mind and fellow social enterprise Allied Health Professionals Suffolk (AHPS), with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing of residents in Suffolk. The aim was to ensure that wherever there is an opportunity to provide joined up solutions that involve improving the mental and physical health of Suffolk residents through initiatives that involve physical activity, we would work together and not in competition. This would ensure that the clients and patients of each organisation would receive the very best outcomes for their health and wellbeing.”

All three organisations have significant but different levels of expertise and resource, and the agreements ensure that these specialisms are used to the maximum benefit for clients and members.

Warren continues: “Sharing our expertise, knowledge and resources drives innovation, but importantly it maximises our ability to help our communities’ live longer and healthier lives. It’s especially important to our partners to know that whenever a health or wellbeing problem exists they only need talk to one of us and we will work together, not in competition, to come up with a solution. Being committed to smart partnerships such as this, makes perfect sense”

Tim HagueTim Hague, Chief Operating Officer at AHPS said “The aim of AHP Suffolk is to lead the way towards healthier, happier lives for our people.  Working in partnership with Abbeycroft has enabled us to develop a broader range of services – supporting more people to return to an active life and access leisure facilities. Our agreement with Abbeycroft extends the reach of our services to more people, promoting health and wellbeing and building on the ‘social return’ that we deliver collectively.

“We have been able to deliver musculoskeletal services, including physiotherapy, within this partnership, and despite some programmes being put on-hold as a direct result of the pandemic, we know that physical activity will play such an important role in the nation’s recovery from COVID-19, and we feel this partnership puts us in a good place to respond effectively.”

GP Referrals

In addition to the partnership with AHPS, Abbeycroft have recognised the need to be more than just  a leisure centre, and have been trail-blazers in a number of initiatives which positively impact the wider public health.

Lady sat on an exercise bike in a gym surrounded by other peopleFor example, their Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre became the first facility in Suffolk to be awarded a new county-wide quality standard for their Exercise Referral Scheme, called Active Living.  The quality standard was developed by Suffolk County Council Public Health and county wide partners for Exercise Referral Schemes (ERS) operating within the county. Suffolk is the first authority in the country to develop a county-wide quality standard of this kind.

Exercise referral schemes enable GPs and health professionals to refer patients with long term health conditions to a fitness programme based within the community, to increase their physical activity levels as part of a healthy lifestyle. Following Bury’s success, six further Abbeycroft centres also received the same quality standard.

Falls Prevention Scheme

Group of people - older people with walking sticks sat down in front of a group of workersWorking in partnership with West Suffolk CCG and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, Abbeycroft has also developed a falls prevention programme. The aim was to provide easily accessible rehabilitation and, importantly, preventative training for clients in a leisure rather than traditional healthcare environment.

Initially, participants join a 12-week programme, which involves a group ‘Strength and Balance Class’ once a week. Typically, people attending may have fallen already or for different reasons are worried about their balance. Each class consists of 60 minutes of specific movements and exercises that safely challenge balance and muscle strength, followed by a chance to chat with fellow class members over tea/coffee.

Making time for the social element of the programme is particularly important and is a great opportunity to develop mutually supportive friendships, which often motivate ongoing participation in other centre activities beyond the programme.

Atrial Fibrilation

Photo of an Abbeycroft Leisure staff member with a customer with an Atrial fibrillation deviceAtrial fibrillation (AF) causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate and is one of the major causes of severe stroke, particularly among the over-65s. The condition is all the more dangerous because many sufferers do not show any obvious symptoms and may be completely unaware they have it.

Health practitioners in west Suffolk, which has an estimated 1,700 undiagnosed AF sufferers, have been successfully trialling a simple device that can identify those people likely to have the condition and they teamed up with Abbeycroft Leisure to support their detection project. Abbeycroft staff have been trained to use the new device and are now able to offer AF checks at their leisure centres in the west of the county.

Watch the below video to find out more about Abbeycroft Leisure

Cosmic logo

Cosmic – supporting local and regional recovery from Covid-19

Cosmic is an ethical IT agency, which specialises in website development, IT training courses, business consultancy, tech support, digital marketing and search engine optimisation. As a social enterprise, they work to achieve meaningful social impact for individuals and organisations across the South West and improve people’s lives.

The fundamental social aim of Cosmic is to address the issue of Digital Inclusion – ensuring that people from all backgrounds, communities, geographies and demographics have equal opportunity and ability at excel through the use of technology.

Response to Covid-19 – supporting businesses to adapt to remote working

When the Covid crisis struck and the first national lockdown was announced, Cosmic responded immediately by opening up a free helpline for all local business needing urgent support to adapt their services and staffing plans during this crucial time. This was followed rapidly by the offer of free mentoring for business leaders seeking support to develop resilience plans and adapt their plans rapidly to ensure their people, customers and services could be secured. Many of these businesses and individuals were challenged to deploy a rapid switch to homeworking arrangements.

Clients ranged from sole traders through to major workforces in large businesses, which also required a rapid deployment of collaboration and communications applications. During the 12 weeks of full lockdown, Cosmic ran over 120 live virtual workshops providing essential skills, understanding and confidence to businesses across the South West, supporting over 1,500 learners.

Digital programmes to improve the resilience of local businesses

In recent months, Cosmic’s programme of virtual workshops has grown significantly. They have switched all of their programmes and projects to virtual delivery for the time-being. They have also ensured that content is made available as widely as possible, and that courses being developed and delivered matches the needs of business and individuals, so that they have greater confidence in their future digital plans.

Photo of a woman presenting to a group of people with text overlay 'Digital Skills Training'Bounce Back Digital, Digital Advantage and Adapt & Thrive are three examples of specific programmes being adjusted in this way. Cosmic’s ongoing work in Digital Leadership programmes and in Digital Growth Support has also been adapted to ensure a very clear focus on continued resilience – and on identifying key opportunities now starting to emerge for many businesses.

Developing local and regional recovery plans

Cosmic’s leaders have also been significant players in the development of local and regional recovery plans working with the LEP, Devon County Council, voluntary and community groups and others to highlight the main challenges ahead, and to illustrate ways in which digital skills and digital technologies will present major opportunities for businesses, charities, social enterprises and individuals.

Cosmic has also created a specific report on the environmental impact success, and the ways in which digital communications and collaboration hold the key to continuing this success well beyond the current crisis. They feel that a shift in increased remote working offers one of many ways to reduce carbon footprints. Cosmic’s staff saved 60,000 miles of business and commuter travel during the first lockdown – the equivalent of 40 mature oak trees worth of atmospheric carbon over a year.  They have found this inspiring, and intend to build upon this shift to a greener way of working.

In their own words…

Julie Hawker_CosmicJulie Hawker, Joint Chief Executive of Cosmic explains why social enterprises are so important to the national recovery from Covid-19:

 “Social enterprises like Cosmic have a major role to play in the recovery and establishment of new ways or working and doing business. There is a golden opportunity to maximise and embrace the new community of interest in achieving a ‘build-back-better’ approach to the coming years.

And social impact is high on everyone’s minds as we identify the multiple ways in which local communities have pulled together during the Covid19 challenges. If we could make social enterprises a distinguishable part of keeping that going then the golden opportunity might just be realised.”


HISBE logo

HISBE – a social enterprise supermarket transforming the food industry

Photo of the interior of the HISBE supermarketHISBE is a social enterprise supermarket, which is transforming the food industry by challenging the way big supermarkets do business. They are all about making good food more accessible and affordable. As a social enterprise, they make a positive contribution to the local food system and local economy by championing a fair and sustainable food industry, and putting customers, suppliers, and staff first.

HISBE’s vision is to smash Britain’s out of date supermarket business model and reinvent a new kind; an independent chain of supermarkets powered by people, community spirit, and social enterprise.

The business was founded on a core set of values:

  • Good food
  • Local, seasonal produce
  • Animal welfare
  • Sustainable food production
  • Zero waste
  • Valued people
  • Ethical business

Photo of an empty store front with posters announcing a new HIBSE store opening in January 2021Despite the challenges of the Covid crisis, HISBE has continued their mission to transform the food industry and have recently announced they will be opening a second store in early 2021. They are also tapping into the shift in the way the public views food, by calling on consumers to go ‘Back to Better’ to help create a better future for food and farming. They have launched a new campaign to engage people in better food and farming, which is focussed on reaching more local people to show them what they do and to encourage them to switch from their regular supermarket to HISBE.

Ruth Anslow, who launched HISBE’s pilot store in Brighton in 2013 with her sister Amy and their friend Jack, expresses gratitude and optimism in the emergence from lockdown:

“It’s been a crazy time since a virus-shaped spanner was thrown into our works… no sooner had we signed a lease on the Worthing premises and raised the money to refit it, everything changed. Our Brighton shop was suddenly in survival mode. But we were committed to staying open, to keep good food flowing, keep our staff in their jobs and protect our suppliers’ livelihoods. We’re grateful that the business has made it through this difficult time and happy to find there’s a sort of new appreciation for good food and independent food businesses.

These are uncertain times, but there is also opportunity. We are delighted to announce we will open our second store, in Worthing, in January 2021. And we’ve launched a new campaign called “back to better” to show more people what we do and invite them to switch from their regular supermarket to ours. After all, why go back to normal, when you can go back to better?”

Watch the below video to find out more about HISBE:

Lendology CIC logo

Lendology CIC – improving housing conditions across the South West

The Lendology CIC teamLendology CIC is a social enterprise providing council-funded loans to homeowners for home repairs and improvements. As a social enterprise, there are no shareholders to pay dividends or profit to. Any profits are re-invested into the organisation to benefit the communities they serve.

Pre-Covid, Lendology delivered all of their financial assessments within the comfort of people’s homes across the South West. It became clear that this was not going to be feasible during lockdown, and the team quickly adjusted their application process to ensure they could continue to offer low cost loans to keep people warm, safe and secure in their homes. A telephone application process was devised to ensure they could provide the same great service whilst keeping clients and team members safe. This has become even more important now that many of us are spending more and more time within our homes and this looks set to continue into the near future.

In addition, it was vital that they reassured existing loan clients that their team of expert advisers were on hand to provide support if their financial circumstances changed due to the crisis. Even before the pandemic, Lendology were able to provide a range of solutions for clients experiencing financial hardship, or a change in circumstances which meant they would struggle to manage their loan repayments.

At the start of the Covid crisis, Lendology extended their solutions to include the ability to temporarily freeze the interest on loan accounts and postpone monthly repayments to take the pressure off until the situation improves. To date, only 2% of clients have needed to make use of the payment break option.  Lendology credit this to the thoroughness of their initial financial assessments undertaken with clients and the range of loan products available to meet client needs, both at the time of the assessment and into the future.

Emma Lower of Lendology CIC in front on a colourful background holding a sign saying £1,644,909Over the past 15 years, Lendology (previously trading as Wessex Resolutions CIC) has helped thousands of people throughout the South West by lending over £15.7 million to homeowners to carry out essential repairs.  In the last year alone, they have lent over £1.6million to improve housing conditions for over 450 people across the South West.

Watch the video below to find out more about Lendology CIC.

Photo of a hotel reception desk

The Wesley – celebrating 70 years of social & environmental impact

The Wesley logoThe Wesley is an independent 4-star hotel in Euston, London. The hotel is committed to sustainable business and social responsibility and is the only hotel to have been awarded the Social Enterprise Mark CIC.

Hilda Porter founded the Methodist International House in 1950, originally to welcome international students to the UK who were otherwise unable to find affordable accommodation in cities such as London, Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham. In the late 1990s, this then gave birth to the new social enterprise organisation, the Methodist International Centre (MIC) and moved to a building in London, now known as The Wesley Hotel.

It is amazing to think that the hotel started as a simple student hostel with basic hotel accommodation and conference rooms. One thing that hasn’t changed over the last 70 years is the self-funding sustainable ethos, which is still part of The Wesley’s key values and organisational focus. Since 1950, what is now known as The Wesley has supported tens of thousands of students, who have received financial support, including accommodation and hospitality, as a direct result of Hilda Porter’s vision. This work is very much alive and well today. The Wesley in its present form addresses the need for hospitality for those who in their everyday life are seeking to live more ethically and sustainably.

Interior of a hotel roomUnfortunately, Covid-19 has hit the hospitality industry hard and The Wesley is no exception to this. The hotel is still open for business (although the restaurant and bar will be closed during the November lockdown), but they have seen a noticeable downturn in bookings since the first lockdown in March.

However, despite the impact of Covid, they continue with their work and are delighted to still be on track to open a second social enterprise hotel in May 2022. This will be a 40-bedroom 4-star hotel in Camden Town.

​Social Impact: 

  • Gift aid of all profits to support the Methodist Church’s educational activities
  • Increased employment opportunities with a growing ethical hospitality
  • Learning and development culture epitomised by Investors in People Gold Award. Fair payment to employees and stakeholders

 ​Environmental Impact: 

  • Camden Council Carbon Champion
  • Green Tourism Gold Award
  • Clear environmental policy since 2010; monitors and tracks carbon footprint
  • Recycled all food waste since 2012
  • BREEAM Excellent rating for new hotel in Camden Town (opening in 2022)

The Wesley’s story actually goes back much further though to Methodism’s founder John Wesley. 226 years after his death, John Wesley ‘s philosophy is as relevant and inspirational today.

Celebrating 70 years of social impact

To celebrate their 70th anniversary, The Wesley is offering a special rate for social enterprises booking room hire or hotel rooms for meetings/stays before the end of the year (except 31st December):

  • Room hire (day rate) – £100 (2-6 delegates) / £150 (6-10 delegates / £250 (10-14 delegates)
  • Hotel stays – £55 room only/£65 B&B (£10 supplement for twin/double occupancy)

To claim these special rates simply quote ‘social enterprise rate’ when booking.