Seb Elsworth to lead newly launched Access: The Foundation for Social Investment

The £100m government backed charity, which calls itself 'a sister organisation to Big Society Capital', will support capacity-building initiatives

Seb Elsworth
Seb Elsworth

Access: The Foundation for Social Investment, a new £100m government-backed charity that describes itself as a "sister organisation to Big Society Capital", will be launched today.

A statement released by Access before it is launched today at an event in Didcot, Oxfordshire, said that its two main functions would be supporting capacity building initiatives to help charities and social enterprises access social investment, and providing finance to the sector.

Access has also announced that Seb Elsworth, deputy chief executive of the Social Investment Business, will be its first chief executive. He will join the organisation on 5 May from the SIB, one of the UK’s largest social investors.

Before joining the SIB in 2012, he spent nearly six years at the charity leaders group Acevo, including three as director of strategy. He will be joined by four further staff, only one of whom – the finance manager Sarah Allwood – has so far been appointed.

Plans for Access were first announced in December by Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society.

The charity registered with the Charity Commission that same month, with objects that include identifying needs in the social sector and developing the sector’s capacities and skills.

The Cabinet Office has promised Access £60m of funding from repayments of loans from the defunct Futurebuilders fund, and has so far paid £36m of this. This £60m will be spent on capacity-building for charities and social enterprises "to help them build their organisational strength, to take on social investment and become financially robust organisations over time", according to the Access statement. It will fund programmes over the next 10 to 15 years, starting in early 2016, and will consult charities this year about the sector’s needs.

Access has also received a £22.5m grant from the Big Lottery Fund and will receive up to £22.5m in loan funds from the social investment wholesaler Big Society Capital.

This money will be used to create Access’s Growth Fund, which the statement said would be "dedicated to enabling social lenders to make investments of up to £150,000 to charities and social enterprises". Charities and social enterprises will be able to apply for a mix of grant and loan funding indirectly through intermediary social lenders. These intermediaries will be able to make expressions of interest from May, and the Growth Fund will operate for seven years in total.

Access is chaired by John Kingston, a former chair of the Association of Charitable Foundations and founder of CAF Venturesome, the social lending arm of the Charities Aid Foundation.

He said: "We are not seeking to build an empire with the establishment of Access. We will have a fixed life during which we want to make a real difference to more charities and social enterprises. We will be a champion for the financing needs of this part of the sector, ensuring that the right mix of capital and support is in place long into the future."

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