An £11m project to support co-operatives has been launched in Wales.
The Social Business Wales project is being delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre and will provide support for co-ops, as well as help business and organisations that want to adopt co-operative or employee-owned business models.
Funded by over £6m of EU funds and almost £5m from the Welsh government, the project will also support other social businesses, such as social enterprises. Around 500 new jobs are expected to be created over the next five years.
A one-stop shop for entrepreneurs and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) the scheme will operate as part of the Business Wales service and offer specialist services to help social businesses expand their products, services and markets.
It will also help charities to establish trading arms to take forward commercial ideas. The launch of the project follows a recent report published by the Welsh Co-operative Centre which revealed that the social business sector adds around £1.7bn of value to the Welsh economy and supports around 38,000 jobs in Wales.
Finance minister Jane Hutt announced the investment for the project at the Digital Accessibility Centre, a social business in Neath that works with clients to create digital media that is accessible to all. including people with visual impairments, dyslexia, mobility impairments and learning disabilities.
She said: “Nearly £2bn of EU funds are being invested in Wales over the next seven years, adding value to the Welsh Government’s goals for strengthening the Welsh economy and labour market, and helping businesses to expand and create jobs.
“As a pro-business government, we are working closely with businesses to create growth and jobs in all parts of Wales. The social business sector plays an important role in supporting local economies, particularly in disadvantaged areas. I’m delighted that this investment of EU and Welsh government funds will help to support and grow the sector so that it can continue to make a valuable contribution to the provision of important services within communities and create more jobs and opportunities across Wales.”
Derek Walker, chief executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, added: “Social businesses provide jobs and employment in many different sectors across the length and breadth of Wales while working towards fulfilling social aims as well as achieving profitability.
“We believe that social businesses have great potential for further growth in Wales. They underpin the wider economy and often fill the gaps that the private sector won’t consider and the public sector can’t support.
“The next few years will be exciting for social businesses and we look forward to playing our part in helping them to realise their potential.”
• For more information on Social Business Wales, visit: business.wales.gov.uk/socialbusinesswales or phone 03000 603000.