Health grant 'not enough'

The Government has been criticised for investing only £1m in 'trailblazing' social enterprises that will deliver health and social care services to the NHS.

The Government has been criticised for investing only £1m in 'trailblazing' social enterprises that will deliver health and social care services to the NHS.

Secretary of State for Health Patricia Hewitt announced the sum last week. The Department of Health is set to launch its social enterprise venture fund in April next year.

She promised that successful applicants to the new trailblazer scheme would receive a package of support including business advice, training and mentorship.

"We have a clear vision to develop a patient-led NHS that uses all available resources to promote health and deliver the best and safest care," said Hewitt.

But Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Social Enterprise London, said that £1m was "obviously not enough" to cope with the needs of numerous fledgling social enterprises.

"£1m is what you provide if you want to create some showcases," she said.

"In my opinion, helping to finance handfuls of individual enterprises is good, but not as strategic as setting up a widely available information service as well.

"At the moment, nobody holds the expertise to help service providers opt out of the NHS and set up their own independent social enterprises. Apart from those who have already done it - and presumably they are busy."

However, Francis Davis, chair of SCA Community Care Services, warned that money given to help set up "fresh-thinking and innovation" should not then be "soaked up by bureaucratic advice bodies".

He added: "There needs to be a national search for people who have specific experience - these people need to be tracked down."

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