Highly commended

Each year staff at the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) nominate projects and initiatives that have achieved positive local change. Clare Goff takes a look at the three winners.

This year’s commendations were announced during the CLES summit in July. They highlight good work around some of the themes of this year’s summit – creating resilient places and local transformative change. CLES was particularly interested in highlighting schemes that show the value of strong relationships, networks and connections across all sectors.


Concerned at the high numbers of people coming to their surgeries with non-medical conditions, GPs in Penwith wanted to find a better way to treat those suffering issues
such as mild depression, isolation and addiction. Penwith Pathways to Health and Wellbeing was set up to signpost people towards wellbeing services from yoga and healthy eating classes to weight management and companionship.

The project created a one-stop shop for services, and wellbeing facilitator roles to guide patients through it. With much of its population living in rural areas, an online database in GP surgeries has helped even those in the most sparsely populated areas to find help, and the relatively small interventions are helping tackle broader issues of poverty and deprivation in the locality.

The project is run through the Penwith Community Development Trust but works on a multi-partnership basis, linking up with the local council, health centres and volunteer bureaus. GPs and other health professionals can refer patients to the wellbeing facilitators, who then
identify and find solutions to health issues. It was chosen for a commendation for helping to
link primary care to the wide range of support offered by the VCS, creating a more holistic approach to tackling health inequalities and boosting wellbeing.

As one wellbeing facilitator says: ‘I look at the underlying causes to the health problems
that have caused them to seek a doctor’s appointment in the first place (e.g. social isolation) as well as more standard things such as weight management groups. I try to look for things like the walking project, Mobilise, which offers people a chance to be active and
talk to people too.’

Extra activities such as yoga and healthy eating have been provided and a free counselling
scheme set up to help patients talk through their issues. A volunteer befriending project,
the Penwith Pals scheme, has proved crucial to the success of the project. Linking volunteers with those looking to make changes to their lives, it provides social and community interaction for both volunteer and patient.

Befrienders provide companionship and support for those suffering from isolation, for example, helping older people complete simple tasks such as the daily crossword.
The project has proved a great success in helping promote ideas for wellbeing, improving social cohesion and building confidence and self-esteem among the local population. The accessibility and low cost of the activities has meant they have been readily taken up, while the single point of contact for referral has helped GPs who often don’t have time to keep track to the services available for those in need of lifestyle interventions.

Those involved in running the project pinpointed its flexibility – helped by a partnership-based approach – as key to its success. Partners have been able to respond and
adapt to the needs and successes of the project as they have emerged.

  • For more information contact: Dilys Down, 01736 330198,


Ouseburn Farm which Tyne Housing runs as a base for community development and to help develop the skills of vulnerable adults

Working towards its mission ‘No one need be homeless’, Tyne Housing has provided long-term accommodation to more than 250 vulnerable men and women across Tyneside.

One of the reasons it was picked for a CLES commendation was for the way it recognises
that many people are in need of more than one type of support and that service providers need to work together to be effective.

For almost 30 years Tyne Housing, formerly Byker Bridge Housing Association, has worked on an asset development model. It has turned a former church into a community centre and accommodation, developed an urban farm (pictured) that supports community development and training, and created the Joseph Cowen Healthcare Centre from a local pub.

It has squeezed ‘every inch of its assets’ to generate income for services helping homeless communities in the region, and has had a significant impact on the lives of many. Clients attending the healthcare centre were effusive in their praise for the service.

One said that without the centre he ‘would not be here’, while others called it a safe haven in their often chaotic lives, allowing them to bathe, rest and get medical help among friends.

Crucial to Tyne Housing’s success is its long track record of working in partnership. It has been a managing agent for partner housing associations since its early days and delivers projects with organisations including Crisis Skylight and the Northern Learning Trust.

As chief executive of Tyne Housing, Maurice Condie, says: ‘There are a full range of different things that people need that require different skill sets. We can’t do everything for people but if you look around you’ll find someone who can. There are always new partnerships to be struck.’

The key to making partnerships work, he says, is not to be precious. ‘It’s not about empire-building but about how you can best deliver a service.’

  • Contact: Maurice Condie, 0191 265 8621,


Having set up a framework for long-term relationships with its local construction partners, Terry Burke, head of corporate services at Manchester Council started asking questions of those partners. He believed that the partnership should go beyond the building contracts themselves to a means of generating opportunities for local residents. But when he asked the construction partners how many young people they were employing from Manchester, they couldn’t answer.

Construction partners cited the risks involved in offering long-term sustainable apprenticeships within their firms; there was a fear that they may not be able to fulfil the apprenticeship and they often found it difficult to reach target audiences.

Manchester People into Construction set out to change this. Set up in 2008, its aim was to provide sustainable apprenticeship placements for local young people at the city’s key construction partners. It targeted young people from within the city that were most in need of support, including those not in education, employment or training (Neet) and those from BME groups, and made the barriers to entry to the scheme low.

Initially led by Manchester Council, it took a partnership-based approach from the start, with links to local colleges and skills services as well as the construction partners themselves. It has seen 200 young apprentices go through the scheme, with many now in full-time work.

Key to its success, according to the scheme’s manager Jocelyne Underwood, was investing in her role. ‘Such a complex partnership won’t work unless there’s someone to manage it and that that person is part of the organisation. It’s not an easy thing to embark on especially when its politically high on the agenda.’

When Ms Underwood came on board the responsibilities of each partner were made clear and the aims, objectives and ethos set out.  ‘It’s about defining it as a brand and giving people something to buy into,’ she says.

The scheme has now moved to be part of the Association for Greater Manchester Authorities, with apprenticeships now set up across the whole of the greater Manchester region, ensuring the ongoing sustainability of the project.

It not only targets a key priority for the council, namely reducing the number of Neet young people, but also helps to ensure greater community benefit from the authority’s procurement spend.

Ms Underwood is now heading up the broader scheme and says the investment from the council and its partners has been seen not only in savings to the public purse but in the success of the young people who have taken part.

‘They’ve gone through and got permanent jobs. It’s about confidence and aspiration-raising. You can’t put a price on that.’

L-R: CLES chief excutive Neil McInroy with Jocelyn Underwood, manager of Manchester People into Construction, and Terry Burke, head of corporate services at Manchester Council.

  • For more information contact


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