Big Society Capital makes first investment in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s health minister Jim Wells yesterday launched the first project in Northern Ireland to receive investment from Big Society Capital.

The Creative Local Action Response and Engagement (CLARE) programme aims to reduce social isolation and improve the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people by connecting them with local volunteers and community groups who are able to provide them with the support they need – for example transport, hot meals or simply company.

Big Society Capital is making this investment through the intermediary DERiC – which aims to reform the social care system into a Combining Personalisation and Community Empowerment (CPCE) model that gives individuals more choice over the management of their care budgets.  

Wells said: “Support from families and friends is associated with better health and wellbeing, and the links that connect people within their communities can promote resilience against difficulties.”

The CPCE initiative seeks to provide incentives to communities to deliver support to vulnerable individuals who have been assessed as requiring social support by a public authority. 

It also aims to deliver an enhanced quality of support, which would over time reduce the cost of providing social support and reliance on statutory services commissioned by public authorities and the NHS.

“It is a timely initiative in response to current challenges faced by adult health and social care services and provides a unique opportunity for statutory services to work in partnership with the community sector to maximise skills and resources and achieve better outcomes for vulnerable adults and older people,” said Wells.

The CLARE programme is part funded the Public Health Agency (PHA), which was established in 2009 as part of a major reform of health structures in Northern Ireland.

Acting chair of the PHA Julie Erskine said: “We have been instrumental in establishing and supporting the CLARE programme as we believe that this innovative approach can make a real difference, achieving better outcomes for vulnerable people, for volunteers, for communities themselves, and for health and social care organisations.” 

As of July last year Big Society Capital had invested just over £1m into intermediary DERiC to provide finance for organisations such as the CLARE programme. Recent unaudited figures show that the London-based social investment bank has so far invested £36m of its own funds since 2012 as well as £68m in co-investment, bringing a total of £104m into the sector.

CEO of Big Society Capital Nick O’Donohoe said: “Big Society Capital is very pleased to make its first investment in Northern Ireland, through the intermediary DERiC, and hope to see many more organisations take on social investment and deliver services for the community.”


Header image: Nick O'Donohoe. Photo credit: Big Society Capital