Two national awards for the Aspire Group

A unique North Staffordshire housing group that has transformed homes and neighbourhoods, and provided life-changing opportunities for thousands of local people, has scooped two prestigious national awards.

Image of Mill RiseThe Aspire Group has double reason to celebrate as its impact on communities and people was hailed by sector leaders at two separate ceremonies.

Aspire Housing’s Mill Rise development won the “housing for an ageing population” category of the Homes and Communities Awards 2010, organised by the national housing and regeneration agency, the Homes and Communities Agency.

And PM Training, the group’s social enterprise that tackles worklessness among young people, beat off competition from 55,000 enterprises across the country to be crowned the very best in the Third Sector Excellence Awards.

Sinead Butters, Aspire Group chief executive, said: “The Aspire Group is all about providing excellent services and maximising the social impact of what we do for the communities we serve.

“We have been recognised as having the best social enterprise in the country and providing the best housing for older people.

“This helps to put North Staffordshire on the map as a place of innovation and success in regeneration, training, business growth and successful partnership working.”

She added: “By working together with public sector agencies, businesses and our customers we are helping to make a real difference to people’s lives and their communities.”

Mill Rise Village, a £17 million development of 60 affordable apartments for older people with an integrated healthcare centre and pharmacy, has helped to transform the lives of older people in Newcastle-Under-Lyme for the better.

It was built as part of a plan led by Renew North Staffordshire, the housing market renewal pathfinder, to regenerate the Knutton and Cross Heath area.

Renew worked together with the Homes and Communities Agency, Newcastle Borough Council, Aspire Housing and Prime plcto ensure the development on an old factory site would meet the housing needs of older people by providing high quality homes with 24 hour personal care and support available.

NHS North Staffordshire and Prima 200 – the local improvement finance trust that is developing new and improved healthcare facilities in North Staffordshire – provided a new primary care centre for three doctor’s surgeries on the same site.

The high quality of design for Mill Rise, the excellent facilities it offers and the strong involvement of the local community have helped to make it successful a symbol of regeneration in the area.

PM Training was given the “social enterprise of the year” honour in the Third Sector Excellence awards after demonstrating how the positive social impact it has on young people and communities in North Staffordshire.

The Stoke-on-Trent-based company, which joined the Aspire Group in 2008, provides 1,000 training opportunities a year and works with more than 300 companies. More than 70 per cent of learners progress successfully into work or further training.

PM Training has trebled the number of companies it works with, has successfully drawn in extra funding to provide training and has increased turnover 32 per cent despite the recession over the past year.

In addition PM Training has been able to gift aid its surpluses to the Aspire Group’s new charity The Realise Foundation which is providing further

Robin Studd, Cabinet member for regeneration and planning at Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, said: “We are delighted that Mill Rise has picked up another accolade.

“The complex is paving the way in creating high quality affordable care for older residents.

“The village allows people to retain their independence with the knowledge that 24-hour help is available if required.”

Dr Ann Pursey, chief executive of Prima 200, said: “We are delighted that Mill Rise has won another award recognising its achievements of bringing much needed health facilities to the Knutton and Cross Heath area, delivered in a modern centre, and with the combination of health and social housing on one site. The project is one of many great success stories of collaboration delivered by the Prima 200 LIFT program.”

Paul Spooner, regional director for the Homes and Communities Agency West Midlands, said: “We are very pleased to see this superb project and local partnership winning such an important award. This scheme sets very high standards in housing for the elderly”.

The award for Mill Rise is the latest in a string of national awards. It also won the “outstanding achievement in Central England and Wales” category of the Affordable Home Ownership awards this month. Earlier this year it won two awards at the UK Over 50s Housing Awards and Exemplar Award at Community Health Partnership’s LIFT awards.