UK government ‘quite open’ to helping social enterprise as part of business aid package

UK social enterprises should take heart from the government’s latest messages around business support, according to membership body Social Enterprise UK

Andrew O’Brien, SEUK’s director of external affairs, told Pioneers Post he was cautiously optimistic following announcements from the chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday evening, who unveiled a number of new measures to cushion the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on business. 

These include a business rates holiday to all firms in the hospitality sector, grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 for small businesses, and £330bn in the form of state-backed loans.

While there was no specific mention of social enterprises, O’Brien said the overall message, and particularly the desire to prevent any business from having to close, was positive.  

“It looks like the government is quite open to helping social enterprises,” he said.

There are an estimated 100,000 social enterprises in the country, contributing £60bn to UK GDP and employing 2 million people, according to SEUK research.

“Huge awareness raising” will be needed among banks distributing the new loans

It is still unclear which social enterprises will be eligible for the loans, and “huge awareness raising” would be needed among those banks distributing them, particularly those that don’t normally work with such enterprises. 

More sector-specific measures – such as blended finance or grants – would also be needed to support those social businesses unable to take on a commercial loan. Many will also need significant in-kind support, said O’Brien. His organisation is hoping to tap into its wider network of corporate partners to share expertise on aspects such as human resources or business continuity planning.

SEUK is currently “making sure every part of our organisation is working towards supporting social enterprises”, according to O’Brien, with the aim of making webinars and briefings available to all social enterprises in the UK, not just its members. The network body is currently calling for input from social enterprises to inform its conversations with government.

Pioneers Post has contacted the Treasury for comment.

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Header photo: Loaf Cafe in Belfast. Hospitality businesses are set to benefit from temporary exemptions from paying business rates.