Enterprises 'must be different'

Junior health minister Ivan Lewis has told social enterprises that they must work harder to impress NHS commissioners.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Social Enterprise Coalition last week, he said: "We have to get commissioners to see social enterprise not as a distraction, a sideshow or a marginal activity, but as a central part of the delivery process.

"This is a challenge to social enterprises: you have to demonstrate to public policy-makers that you add value, that you are distinctive and that you are offering something different."

But Oliver Letwin, chairman of the Conservative Party's policy review, said that the Government needed to improve access to finance to enable the social enterprise sector to grow. "We have to do more to encourage the development of patient capital," he said.

Margaret Hodge, minister for industry and the regions, told delegates that she would be "really excited" to liaise with the City about the possibility of it investing in social enterprises.

"But there has to be a group of social enterprises coming together so we can engage to take this forward," she said.

Ed Miliband, minister for the third sector, told Third Sector at the conference that some social entrepreneurs were still not getting the specialist support they required.

"What people often want is advice from specialist social enterprise advisers, and sometimes Business Link will be able to provide that and sometimes it won't," said Miliband.

"Business Link has to be a portal through which people go to get the help they need."

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Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Social Enterprise London, has been elected to Acevo's board as part of an initiative to strengthen links between voluntary groups and social enterprise bodies.

Ogden-Newton, who is also on the boards of the Social Enterprise Coalition, the London Rebuilding Society, the London Business Support Network and recycling consultancy London Remade, said: "Social enterprise is an excellent way for the sector to deliver a quality service and balance the books. I have seen how well it works and believe it has limitless potential."

Stephen Bubb, head of the chief executives' body, said: "I look forward to seeing how Allison's input will support the work we are doing with members to give them access to the skills necessary to engage fully with social enterprise."

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