New fund promotes social enterprises

Mon, 28/09/2020 - 10:07 -- Editor

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín is urging Social Enterprises to apply for the COVID Social Enterprise Fund, which opens today.

A Social Enterprise (SE) is a trading business – selling goods and services – whose primary objective is to achieve social and/or environmental benefit. SEs are different from those charities and voluntary organisations which do not have financial independence through trading income.

The Department for Communities is investing £7m in the fund that will be accepting grant applications from September 28, for four weeks.

Minister Ní Chuilín said: “I am delighted to launch this fund that will support Social Enterprises that already deliver vital services and products but find themselves in financial difficulties directly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The primary intention of the fund is to help Social Enterprises to stabilise and manage cash flows over this difficult period.

“The aim is to balance the urgency required to prevent closure of Social Enterprises and loss of employment and key services, with the need for effective support to avoid the impacts on people and wider society and preserve a sector which is fit for purpose for the future and I would encourage all Social Enterprises, no matter how big or small, to apply.”

The support scheme has been developed through intensive co-design with both Social Enterprise NI (SENI) and Community Finance Ireland (CFI). Grants of up to £75,000 will be available.

Colin Jess, Director of Social Enterprise NI, said: “Social Enterprise NI is delighted to have played a part in the announcement of this support fund for the Social Enterprise sector in NI. These funds will provide much needed help and financial assistance to organisations, many of which have yet to avail of any of the previous support schemes provided by the NI Executive. We would like to thank the Department for Communities and Community Finance Ireland for co-designing this scheme with us.”

Community Finance Ireland will be administering the fund and its Chief Executive, Harry McDaid, commented: “The Social Enterprise sector represents ‘business with a heart’.  It is a sector which places equal emphasis on the creation of social capital as that of economic value.  Its influence touches on so many communities and often in areas most in need of social and economic interventions.  In common with society generally, the sector has suffered greatly these past six months and I welcome that steps are now being taken to mitigate these difficulties.”

More information on eligibility and how to apply for the COVID Social Enterprise Fund is available at www.communities-ni.gov.uk/covid-social-enterprise-fund