Sector ‘overlooked’ by Government

Social Enterprise Coalition’s Chief Executive has challenged the Government to improve its offer to the third sector following a cash promise of £42.5 million from the Cabinet Office.

The pledge from the Government was designed to help volunteers, charities and social enterprises deliver help during the global economic downturn.

However, Jonathan Bland from the SEC was disappointed with the Government’s lack of focus on the social enterprise sector. He said: “We are disappointed that social enterprises have been largely overlooked by this action plan. Social enterprise should be an essential part of the plan to rebuild the economy, and currently it is not. We challenge the Government to do more, and to take advantage of the solutions that social enterprises are already delivering.

“It’s a missed opportunity to expand the role that social enterprises are already playing in tackling the most critical aspects of the recession, particularly in job creation, economic development, and anchoring wealth in communities.”

The Government strategy includes a £500,000 investment in the School for Social Entrepreneurs, which Mr Bland said he was pleased with this opportunity. The extra funding is set to double the number of people the school trains to become social entrepreneurs, particularly those working in deprived communities.

Although, Social Enterprise London Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton welcomed the plan. She said: “At a time when our economy and society are facing such challenges, it is deeply encouraging to see social enterprise at the heart of the Government’s plans for recovery. The time for social enterprise is now, and with this kind of support we can ensure London continues to lead the world in running business for social purpose.”

The Real help for communities plan will deliver a £16.5m funding package to 3,000 third sector organisations to help with the cost of mergers and partnerships. Around £10m will be invested in a volunteer programme for 40,000 unemployed people to teach new skills and £15.5m will enable grants to be given to small and medium providers in deprived communities.

The report says £8.5 million of the £42.5 million will be directed at new and expanding social enterprises, while the remaining funds will go to small and medium third sector service providers. 

The plan, which has been designed together with third sector leaders over the last three months, builds on the wide range of measures the Government has put in place to support people through the economic downturn, and on the Government’s long term commitment to voluntary organisations and social enterprises.

Liam Byrne, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: "We’ve doubled government help to charities, voluntary group and social enterprises from £5.5 billion to over £11 billion. That means these vital groups face the downturn with unprecedented strength.

"The best of the British spirit is the way we pull together when times are tough. And its Britain’s charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises that so often make that happen.

"We’ve been monitoring daily what’s happening to donations and demands for new services, and with incredible support from the sector we’re launching a lazer-targeted package of help with tens of millions extra for charities providing employment advice, mental health and family support services in the most deprived areas of England and Wales, plus millions extra to help those out of work start volunteering."

"Britain can beat this downturn. Just like we’ve beaten everything else this world has thrown at us in the decades gone by. But we’ll win by pulling together. Not by facing the storm alone".

Kevin Brennan, Minister for the Third Sector, said: "The third sector is brilliant at knowing how best to provide real help for people who need it most. We need to make the most of the skills and expertise the sector has to offer – helping people through times of challenge and change, finding new and more equitable ways of doing business through social enterprises, and empowering people to transform their lives and their communities. That’s why we are acting to invest in helping the third sector get stronger now and in the future."

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