THE Prime Minister called for the social enterprise sector to play a greater role in the delivery of public services such as healthcare and recycling; and in regenerating communities and neighbourhoods across the UK.
Tony Blair addressed more than 800 delegates through a video message at Voice06, the Social Enterprise Coalition's national conference in Manchester.
Mr Blair said: "You are already making an important contribution to our economy and helping address some of the key challenges that face us today. A DTI survey published last year identified over 15,000 social enterprises, employing half a million people and with a combined turnover of £ 18 billion. But I want to see social enterprises do even more.
"In our election manifesto, we made a commitment to support the growth of social enterprise. In areas such as recycling, transport and leisure, social enterprises have pioneered new ways of delivery, helping local authorities improve the quality of the services they provide to the public.
"By empowering staff, users and other stakeholders, they can do the real joining up on the ground that public bodies often struggle with. I want to see more people benefit from the innovation and commitment that social enterprises bring."
Added Mr Blair: "I also want to see a greater role for social enterprise in the respect agenda, revitalising our neighbourhoods. By harnessing the power of local communities, social enterprises catalyse regeneration and promote active citizenship.
"Ownership of buildings and land is often an essential element of their approach and can transform even the most struggling community – energising local people and providing the long-term foundation for enterprise and renewal. David Miliband is currently exploring how we can help support community enterprises to take on ownership of assets."
Mr Blair later reassured delegates the sector has the Governement's support, he said: "As we move forward, I will ensure that my colleagues in Government continue to work with you to tackle the barriers holding back the growth of social enterprise in the UK."