The Social Enterprise Support Fund will provide essential financial support of between £10,000 and £300,000 to help firms during the COVID-19 crisis.
Five social enterprise support agencies have come together to deliver the new fund. Big Issue Invest, The Key Fund, Resonance, the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and UnLtd will jointly deliver £18.7 million in grants, with support from CAF Venturesome, the Young Foundation and Ashoka.
This move has been made possible thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.
A spokesman said: “The UK’s 100,000 social enterprises have been at the heart of community survival and recovery during this crisis, from making PPE for health workers, to providing food and connection in their neighbourhoods.
“The Social Enterprise Support Fund responds to an urgent need in the sector to help social enterprises change the way they work, make their spaces COVID-secure, and manage liquidity during the next six months.”
The fund is aimed at social enterprises supporting people at high health risk from COVID-19, and those supporting people facing increased social and economic challenges as a result of the pandemic.
Matt Smith, CEO of Key Fund, said: “Key Fund has been investing in social enterprise for over 20 years, and we know from experience that these organisations, operating at the very frontline, are best placed to help communities respond to the challenges of Covid-19.
“For years, we have championed the use of loans to support the development of trading in social enterprises, as a way to independence and resilience.
"Now, with trading impacted by lockdown for many, and with the need for services increasing, it is the time to go back to grants, and so we are delighted to launch this new fund.
"COVID-19 has hit the marginalised, poorest and most vulnerable the hardest, so it is critical social enterprises are supported with the‘right money, at the right time when they are needed like never before as a lifeline to jobs, community, social care, health and well-being.”
Mark Norbury, Chief Executive, UnLtd said: "Social entrepreneurs are delivering crucial community support, while balancing their operations, finances, mental health, and social distancing.
"The virus, the economic crash, and inaccessible support are hitting vulnerable communities the hardest, and an unprecedented pandemic requires an unprecedented response.
“We understand that disproportionately affected communities require disproportionate relief. At UnLtd we specifically request social enterprises led by marginalised people to apply for this
Alastair Wilson, CEO of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, said: “Many social entrepreneurs are on the frontline of this crisis, supporting people who are most at-risk. Others are working with groups who have been disproportionately hard hit by COVID-19.
"At the same time, they have seen their income from trading plummet. This funding comes at a critical time.
“Working with our partners, we will do everything we can to ensure this funding reaches social entrepreneurs as quickly as possible, so they can recover lost income and help their
communities to recover and rebuild.”
Daniel Brewer, CEO, Resonance said:“This funding is crucial - COVD-19 has hit many social entrepreneurs hard, both operationally and financially, it’s important to remember that these entrepreneurs are supporting some of the most vulnerable and at risk people in society, many of which are based in marginalised communities across England.
“In conjunction with our partners, we are committed to ensuring that this funding reaches those entrepreneurs in real need, especially those who support disability led organisations, those
supporting the BAME community and those created by social entrepreneurs in later life.”
Danyal Sattar, CEO, The Big Issue Invest said: “As a BAME background chief executive officer of The Big Issue Invest, I personally and we as an organisation are very aware of the challenges and disparities that many vulnerable communities and individuals will experience as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
“The recent #CharitySoWhite movement has bought to the public view the extent to which BAME organisations and individuals feel excluded by the current funding structures.
"The focus has been on philanthropy and mainstream charities, but Social Investment is a part of this funding environment too. We encourage social enterprises led by or focused on BAME communities or groups who feel marginalised by us as funders, to apply for this grant support.
“These are unprecedented times but the impacts are felt disproportionately by BAME communities and we need to support organisations reaching those hardest hit in our society.”
The partnership is one of five The National Lottery Community Fund is supporting as part of its COVID crisis response.
Dawn Austwick, chief executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “These partnerships will extend the reach of National Lottery funding at a time when
communities need it most. They are each experts in their field, which is why we’re delighted to be working alongside them.
"Their local knowledge, dedication and network of contacts will be critical in supporting the distribution of much needed funding at a critical time for communities. We’re grateful to them for working with us so closely and of course to National Lottery players for making this emergency response possible.”
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