CO-OPERATIVE Action is supporting a new social enterprise that rescues computers from landfill sites, reconditions them – then puts them back into service.
Express Link Up Social Enterprise has grown from the London-based charity Express Link Up to build on a success story that has spread as far as Washington DC and Cape Town in South Africa.
Express Link Up was set up in 1997 ? by mother and daughter Pat and Julia Ryan and businessman Glynn Smith ? to take new computer equipment, internet links, IT skills and teaching resources into hospital schools and the homes of children and young people who were sick and disabled.
Last year, in response to the Government initiative on setting up social enterprise units to provide income for charities, the new SEU venture was launched at a Nottingham business park. In November the charity moved there too.
Now Co-operative Action is helping to expand the operation by providing a £ 15,000 loan for training facilities that offer potential employment skills to unemployed youngsters.
"What Express Link Up has achieved, as a charity, is a solid base on which to build the new social enterprise initiative," says Co-operative Action's Stephen Youd-Thomas.
"It's a logical progression which adds a strong commercial element to deliver a range of social goals."
Express Link Up has installed computer equipment, networks and educational software into 247 hospital schools throughout the UK and supplied laptops for teachers to take work into children's homes.
With high-profile support from the charity patron, Carol Vorderman, and Cherie Booth, the service expanded and spread to equip two hospitals in New York and Washington as well as teaching literacy and IT skills to children and their parents in Soweto and Cape Town, South Africa.
"Without the London-based companies, who donated thousands of top quality PCs, we would not have been able to start the Social Enterprise Unit that is now contracted to recondition and recycle them," says Chief Executive, Pat Ryan.
With partners including Nottingham City Council and East Midlands Development Agency, and financial support from manufacturing union AMICUS, Express Link Up Social Enterprise is adding employment and training opportunities to a broadening raft of economic, environmental and social services.
Computer equipment is offered for resale as a low-cost start-up alternative for schools and colleges, small businesses and community groups – with computer systems from as little as £ 150 and monitors at £ 25.
The charity also continues to install new equipment into children's hospitals and recycled equipment goes into the homes of sick children free of charge.
"It's difficult to imagine a business that benefits so many different interests," says Mr Youd-Thomas.
? Express Link Up Social Enterprise can be contacted on 0115 978 8621 or visit www.eluse.co.uk.