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Welsh social firms to get help -- Postiwyd gan-Posted by waen ar / on Wednesday, August 6 2003
The Welsh Assembly is planning a massive boost for social enterprises, following evidence that they could help meet social inclusion goals but are dogged by a lack of support.

A consultation launched by Edwina Hart, minister for social justice and regeneration, suggests the sector could play a bigger role in providing public services, particularly traditional welfare services that have previously gone to local authorities.

Wales’s social economy already numbers some 30,000 organisations employing around 23,000 paid staff and providing a turnover of £630m, but the assembly wants to grow the sector further.

The working group behind the consultation, including assembly members, the Social Economy Network and Wales Council for Voluntary Action, names childcare, health and social care, environment and recycling, housing, renewable energy and green tourism as potential growth areas.

The consultation proposes a raft of new measures, such as specialist groups that would bring together key agencies to provide business expertise, and a publicity campaign to raise the sector’s profile and persuade enterprises to take part in awards schemes.

A ‘social angels’ scheme could match investors with social enterprises needing capital.

The assembly proposes stronger representation to help social businesses inform government policy and increase public awareness. Working group members felt enterprises had limited funding opportunities because of a poor understanding of their abilities and values, particularly among high street banks.

This was aggravated by a lack of hard evidence demonstrating the sector’s benefits, such as its ability to stimulate local economies. Social enterprise was also held back by internal problems, such as a varying skills and knowledge base and isolation.

Angela Elniff-Larsen, chief executive of Community Enterprise Wales, welcomed the consultation and hoped it would lead to a cut in red tape. ‘When you need £2,000 to move a business on you sometimes have to wait as long as if you were putting in a £600,000 bid,’ she said.

‘Often the government will give huge amounts to inward investment but community businesses have to get through so much bureaucracy.’

Social enterprise action plan, .

For more information contact Chris Morrish at the assembly, tel: 029 2082 6750