New ‘Inclusive Economy Unit’ created by British government

Britain’s new prime minister, Theresa May, has made her mark on civil society by establishing an Inclusive Economy Unit.

The unit will sit within the Office for Civil Society, which deals with social enterprises and charities.

Announcing the creation of the unit on Tuesday 11 October, Rob Wilson, minister for civil society, said: "A strong civil society works best when all parts of the economy and of society are being used to their full potential.

"This unit will bring together the expertise of the public, private and civil society sectors to achieve this and help us build an economy and a Britain that works for everyone, not just the privileged few."

Whilst long on intention, the announcement of the new unit was short on detail. According to the government’s statement, the new unit will ‘focus on expanding opportunities for those who are struggling to cope; harnessing the power of private investment and business for the advantage of everyone as well as improving delivery of public services.’ 

How this will happen isn’t specified.

The unit will be staffed by the existing social investment and finance team. A Cabinet Office spokesman commented that the name of the unit: "reflects the growing scope of the work of the team, so that in addition to its traditional work to develop the UK social investment market, it is now working to develop public service mutuals and understand the full range of businesses in the social economy, including mission-led business."

In a blog, Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service, writes that the establishing of the new unit is: “To re-energise our focus on social investment and social innovation across government.”

The name of the unit echoes recurring themes in speeches made by the prime minister since she took up office. May has repeatedly used phrases such as ‘an economy that works for everyone’ or ‘a society that works for everyone’.

The unit is part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. A certain amount of disgruntlement greeted the announcement that Rob Wilson, the minister for civil society, would be moved to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport earlier this year. A number of social enterprise leaders wrote to ministers suggesting that it would be better placed within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills instead.

Social enterprise expert and consultant Dan Gregory commented: “It just sounds like a slightly meaningless rebrand - albeit with a hint of more private sector involvement - and it's still not clear to anyone why this unit isn't in the department for business."

Photo credit: Ronnie Macdonald