Page 1


BOXING CLEVER How one town is fighting back for its young people

WIN! Your chance to sparkle Mary gets a helping hand from our new Residents’ Fund. Find out how you can apply inside

the latest iPod shuffle the latest

iPod shuffle



Numbers you need to know

Phone our Customer Access Team from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday. It’s local rate. Call us on:

0300 123 1966

07797 870 734 or email us at or simply text us on

For all Great Places residents you can call us between 8am and 6pm weekdays on:

0300 123 1966

& press 1 for repairs

You can also use this number for out-of-hours emergencies. Or you can email us about a repair at

Office addresses

Oldham office

Blackburn office

Salford office

Barnfield House (Suite 4 and 5) Ground floor, Accrington Road Blackburn BB1 3NY Open Monday, 9.30am-5pm & Thursday 9:30am-12:30pm Appointment only at all other times.

Cheshire office

106 Longridge, Knutsford, WA16 8PD Opening hours: Monday only, 9.30am to 4.30pm

Fylde office

336 Talbot Road, Blackpool, FY1 3QU Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Great Places head office

Southern Gate, 729 Princess Road, Manchester M20 2LT Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

119 Union Street, Oldham OL1 1TE Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm 4th Floor, St James’s House, Pendleton Way, Salford M6 5FW Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Sheffield office

The Quadrant, 99 Parkway Avenue, Sheffield SS9 4WG Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Write to My Great Place at:


Communications Great Places Southern Gate 729 Princess Road Manchester M20 2LT


Email: Find us on Facebook at Tweet us @MyGreatPlace

Access for all

We’ve already sent a magnifying sheet to our visually impaired residents. Let us know if you need one. An audio version of My Great Place is also available. 1

BOXING CLEVER How one town is fighting back for its young people

WIN! Your chance to sparkle Mary gets a helping hand from our new Residents’ Fund. Find out how you can apply inside

the latest iPod shuffle the latest

iPod shuffle


Cover stars:

Matthew and Mirsab, read more about the boxing clubs knock-out succes, p 5-7


Welcome to this summer issue of My Great Place. There’s a recognisable and uplifting theme running through the magazine – it’s one of community and togetherness. We hear so much about our communities disintegrating, with neighbours having no time for each other, people not getting together, and nothing for young people to do. Our cover story expels this myth with an inspiring story about a boxing club which is uniting young boys from a variety of backgrounds. Then there’s the launch of our two new residents’ funds on pages 12-13 which give you an opportunity to apply for money that will make a difference to your lives and the neighbourhoods in which you live, depicted perfectly by the story of Mary Costello who is fulfilling her jewellery-making dream thanks to £400 from Great Places Residents’ Fund. The community thread continues on pages 14-15 with two pro-active residents’ groups proving that people power can make real change and at the same time create a social support network for residents who otherwise live disparate lives. There’s another reminder on page 20 of the benefit changes and the ‘Bedroom Tax’ which may have gone quiet in the media but certainly hasn’t gone away for many of you. We hope this issue makes you feel positive, because despite all the negatives in the world, it’s encouraging to know that communities are coming together and relationships are still thriving in our neighbourhoods.

What’s inside?


4 My voice: your letters page. Write,

email, Facebook or Tweet us about anything and everything 8-9 News: a round-up of Great Places stories

16-18 Neighbourhood news:

keeping you up to date with what’s been going on in your area 18 Elderly services news: what’s been happening in our sheltered and Extra Care homes? 19 My money: hints and tips on how to make your money go further 22 Get involved: a dedicated page on how you can get involved in your community and with Great Places 23 My green place: helping you keep up with all things environmental 24 Competitions: win cash vouchers


5-7 Knockout success: How a boxing club is transforming young lives in Levenshulme

10 Another satisfied customer:

one Sheffield couple give us the thumbs up for our in-house repairs service 11 Somebody to lean on: Resident Parveen Hussain explains how our General Needs Tenancy Support Service has helped turn her life around 12-13 Diamonds are forever: Great Places launches two new funds to help residents. Find out how resident Mary Costello was able to live her passion for jewellery-making

14-15 The rise of the resident group: we chat to two resident

committees making a real difference in their communities

20 Welfare reform – three months in: an update on what it means and how we can help

Rachel Machin, Editor

21 Make the most of your website: An easy-to-use guide on how to make the most of Great Places online



Star letter

We had some great emails, letters and Facebook messages from you – thanks so much for taking the time to contact us! Here’s a selection of some of your thoughts. We want to give you every opportunity to tell us your thoughts, ideas and comments. As you know there are new ways you can contact us via Facebook and Twitter as well as by letter. Whatever way you choose to contact us, we want to hear from you. Tell us about your neighbourhood or give us your thoughts on anything Great Places-related!

Star letter

Every issue one of your letters/emails/social media messages will be made Star Letter and you’ll receive a £10 voucher.

Facebook: Hiya Great Places, I have set up a Facebook page. I make my own homemade cards and send them to sick kids who have life threatening/limiting illnesses and conditions as well as their siblings. I am from the Chadderton area and I was wondering if it was something you could/would like to be involved in. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Devon-Leigh

Editor: Hi Devon-Leigh. What a lovely project. We hope it’s going well. Please contact the community development co-ordinator for your area – Naseem Ahmed – to see if there’s any way we can support you. You can email him at or call on 0161 484 3221 Facebook: I would like to thank you for a very enjoyable day at Tatton Park from myself and also my two grandsons, Frank & Corey. Barb Wilson

Hi Great Places I wanted to share with you the amount my grandson Ethan Evans (Ethan appeared in our August 2012 issue) raised for The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Cancer ward. Ethan is now in training to do a junior Triathlon for St Ann’s Hospice who help so many Greater Manchester people. I am very confident he will raise around £5,000 because we have a number of charity events in the pipeline but we need many more people to come on board to help him. Regards Ed Green

Write to us at:

My Great Place Communications Great Places Housing Group Southern Gate 729 Princess Road Manchester M20 2LT

Email us:

Tweet us: @mygreatplace

Facebook us at: Facebook: Are there any plans to support tenants at risk of the bedroom tax like the housing association in Knowsley? Will you be reclassifying properties? Beth Marshall Editor: Hi Beth There is a lot we are doing to support people. We can help you access funds, find a smaller home if you need to downsize, and help you get into education and training. Visit and search for welfare reform. We’re not planning to reclassify properties. However, we’ll look at individual cases so if you feel there is a justification to reclassify your property, please contact our customer access team on 0300 123 1966.

Kids’ Competition WIN an iPod shuffle! We had a great response to last issue’s ‘find Margaret Plaice’ competition! Thanks for all your entries. Congratulations to Emily Murphy, 11, from Leigh who was picked out as our winner! Hope you’re enjoying your new iPod. If you don’t already know. Margaret Plaice, our little fishy friend who’s name is inspired by this very magazine, is hiding again somewhere. Can you find her? Just email or write and let us know exactly where she is (make sure you put the page number) at the above addresses, making sure you put your address and phone number on the entry. The winning entry will get their hands on a cute little iPod, so get searching!


must be 16 or under and a Great Places resident Entries must be in by 14th August 2013


Knock-out success Levenshulme Boxing Club has just celebrated its first anniversary and is still creating a buzz in the community. My Great Place went to meet Tommy Dolan to find out why he’ll never throw in the towel “Are you coming in lads?” chirps former boxer Tommy Dolan to a group of young Asian boys who are sitting patiently on the steps of this former derelict bowling club in Cringle Park, Levenshulme, which he’s lovingly transformed into a boxing club, now with a list of young members that reads like the invitees to a United Nations summit. It won’t be the last time we witness the obvious rapport Tommy has with the young people who’ve given this place its unique and upbeat atmosphere. It’s refreshing to see, especially in a town that Great Places, working in conjunction with the Inspire project and Levenshulme Community Association, recently identified as a place that needed to create more opportunities to work with young people in the area.


This club, which is the first to be housed in a municipal park, is ticking all the right boxes according to Tommy, but it hasn’t been easy getting it up and running. “It’s taken me five years to get this far,” he says.

quitter. With a father who boxed and defeated Randolph Turpin, considered by some to be Europe’s best middleweight boxer, and two Manchester Olympic boxing legends as close friends, Tommy Proffit and

Levenshulme since the 1960s. How important does he think the club is for the town and the young people? “This place was always a bit of trouble for the local residents. Everyone used to smoke cannabis outside – it was

This place was always a bit of trouble for the local residents. Everyone used to smoke cannabis outside – it was the hang out of choice for years. That doesn’t happen anymore. We’ve had no graffiti since we’ve been in.

“I’ve had some fantastic community support – that’s one thing I can’t knock. I’ve had the police on side, Great Places has helped raise £10k of funding, I’ve had High Sheriff funding, and Adactus Housing has also given money, but we need more to keep this going,” he explains. It’s clear to see that Tommy is no

the late Alan Tottoh, who showed their support by opening the club, he’s certainly got “boxing in his blood”. He delved into his own pocket to get this place off the ground and knows what he’s doing when it comes to running a successful club having opened a handful in and around

the hang out of choice for years. That doesn’t happen any more. We’ve had no graffiti since we’ve been in. The lads will probably be saying to their mates: ‘That’s my club’. “There are loads of kids interested,” enthuses Tommy. “We’ve got a steady rate, some nights it’s ten, sometimes 30. There are 38 different languages spoken in Levenshulme and that’s


How else is Great Places supporting young people in Levenshulme?

reflected in here. I’ve been in boxing long enough to know that if you get 50 kids in, there’ll only be a couple who want to box. Some are great boxers but they don’t want to get in that ring. That’s why we’re selling this as a place to train first and foremost.” And the trainers who volunteer their services keep this place alive, explains Tommy. Chris Harris, who used to box for Tommy 30 years ago, drives from Bramhall, Cheshire to give up his time, while Matthew Smith is happy to help out the younger ones. “I’ve been here for about a year on and off,” explains Matthew. “I’m originally from Scunthorpe then I came here to find work and wanted to keep fit. I didn’t know about this place until Tommy’s daughter Claire told me. I try to come down a bit earlier and help these guys then I do my own thing.” With lads cycling from as far as Poynton (15 miles away)

to train, its popularity is more farreaching than it first appears. With hopes to install new shower and dressing room facilities, put up new outside lights, and raise funds for more equipment, Tommy is hoping more organisations will help in his fight to keep the club open. “The reality is it will close – I can’t afford to keep this open with my own money. I don’t mind giving my time – no-one gets paid, we’re all volunteers. I’m certainly not giving up just yet,” he says defiantly. We leave the club with its motto ringing in our ears: “Quis Separabit,” the motto of the Irish guards, which means “Who shall separate us”? It couldn’t be more appropriate for this special club. If you would like to be a volunteer at the club please email

• Levenshulme Youth Project – Great Places commissioned by the council to deliver a range of youth activities • Youth Drop-in on Tuesdays 6:30pm-8:30pm at Inspire Studios • Youth Forum – supporting young people to have a voice and to plan and deliver activities for young people • Girls’ Group – working with Levenshulme High school to improve resilience and selfesteem in young women from a variety of backgrounds • Outreach – Youth workers go out to young people on a weekly basis in local parks and ASB hot spots • Inspire centre – regenerated by Great Places and holds community events • Heritage Lottery project – memories materialised – intergenerational project recreating Stockport Rd in 1963



New man, same values

Some of you may be aware that Matthew Harrison took over as chief executive of Great Places Housing Group in April this year following the retirement of Stephen Porter. Previously in his role as deputy chief executive and development director, he has been instrumental in helping Great Places create some of the best homes around for our residents to live in. Matthew said: “I am very excited about leading Great Places forward in these challenging times, and I want the business to continue to focus on providing excellent services for you, our customers.” See more in Matt’s message on the opposite page.

Matthew pictured (right) with Cllr Jim Battle (left) and resident from Palmerston street

Build, learn, grow partnership launches A new project set to create more than 20 apprenticeships across the North West has launched with an exciting event to engage people interested in careers in construction. Build, Learn, Grow, a partnership between Great Places Housing Group, Bolton at Home, Seddon and Southdale, will see 300 homes built in Bolton, Burnley, Salford, Bury and Wigan. The apprentices will be recruited to work on the construction of them over the next two years. Find out more by visiting www.buildlearngrow.

Sweden calling! Great Places recently welcomed students from Sweden who were visiting Manchester as part of a long established collaboration project between Manchester Metropolitan University and the Swedish region of Dalarna (in Central Sweden). The main focus of the visit was diversity, integration and regeneration and the students visited Northmoor and got the opportunity to chat to staff about our work there.

We’re looking for a new chair and board members Great Places is advertising for a new chair and board members to help lead the group and oversee all its services and projects. Our current chairman, Ted Stott, plans to step down in December. He has held the post since Great Places was formed in 2006. Some of our longerserving board members will also retire. The new chair and board members will work with our chief executive, Matthew Harrison, to lead Great Places on to new success in the years to come.

Would you like to apply? Or do you know someone who you think should apply? Please email boardrecruitment@greatplaces. as soon as you can, or phone Jan McComasky on 07725 543944. Candidates need to send in their finished applications by 15 July. We are looking for people who share Great Places’ values and who can show they have achieved high levels of achievement in their careers. They would need to know a lot about

business, particularly finance or products and services. As well as joining the board, there are many ways that Great Places’ residents can get involved and make a difference, including joining our Tenant Services Committee. For more details turn to page 22 and visit the Get Involved page on our website by visiting and clicking on ‘Where you live’.



Northern Ireland Executive minister and housing chiefs visit Northmoor to get regeneration inspiration Northern Ireland’s minister for social development visited Great Places’ flagship Manchester regeneration area, Northmoor, as part of a whistlestop tour of some of the region’s finest regeneration programmes. Nelson McCausland and a party of high-ranking civil servants met residents and Great Places staff in the south

Manchester district, which has undergone 15 years of creative improvements with many partners including Manchester City Council and the Homes and Communities Agency. Minister McCausland said: “It was great to see such a range of different approaches to regeneration in

one place and learn about how those things all work together to really make a difference.”

Improvement… works!

Great Places are spending

£8.3 million

this year on improving your homes

We’ve listened to what you’ve said so that we can make improvements to your homes more efficiently. 2013 has seen some exciting new initiatives: • We’ve set up the Affordable Warmth team to tackle fuel poverty and improve the energy efficiency of your homes. • Our investment contractors are now underway installing kitchens, boilers,

Matt’s message I’m the new chief executive at Great Places and started my job in April. Some of you may have seen me about before as I’ve worked here for more than 20 years. I used to be in charge of building new homes for the organisation. Though I’m based at our head office in Manchester, I’m from Sheffield and enjoy travelling over there for work where we have nearly 2,000 homes. As for my football team, I support Sheffield Wednesday for my sins! As I get settled in to my new role, my top priority is customer service. I’ll do

windows and doors. • We’ve based some of our investment staff in regional offices to make sure we have a local presence. We’ll be on hand to help you throughout. • Mystery Shopping will start soon and residents having improvements on their homes will be contacted and asked to get involved. We’ll feedback the results in the next issue of My Great Place.

Satisfaction with our investment programme is


everything I can to make sure you carry on getting a really excellent service from us. I know, in particular, that a good repairs service is really important to you, and now we’re doing all our repairs inhouse we have control over this. We feel this is the best way to be sure that you feel happy and safe in wellmaintained homes and know that any problems will be sorted out quickly. We’ll be spending more than £8m in this financial year on repairs and improving our homes. This is just the beginning! I hope to be doing the right thing by you, our residents, for many years to come.


Another satisfied customer

Great Places in-house repairs service now covers all of the 16,000 homes in our portfolio across the North West and South Yorkshire. Since it was launched, satisfaction has shot up from 74% to 93%.

A couple of weeks ago we had a burst pipe and it was the night before we had relatives staying from Tenerife for our son’s wedding,” said Mr Furness. Mrs Furness continues the story: “It was my daughter’s birthday on 4 May and we were going out for a meal at lunch time so we could prepare everything My Great Place went to for the wedding on Sunday. Then all of a meet Mr and Mrs Furness in sudden the bath filled with water and it Sheffield who phoned our wouldn’t go down. There was a blockage emergency repair service in the pipes.” when a water pipe burst on “So I rang the emergency repairs and the eve of their son’s wedding. they came in about an hour,” said Mr

Furness. “By this time there was water coming down the walls and downstairs, even through the light. The plumber managed to unblock the pipe and put a new one in. The electrician came later because we couldn’t use the alarm. He said he’d have to come back the following week when it was dried out to re-set the alarm, which he did as promised. “We were so happy because our relatives could have baths and showers. They responded so quickly, were so polite and just got on with the job. We couldn’t be more grateful.

How we’re doing Quality of service


of you are satisfied with our overall service across our general housing

Right first time


of repairs are completed at the first visit

The personal touch


of you are satisfied that your views are taken into account


of you are satisfied with our repairs and maintenance services

At your convenience

91% 96%

of repair appointments were made at a time convenient for you of these appointments were kept

You can keep up to date on how we’re doing in the ‘What we do’ section on our website:


Somebody to lean on Everyone needs a bit of help at some point in their lives. That’s why Great Places has set up a General Needs Tenancy Support Service available to residents living in the areas detailed below.

Look out for our leaflet (pictured below) with all the information you need to know about our General Needs Tenancy Support Service

My Great Place went to meet Blackburn resident Parveen Hussain, who’s been using the service for the last eight months 2012 was not a good year for 28-year old Parveen Hussain. After paying for her husband to come over to the UK, he left her and the rented home they shared without a word, leaving her saddled with rent arrears and a broken heart. “I was depressed and didn’t have anywhere to live,” explains Parveen. “My husband used me to get a passport. He left me with the rent overdue and bills to pay. “I was living with my parents but it was overcrowded because my sister lives there. I’ve also got one brother who’s disabled – he can’t walk so needs a lot of care and attention.” Parveen was given a home with Great Places in October 2012. At that time she had little understanding of the benefits system or how to live independently. She also had no furniture and needed help with the basic items needed to set up a home. Her support worker, Great Places’ Danny Smith, explains: “Parveen’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit had just been cancelled as she failed to attend a medical assessment – I supported her to arrange another medical and accompanied her. This benefit was re-instated and she also received back-dated pay. With my help she also appealed the decision not to have disability living allowance and is now receiving this.” “The support has helped me a lot,” says Parveen. “Danny has helped me get everything for my house. He’s even helped me put my curtains up and work the TV. “I’m just trying to move on. I do feel happier. At the moment I’m just taking a step at a time. That little bit of help to get you there is all you need…..I’d recommend it to anyone.”

Who can use General Needs Tenancy Support Service? The service is available to anyone in Great Places general needs tenancy within the following areas: • Blackburn, Hyndburn, Pendle, Burnley, Ribble Valley • Oldham and Rochdale • Manchester, Trafford and Knutsford • Salford and Bury • The Fylde Coast

We can help you: • Manage your home and tenancy • Live independently • Develop skills such as money management • Get the right welfare and housing benefits • Get into education, training and employment • Receive the health and specialist services you need

Contact us on 0161 447 5144 or email Alternatively you can speak to the Customer Access Team on 0300 123 1966

You can find out more about our General Needs Tenancy Support Service on our website:


Diamonds are forever Great Places has just launched two new funds which will make a real difference to your lives and the neighbourhoods in which you live.

My Great Place went to meet resident Mary Costello, whose life has been transformed thanks to money from Great Places Residents’ Fund. Mary Costello never dreamed that one day she’d be using her collection of crystals in her own jewellery designs then soldering them to bring her sketches to life. But thanks to £400 from Great Places Residents’ Fund she’s been able to learn the skills needed to I was so pleased when I make the most found out I’d been awarded of her natural artistic flair. the money... I didn’t think I’d Now Mary has get it to tell you the truth. enrolled on a course, cycles to Three years ago Mary moved into a jewellery workshop as often as she a Great Places property in Salford can, and receives training from Tim, a and it was soon apparent that she tutor specialising in jewellery design. needed a bit of extra help managing “I was so pleased when I found out I’d her finances. Life had been hard for been awarded the money,” says Mary. Mary and there were many things “I didn’t think I’d get it to tell you the happening in her personal life that truth. I’ve learnt so many new things. were affecting her confidence. I just didn’t have the tools and didn’t Lisa Uzudimma, neighbourhood coknow how to go about it before. ordinator at Great Places, referred “I’d be at the workshop every day if Mary to Karen Burns, one of our I could – I’m really passionate about financial support co-ordinators, to help it. If I make 15 items of jewellery Tim Mary with managing her money. It was said he’d let me go to a craft fair with clear after conversations about her him and sell it. I’m not very good at dreams and aspirations that she had a drawing so Tim has been helping me real passion for all things shiny, but she with that and his wife, who’s an artist, also needed some extra support. gives me advice about different things. Andrea Brogan of our General Needs Tim’s said I’m doing so well he’ll give Tenancy Floating Support Service (you me a key to the place.”

can read more about this on page 11) set about helping Mary raise her confidence levels so that she could complete the course. “I’ve always recycled stuff at home – I used to make bracelets from handbag straps and take jewellery apart to make something different from it,”

What is Great Places Residents’ Fund? Great Places Residents’ Fund gives you the money for projects that make a difference to your lives and the areas in which you live. The fund has three main aims: To support employment, for example: • College fees to gain a qualification • Support to set up your own business To promote health & well-being, for example: • Healthy cooking classes • Delivering football coaching during school holidays To build sustainable neighbourhoods, for example: • Youth club for teenagers • Community fun day that promotes diversity explains Mary. “ Everything just comes down to money. “I would like to have a stall one day but I just can’t think that far ahead. If I keep going on the way I am I could achieve it thanks to Great Places.”

Who can apply? If you meet one of the following criteria: • You live in a Great Places property • Are a voluntary or community group • Are a charitable organisation

13 How much can I apply for? There is no limit to how much funding you can apply for, however you must demonstrate that your project provides value for money. You can apply to the fund again if: • It’s more than two years since your last successful application • You returned the appropriate receipts or invoices for your previous funding • You completed and returned the relevant monitoring and feedback forms at the end of your last project

How to apply To apply, you need to complete a Great Places Residents’ Fund application form. You can get these from a few places: • Collect from your local housing office

What is Great Places Shared Spaces Fund? The fund has two main aims: • To increase safety & security of shared spaces • To improve the appearance of shared spaces Some examples of projects that could be funded include: • New security fencing to reduce anti-social behaviour • Creation of additional parking • New raised planting beds for a communal area or garden

• At by searching for Great Places Residents’ Fund • By calling 0161 925 7928 • By emailing maria.morris@

Got an idea? If you have an idea for a project that either improves the appearance or increases the safety and security of a communal area, all you need to do is contact our customer access team on 0300 123 1966 or email A member of the local housing team will then contact you to discuss your ideas. They will liaise with our property services team to work out how much the idea is likely to cost, and consult with other residents to establish their support for the idea. The local housing team and property services will then complete an application form on your behalf.


The rise of the residents’ group You could be forgiven for thinking that residents trying to make a difference were few and far between with news reports of people retreating into their homes and ignoring their community, but My Great Place went to visit two groups who are making a real difference to where they live. In Karen Robb’s apartment, the painting of a warm sunset shimmering over Venice’s grand canal and a gondola slicing through the calm waters underneath the Rialto Bridge, leads to a conversation which reveals her great love – travelling the world. However, it’s a community on the banks of a canal in Manchester that has swiftly become her other passion. “It’s brilliant isn’t it,” beams Karen. She’s referring to the £10,000 lottery funding she’s helped to secure for The Bridge in Timperley. “We’re going to transform our secret garden area,

planting apple trees, installing a new path, creating raised beds. We’ll also have a nice seated area where you can watch the boats on the canal. “People come home and shut their door. We wanted to create an alternative communal area to bring everyone together, especially in the summer. Being right by the canal, there’s ducks and swans and even a fox that pays a regular visit.” Karen is secretary of COBRA,

that resolved, we’ve been able to get on with other things like the garden project and hopefully that will encourage more residents to join us.” The committee has set up a dedicated website and a Facebook page as well as using notice boards in communal hallways which Karen classes as a “necessity” to keep their fellow residents informed of what’s happening. “People ignore things, thinking it’s junk mail if it comes

It’s a great way to make friends while keeping the place nice. That’s what being part of a community is all about!

(committee of The Bridge residents’ association) a residents’ group that gets things done. “We’ve got about eight people on the committee now, which isn’t bad. We’re all quite protective of the place. If anyone moves in and isn’t treating it right we get very upset because they’re beautiful apartments. “At first we had a lot of trouble getting the gates working, which took up a lot of our time, but since we got

through their letterbox, but if they see it on the notice board they take notice of it.” Meeting just once a month, Karen believes The Bridge’s residents can play a part even if they don’t want to commit to being on the committee, although if you do join she points out: “We have coffee, cake, and wine sometimes in the summer. It’s a great way to make friends while keeping the place nice. That’s what being part of a community is all about!”

15 The smell of coffee, the chatter of conversation, people drinking tea and tucking into cake in a room with a shiny new wooden floor. No, we’re not visiting the local Costa Coffee in Blackburn. This is the communal lounge of Bowland House and we’ve been invited to its resident committee’s weekly coffee morning.

“I started the committee 12 years ago but nobody was interested,” explains resident Marie Gorton. “I was asked by Great Places to get involved and at first I said “no way!”. I’d never done anything like that before, but I got really into it – it was like my baby. “We’d arrange social things. It was hard going at first, like pulling teeth getting people through the door,” she adds. Now Marie has stepped away from running the committee because of ill health but it’s in safe hands with Joyce Simpson (who’s lived at Bowland House with her husband for over 11 years) and 10 others who volunteer their time to discuss everything from heating to where they’re going on their annual trip! Last year they used lottery funding to visit Llandudno and the Lake District.

I was asked by Great Places to get involved and at first I said “no way!”. I’d never done anything like that before, but I got really into it – it was like my baby.

They also raise money for the group through bric a brac sales, karaoke nights and line dancing, and are hoping to organise an afternoon tea in the very near future. So does having a residents’ group like this achieve anything other than provide a social life? “When we’ve put things forward they’re generally done,” says member

Alfie. “We’ve had this new floor in for 18 months. It used to look like an old people’s home in here but we got the chairs off the internet then had them recovered. We’d like to sort out the car park, maybe even get funding for a vegetable garden, and we’d also like the store room to be converted. Our main aim is to make new people feel welcome and let them know if they have a problem to come and see us.” The committee is active in applying for all sorts of funding and along with its respected caretaker Michael Brennan, who Marie says “goes above and beyond his role to help,” they have achieved more than most. As Alfie succinctly puts it: “You don’t see a lot of people here normally. We’re basically a community under one roof and we want the people living here to be part of it.”

Are you part of a residents’ group that’s doing amazing things? Let us know by emailing




Blackpool and Fylde


Neighbourhood news Not hampered

Interpreting matters

Ten residents from Preston have recently gained a National Open College qualification in Introduction to Advanced Community/ Interpreting Skills at Level 2/3. They were presented with their certificates at the Salvation Army Building in Preston by Deputy Mayor Veronica Afrin, who is a resident of Great Places. The course was run in partnership with the Worker’s Education Association at the YMCA Samuel Street Preston and lasted 12 weeks.

Fruit on the go

David Bramwell of Porter Street was the lucky winner of a food hamper in a prize draw made at a Welfare Benefits Event in Preston. The event, attended by agencies such as Help Direct, CAB and Age Concern, was hosted by Great Places at All Saints Church, Elizabeth Street Preston on Thursday 14 March.

Flower power

Aldingham Walk, Morecambe is all flowered up thanks to our partners Sodexo, who braved the pouring rain to transform two flower beds for residents. They helped to choose plants which would bring colour, be hardy and give plenty of ground coverage. Thanks to everyone involved!

Great Places’ Bolton Neighbourhood Management Team swapped their office for a mobile fruit van to deliver five-aday bags of fruit to residents as part of its health and well-being themed Local Area Forum (LAF). Working in partnership with Bolton’s Public Health Department, they visited 31 elderly residents and

Fun day thirteen

Residents are gearing up for the annual family fun day in Knutsford. It’s organised by Community Spirit, the residents’ and partners’ group for Knutsford Over Ward, and supported by Great Places Housing Group, led by two of its residents Pat McAndrew and Kane Gunter. The event, in its thirteenth year, is a well-attended event and will benefit

the Get Active Team also provided advice on exercises for them to do at home. Representatives from the local Farnworth Ucan Centre were also present to inform relatives of carers sessions held at the centre. As a result of this LAF with a difference, the FAB van will now be visiting these schemes on a regular basis!

300 plus residents. On the day there will be free children’s fairground rides, local acts, workshops (from gardening to dance), various community stalls, sports and activities for young people and a number of different taster sessions throughout the day. Be there on Saturday 27 July from 12pm-4pm at St. John’s Community School playground, Longridge, Knutsford.

Levenshulme residents launch 1960s history website Levenshulme residents have cast their minds back to the swinging sixties to develop a website about life in the area. The website is packed full of memories, photographs, audio and a walk through of Stockport Road, to showcase what the neighbourhood was like in the 1960s. The project has been funded

thanks to Great Places Housing Group securing a cash injection from the Heritage Lottery Fund. For more information, visit www., or contact community development co-ordinator Sarah Riley on 0161 447 5120, email


Neighbourhood news


Northmoor residents come together to celebrate landmark building’s centenary Residents of all ages came together in Northmoor, Longsight to celebrate the centenary of its beloved Cooperative building. The event, organised by Great Places and the community centre team, saw local residents watch Pauline Lindsey, who has been the proprietor of Pauline’s Hairdressers in Northmoor for 47 years, unveil a special plaque to mark the day. Since its opening in April 1913, the building has been a community hub for generations and has had many guises including a dance hall, printers, and more recently, since Great Places bought the building, home of Northmoor

Community Centre, a hive for local business with 20 apartments. There are always activities going on at Northmoor Community Centre. If you’re interested in getting involved, or have any ideas, please contact the team on 0161 248 6823.

Tea dance


Ballroom, line and country dancing were on the agenda at a tea dance held at the Communication Academy in Harpurhey with support from the school and the North Manchester healthy living network. Afternoon tea was provided and a professional dance instructor put staff and residents through their paces. “It was a really fun way to exercise!  Everyone had such a great time,” said Sarah Riley, community development co-ordinator.

Werneth work club

Great Places is bringing together expertise to help young people get into jobs through a work club held weekly at Werneth & Freehold Community Development Project. Our Great Opportunities team, in partnership with Oldham Work Club Network, help people with job searches, putting together CVs, which for many is their first time, and also give them a hand logging onto job websites. When relevant job opportunities become available the attendees are emailed with the details. Great Places Work Club co-ordinator Azmat Khan said: “Many of the people we’ve helped are now in a position to apply for jobs without our assistance and several have already had jobs interviews. The Work Club runs every Tuesday 10am until 12pm at Werneth & Freehold Community Development Project, Tamworth Street, Werneth, Oldham.

Westwood welcome

Over 200 residents, some from Westwood, came out to welcome their new neighbours at a recent community event on Dew Way,

Coldhurst organised by the Oldham PFI project team and Great Places housing management team in Oldham. The Millennium Centre played host to the event, which saw community members come together, along with local agencies such as Aksa Housing and Westwood & Coldhurst’s Women’s Association, councillors and the PFI team. There were plenty of activities for everyone to get involved with, including football skills sessions with Oldham Athletic mascot Chaddy the

Owl, table tennis coaching and a dance session with Funky Fitness. For those who wanted to relax and be pampered, there were sessions in flower arranging, craft-making, cakedecorating, smoothie-making, as well as Indian head massages, hairstyling and nail painting courtesy of students and staff from Oldham College. There was also face-painting and henna hand art from the Westwood and Coldhurst Women’s Association. The event went a long way to creating a real sense of community spirit for all the residents of Dew Way.


Neighbourhood news Great Places Great Girls’ Group



The corner house

Great Places, through its Residents’ Fund (read more about this on pages 12 and 13), has helped to set up the ‘Great Girls’ Group’ run by resident volunteer Asia Riasat from Good

Residents of Wybourn will soon have a new community-run meeting place at 333 Manor Oaks Road. ‘The corner house’ is being developed with the support of local organisation

A further update on dog fouling Following resident Robin Ogle’s letter regarding dog fouling in Richmond Park in the spring issue of My Great Place, we have since learnt that the Highways Maintenance Division will not authorise dog fouling signs on the highway.

Shepherd Close. Providing activities including cooking, rock climbing, arts & crafts and photography, it is hoped the group will empower, motivate and build confidence in young girls. Great Places’ Naseem Ahmad said:

“This is a really exciting project which will not only help young women develop their life skills, but is a positive example of community cohesion.” The group meets every Sunday from 11pm-1pm at Wardleworth Community Centre, Rochdale.

Wybourn’s Golden Oldies Group and Dawn Dale from Manor & Castle Development Trust. It will be a centre for events, activities and initiatives and everything happening in Wybourn you’ll find on

the community notice board. Get your message on there if you’ve got an activity you want to promote. You could also become part of a steering group to support the running of the corner house.

Do you want somewhere to be green-fingered?

If you’re interested in growing your own fruit and vegetables on an allotment, or your community group or school want to be involved in a community gardening project, please contact Philip Walker on 0300 123 1966. There are eight allotment plots (3m x 9m = 27m2) available. A standing charge for plots will be £30 per annum, with a small water

usage charged at £1.25 per cubic metre (2013/14 rate). The total cost for each plot, which includes a minor maintenance charge, is £3.28 per month or £39.40pa.

Elderly services news Lottery joy

A helping hand There’s a new kid on the block at Openshaw Court, literally! Connor Goodwin (pictured right) has become part of the furniture at this elderly scheme in Manchester supporting scheme manager Ann Birkett with a variety of jobs. Connor uses his time productively, tidying the notice board and stationary cupboard, and delivering tenant newsletters with the help of his grandma who lives at the scheme. Ann is thrilled with his contribution. “He is a very pleasant

High tea at Elk view

young man who enjoys helping out,” she says. Connor said, “Helping residents makes me happy! It’s a great opportunity to work with Ann and learn things that she does. Considering I want the same job, it’s an amazing experience and I’m honoured to work with such a fantastic person!”

Elk View Court, one of Great Places Extra Care schemes for older people in Blackpool, opened its doors to the community, inviting them for a spot of high tea recently. Local residents got the opportunity to look around and were very impressed with what they saw. The scheme even gained

Residents at our Extra Care scheme in Blackpool are feeling “digitally dotty” thanks to some lottery funding which has given them the opportunity to attend computer courses. Blackpool Council also supported the residents by match-funding the amount they received.

On the picture from left to right – Christine Stevenson, Sue Green, Margaret Henry and Brian Tully. At the back – Mabel Hitchell and tutor Alan Wood.

new volunteers to work in the café and help with craft events. Lois Brownsword, scheme manager, said: “The council-owned community centre will soon be closing down so our guests were pleased to find out that they can join in with the events which are run here at Elk View.”

my money The benefits of paying by Direct Debit

Great Places currently has 3,182 residents who pay by Direct Debit but we want it to be many more. Peace of mind Paying your bills by Direct Debit means knowing your bills are being paid automatically. Paying your rent by Direct Debit means you are less likely to fall into arrears. Convenience Paying by Direct Debit means you don’t have to leave your house to pay your bills, which saves time and cuts down on transport costs.

Paying your rent

We know since the government brought changes in to the benefits system some of you are struggling to pay your rent (see our update on benefit changes on page 20).


Quick and easy Great Places can now set up Direct Debits over the phone, so no need for you to fill in any forms, our staff will do the work for you. Security Direct Debit is widely known as the most secure form of payment and instances of fraud are virtually unheard of. Save money You can save money on your gas and electric, home phone and broadband just by paying by Direct Debit. Also, mobile phone contracts paid by Direct Debit are cheaper than pay as you go.

Last year we were forced to evict 54 tenants due to non-payment of rent. We don’t take decisions to evict lightly and always offer support to help tenants pay before making this decision. However, if tenants don’t keep up with rent payment, keep to the terms of a court order, or seek support, we have no choice. If you find yourself in financial difficulty, we are here to help. Last year, we saved over £1m for tenants in backdated benefits/appeals etc. Our financial inclusion team can also help you to get

Flexibility Did you know you can set up weekly, fortnightly or monthly Direct Debits? We can set up payments to fit in with how, and when, you get paid. Control Great Places will never increase your Direct Debit payment without letting you know how much we will take and when we will take it. the best deals on your gas/electric . We offer various payment methods to help you to pay easily and on time. These include: • Direct Debit • Over the phone • By Text • Online • Payment outlet Visit and go to My Homepage, Pay my rent for more details.

Credit unions: the lowdown and why they’re a great alternative to banks

Credit unions are a fastgrowing alternative to banks, building societies and doorstep/payday lenders. They’re a form of co-operative, “run by the members, for the members” and offer a range of savings accounts, current accounts and loans to their members. Great Places has teamed up with Manchester Credit Union (MCU). So if you do not have a credit union in your area you can still join MCU because you’re a Great Places resident. Credit unions offer a range of banking, savings and loan services to their customers. Savings rates can be competitive, but as always you’re best to shop around (and compare to banks and building societies as well to make sure you’re getting the best deal). In terms of personal loans, credit unions can be a cheaper option and far better than payday loans. While a credit union loan may not be able to promise the speed and convenience that some payday lenders can, they more than make up for it in fairness of interest rate. Visit, go to the My homepage section. See Money advice, then Loans/credit for more information on how to find your nearest credit union.

Great Places Essential Living Fund (ELF)

Great Places is working with Manchester Credit Union to promote affordable loans to all of our residents. You can borrow up to £300 for essential furniture or white goods, with Great Places providing one third of the loan as a grant – that’s money straight in your pocket! You’ll need to provide ID and evidence you can afford the loan. How to apply: Contact your local Great Places neighbourhood officer Call our Customer Access Team on 0300 123 1966


Welfare reform – three months in Changes to the benefit system have already kicked in. How are you coping? Do you know what the Bedroom Tax means yet? My Great Place gives you the lowdown We’ve talked a lot in My Great Place about what everyone’s calling the ‘Bedroom Tax’ – and now it’s becoming a reality for many people. Don’t get confused – it’s not a tax, it’s in fact a cut to your housing benefit and means you’ll need to find more money each week to pay your rent. If you get housing benefit, and have spare bedrooms, you will have your housing benefit reduced by 14% for one bedroom and 25% for two or more bedrooms, though pensioners aren’t affected. In general you must be claiming Child Benefit to be entitled to a room for children. If you have an overnight carer, who does not normally live with you, then you are entitled to a room for them. If this affects you, talk to Great Places about your options. We could help you manage your money to cover the extra costs, or look at whether you could move to somewhere smaller, if you want to.

Discretionary Housing Payment Did you know you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment from your local council to help bridge the gap? Great Places has already helped almost 100 tenants to apply and many have been successful. You can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment if you can prove you really need that extra bedroom, for example if your home has been adapted in some way, because a member of your family has a disability. You could also be eligible if you’re struggling on a very low income, though you might need to be able to prove you’re looking for jobs or training to improve the situation. How much you get will vary, and you’re unlikely to get it for more than a year, but it can ease the squeeze in the short term.






You can contact Great Places about any of this. Please don’t suffer in silence. We’ll do all we can to help. Call 0300 123 1966.

Make the most of our new website Last issue we told you about the launch of our brand new website, designed around you. Hundreds of you have now registered your accounts online. But if you haven’t done it already, this article will guide you through the registration process and show you some of the benefits of managing your account online. It’s simple to register online, when you go to our website ( you’ll see a blue box on the left of the page. Click the word ‘register’ and you’ll be taken to the register form. It won’t take long, you just need to enter some basic information about yourself, you’ll need to have an email address and your tenancy reference number (you can find this on your rent statements). Then choose a password, you will need this to log back in to your account, so be sure to make a note of it! Tick the accept box and hit register, it’s that easy. Once your account is active, you can log in from any page on our website (the link is on the top right of each page) using your email address and password. When you have logged in you can check on your account balance, pay your rent, report a repair and find news for your area. You can also find the contact details for your local Great Places staff. You can also register and login using a smartphone. It works in just the same way and means you can check your account on the go!


Register in 3 easy steps Step 1 Click ‘register’ in the box on our homepage, this will take you to the registration page. Step 2 Fill out the form. There’s not much to fill in, just some basic info, your email address and your tenancy reference number. When you’ve filled in all the information, click the register button. Step 3 Then just wait for your account to be activated. Once it has you can log in to the website. Click the log in link at the top of the page and enter the email address and password you used when registering. Once you’re logged in, you’ll be able to access the My Homepage section. Here you can view your rent statments, make payments, report repairs and much, much more!


Get involved

Thank you, instant mystery shoppers Thank you to customers who volunteered to be instant mystery shoppers when they reported repairs to Great Places recently. They gave feedback on what happened, and how we could do better. As a result, van stocks have been looked at to increase the number of repairs which can be fixed at the first visit. We’ve also arranged more customer service training for staff. Mystery shoppers help to improve services for everyone. Want to give it a go? Contact Tracy Gregory on 0161 925 7918 or email

Become a green warden

Great Places’ green wardens scheme is a new way for residents to make sure they’re getting value for the gardening service they pay for. Green wardens are asked to rate standards once a month. Questions include things like whether the lawn and hedges are neat and tidy. It’s so easy, you can do it by looking out of your window! We look into any issues the green wardens report, and let you know what happens as a result. If gardeners look after the communal areas where you live, and you’d like to get involved, contact Cathy on 0161 925 7930 or email

Meet our graduates

Tenants in Oldham took part in four days of training with Great Places and learned all sorts about social housing, equality and diversity and getting the most out of meetings. They celebrated their success with a graduation lunch. The training was arranged through

the Great Places training academy, launched last year. We plan to relaunch the academy later in the year with fresh courses for tenants. Are you interested in getting involved? Contact Pauline Heron on 0161 925 7938 or email pauline.

Local Area Forums Knutsford

15 July – 5pm - 7pm Falcon Bearer Pub, Longridge Meet your neighbourhood team over fish & chips and a round of bingo

– a chance to have your say

Oldham & Rochdale

17 July – 5.30pm - 7:30pm Honeywell Centre, Ashton Road, Oldham

Blackburn 16 July – 2pm - 4pm Mill Hill Community Centre, New Chapel Street, BB2 4DT Help with transport or public transport costs can be arranged.

Contact Alex Barker on 0161 447 5117 for more info

Contact Naseem Ahmad on 0161 484 3221 for more info

Contact Louise Ramsay on 07767 644 352 for more info




18 July – 12noon - 2pm Elk View, Ashfield Road, Bispham, Blackpool

24 July – 6pm - 8:30pm The Quadrant 99 Parkway Avenue, Sheffield, S9 4WG

18 July – 2pm - 4pm MERCI - Mill 5, 22a Beswick Street, Manchester, M4 7HR

Contact Gill Fernandez on 01253 750 842 for more info

Contact Philip Walker on 0114 284 2061 for more info

Contact Sarah Riley on 0161 447 5120 for more info


green place


We've taken home the prestigious Energy Efficiency award at this year's Housing Excellence Awards, beating off strong competition in the process. Award judges were impressed by the fantastic things Great Places does to be green, including its commitment to creating sustainable communities by improving the social, environmental and economic welfare of residents and developing energy-efficient homes, as well as educating residents to become part of the green revolution.

Secret garden transformation Our very own Ground Force team of Great Places staff and resident Stuart Nevin have secretly transformed the garden of Morecambe resident, Mrs Madden. The garden, which had lately become a dumping ground for passers-by, was converted while Mrs Madden was in hospital.

Green team up for the challenge

Carbon Literacy training We’re the first housing association to receive training sessions on carbon literacy! Manchester City Council wants all its residents and businesses to think carefully about the energy they use, as part of its climate change action plan. The council has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 41% by 2020 and create a low carbon culture. That sounds like a great plan to us!

Our innovative floating home won us the honour of a place as a finalist in the 2013 Climate Week Challenge. Designed to float on water, with a built-in solar tracking system, we came up with the concept house to minimise the impact of extreme weather conditions such as flooding and overheating caused by climate change. The Climate Week Challenge is Britain’s biggest environmental competition, developing creativity, innovation and enterprise, tackling real-life environmental issues.

Go green

Our ‘go green’ scheme has launched! Its aim is to raise your awareness of energy in the home, saving you hundreds of pounds on gas and electricity bills while reducing carbon emissions. Residents in sheltered flats at Ramsden Fold, Salford were the first to benefit from a range of advice which included how to use their heating controls more effectively and how, by using TV Power Down, they could still record their favourite programmes overnight without leaving the TV and digital box on standby. For more details contact Lisa Mcauley on 0161 447 5093 or email

Mrs Madden said: “I would like to thank Great Places so much for the work on my garden. It’s a shame that people drop litter in it but hopefully this will now stop with the new layout and improvements. “I’m very pleased with the work and I am looking forward to enjoying the garden when I return home.”

How does your garden grow? Great Places is launching a concessionary garden service for residents who are no longer able to maintain their gardens. The service is free but there are some criteria you have to meet, and limited places. You must: • have a physical or established mental health problem which makes you unable to maintain your garden or • be vulnerable

• have no-one living in the household who is able to carry out the work required If you’re interested in this service and think you qualify, please contact our Customer Access Team on 0300 123 1966.





Word Search!

V Competitions Name:


Find and circle each of the words from the list below. Words may appe horizontally, vertically or diagonally, but forwards only.

You could win £25 in vouchers!

WORDSEARCH Congratulations to last issue’s winners:

Have a go at this boxing themed one! Gloves Ring Southpaw Hook Champion

Rocky Bruno Lennox Hatton Froch
















Nicola Cruise, Blackburn Mrs Brophy, Salford and Julie Atkinson, Preston

Words to find are:






























Just circle the FIVE differences on picture number two, cut it out, pop in an envelope and send it in! You could be one of three lucky people to win £10 worth of vouchers.

Don’t forget to include your Congratulations to last issue’s winners: name, telephone number and Amy Louise Eastwood, Morecambe address. The three winners Brenda Sebborn, Manchester southpaw lennox froch hook champion bruno will be drawn out of a hat so hatton andgloves Yusufring Darsot, Preston get your entries in by 14th August 2013.

Copyright ©2013

Send your entries by post to: FREEPOST, RLSC-HLLJ-EZRZ, My Great Place, Great Places Housing Group, Southern Gate, 729 Princess Road, Manchester M20 2LT.

All entries must be in by 14th August 2013

Remember you don’t need a stamp!

Mgp june web  

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