A NATIONAL body is needed to provide specialist support and guidance for larger or more complex social enterprises according to a newly-published report.
The report, commissioned by the Small Business Service and prepared by Co-operatives UK, sets out the case for a national referral service to support those enterprises.
Preliminary research carried out in 2004 identified that support is inadequate for such businesses – whether they are new starts, externalisations from a public authority or businesses seeking to grow.
Helen Seymour, of Co-operatives UK, told the News: "The purpose of the study was to set out the rationale for a referral service. We investigated the demand for such a service, the issues affecting it and whether it is feasible in the current business support environment."
The report examines policy influences, showing the Government's strategy of delivering better and more effective public services is likely to result in an increase in the number of entrants to the social enterprise sector and an expansion in the size, capacity and challenges to existing social enterprises.
Research revealed uncertainty among support providers as to how social enterprises will gain access to the right advice and support in the new devolved structures that are being implemented through Regional Development Agencies.
The study concludes that complex or mature enterprises need access to support providers or experts who can offer the key skills, knowledge or expertise that matches their needs. Work on a business plan to map out and cost the implementation and piloting of a referral service is now underway and is likely to be completed by the beginning of June.