(Image above – Family Park Cooking)

Today (11 November) is #Social Enterprise Day and it’s part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

It’s a day to celebrate and raise the profile of social enterprise around the world.

This year has been a turbulent one for so many social enterprises but we know that across the world social enterprises have been at the heart of community responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abbeycroft Leisure are a Suffolk based social enterprise, as well as one of the largest, independent leisure trusts in the UK, working closely with health and wellbeing partners to provide opportunities for the community to lead, healthier, more active lives.

We manage 14 leisure facilities on behalf of West Suffolk Council and Babergh District Council and one in Cambridgeshire and they reinvest any financial surplus they make, back into the organisation.

Warren Smyth, chief executive at Abbeycroft Leisure said:
“There are lots of things that make us unique as an organisation and the work that we do consistently makes me proud.”

“However, without question, one of the things I am most proud of are the people in our organisation.”

“We have a diverse staff of just under 500 based across Suffolk and some of these people have been with us for over twenty years.”

“We have young staff, older, more-experienced, less-experienced but still enthusiastic staff and some with very interesting stories, hobbies and skills.”

Andy our fitness instructor at Newmarket is also an Olympic swimmer, having qualified for the Italian national team for Rio but couldn’t go due to injury.

Dan Ward, centre manager at Brandon trained as a martial arts experts; Granville, fitness instructor at Hadleigh has acting skills and recently starred in a horror movie called  ‘Over Time’ and Janice in our contact team is quite the artist, painting children’s story books and line drawings with acrylic paint.”

“Some of our management team and directors joined us as lifeguards and leisure assistants, developing their skills and experience over time before progressing through the organisation, and that’s why we are committed to offering apprenticeships and Kickstarter programmes to encourage people into the leisure industry.”

Jordan Tomlinson from Sudbury who works as an ICT assistant, is a prime example of a ‘ Kickstarter’ having recently completed a 6-month scheme after which he has secured paid employment with Abbeycroft for a further fixed term of 6 months.

Jordan said:
“Abbeycroft has been the perfect employer for me coming out of a tough lockdown. I have felt very welcome by every member of staff within Abbeycroft and have enjoyed becoming part of the team.”

I have learnt so much and improved my skills, not just in a working environment, but also physically and mentally I’ve improved myself with continued support from the team.”

“I would recommend the Kickstarter scheme to anyone; it was exactly what I needed to not only recover from the pandemic but to better myself and have a better quality of life.”

“I was originally sceptical about the Kickstarter position, but Abbeycroft has gone above and beyond, and I would honestly say it has changed my life.”

“It hasn’t been easy – I have been presented with tough obstacles and challenges but every time I have learnt something valuable and transferable.”

“I feel strongly that the benefits gained from my Kickstarter experience has inspired a healthier, happier and more independent version of myself.”

Jordan Tomlinson

Jordan Tomlinson

#Who Knew

Many people ask us about the community programmes we are able to run as a result of being a social enterprise. Since 2019 these have included:-

  • Supporting 1003 families and providing 20,000 meals as part of our fit and fed initiative
  • Delivering 90 Christmas meals as part of the hunger and isolation project
  • Steel Bones – supporting 1519 participants in a pilot scheme providing amputees with tailored support to access and take part in regular exercise, with the aim of creating an environment for individuals to take the first step to regaining their health, which is absolutely essential to amputee life, with a social value of £119,131
  • Care Leavers – a pilot scheme developed with Suffolk County Council’s Care Leavers Team to support young people leaving care settings with 6-months free access to our leisure facilities. 84% felt less anxious as a result, 77% felt more confident and 63% found an improvement in their sleep patterns. The value of the memberships given was £2070.
Andy at Brandon

Andy – Fitness instructor and professional swimmer

Janice Customer service advisor

Janice – customer service advisor and artist

Granville at Hadleigh

Granville – fitness instructor and actor