Social investment can become a mainstream concept, says David Cameron

Prime Minister tells London conference that social investment has the potential to tackle problems such as drugs, unemployment, homelessness and global poverty

David Cameron
David Cameron

Social investment can move from the sidelines to the mainstream, and from the UK to the rest of the world, according to the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Speaking this morning at the Social Impact Investment Conference in London, which he asked to be convened as part of the UK's leadership of this month’s G8 summit, Cameron said: "I sense other countries are looking at social investment with huge interest. I hope they will say ‘they have a great model in Britain, let's roll it out’. I hope it becomes a serious issue, not a side issue."

He said that social investment could "transform our societies" by tackling problems such as "drug abuse, youth unemployment, homelessness and even global poverty".

"The potential for social investment is that big," he said. "So I want to make it a success in Britain and I want to sell it all over the world."

Cameron suggested that investment should be as important to the voluntary sector as it was to the public and private sector.

"Businesses need finance to grow and make profit," he said. "Governments need finance to fund big infrastructure projects. That’s why we have banks, bonds, investment markets and all the rest. The idea here is just as simple and just as powerful.

"Social enterprises, charities and voluntary bodies have the knowledge, human touch and personal commitment to succeed where governments often fail. But they need finance too. They can get it from socially minded investors. So we need social investment markets, bonds and banks."

Cameron said that he supported the idea of pooling funds between departments to make it easier to invest in solving social problems.

"If a prisoner is released from prison and reoffends, that doesn't actually cost the Ministry of Justice anything unless they get sent back to prison," he said. "If a child fails at school it doesn't cost the Department for Education. We need to look at pooling more budgets in government."

Cameron also indicated that he still supported the ideas behind his big society initiative.

"Some people have asked whether I still believe with the same passion about the vision of a bigger, stronger society," he said. "I say to them – look around this room. See how social investment can bring people together and make our society stronger. I am absolutely prepared to fight for that."

As part of his speech, Cameron announced three initiatives to increase the size of the market: a new £250m fund from Big Society Capital to support community assets, a consultation on a social investment tax relief, and a new Social Stock Exchange that would list companies with social purposes.

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