FINANCE NEWS: Government gives £1m to Social Firms UK

Mathew Little

Nearly £1m of government money has been given to a project aimed at helping organisations develop social enterprises.

Social Firms UK has been awarded £976,000 from the DTI's Phoenix Fund for its Flagship Firms and Franchising project which will establish 12 high-profile social firms.

The enterprises will carry out a public service under contract, operate a franchise or licence, or replicate the work of an existing successful social enterprise.

A trading subsidiary, Social Firms UK Trading, will also be established in order to provide marketing for some of the firms in the project.

Social Firms UK chief executive Gerry Higgins said: "We're delighted with this extra funding from the government. This will enable us to introduce franchising, replication and procurement opportunities."

The project will build on the work that Social Firms UK - which started in 2000 - has already undertaken through the Phoenix Fund. But the new investment broadens the scope of its support beyond the disability sector and concentrates on fast-tracking those ideas most likely to lead to good quality businesses.

The project will focus on supporting "higher profile, larger scale" social firms. "Social Firms UK is not content to foster the development of a sector that creates low quality jobs at the lower end of the market," said a spokesperson. "The sector needs to have more high-profile, high-quality social firms to champion the enterprise model for its target group."

The project also aims to reduce the timescale for start-up to viable social firm from three years to one.

Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Patricia Hewitt said: "The government is committed to enterprise for all, whatever peoples' circumstances may be."

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