Invest Northern Ireland has announced a two year programme of support for the social economy sector which aims to create over 60 new enterprises focused on addressing social depravation.
The programme, which has the potential to create 180 new jobs, will be co-funded by the Economic Revitalisation EU programme for Peace and Reconciliation, supported by the Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) and delivered by Enterprise Northern Ireland.
Designed specifically to meet the needs of the growing social economy sector it will create a ‘seamless package’ of assistance including pre start-up, start-up and business development support that will greatly assist potential and existing social economy businesses across Northern Ireland.
Welcoming the launch of the programme Noel Lavery, Senior Civil Servant at the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment said:
“The Programme is a key and important component of Government’s Cross Departmental Action Plan, led by DETI, to support the development and growth of the sector, in this instance by offering tailored support to increase its business strengths.”
Under the programme social economy enterprises will also be given full access to mainstream Invest NI business support to ensure that they are on a level-playing field with more mainstream businesses.
Speaking at the event, Leslie Morrison, Chief Executive of Invest NI said:
“Social enterprises have the same need to be efficient, innovative and profitable as any other commercial company.
“This new programme of support will help them to become more sustainable and increase their growth, employment and wealth creation opportunities for the benefit of the whole economy,” he continued.
The package of support will also help to raise the profile of social economy businesses across Northern Ireland, ensure that they have a higher survival rate, and upgrade the skills base of groups and individuals working within the sector.
Commenting on the support programme Erskine Homes OBE, Chair of the Ulster Community Investment Trust said:
“I fully support this initiative as it will bring a commercial focus to the establishment of new players within the social economy sector. We will welcome applications for loan finance from economically viable organisations participating in the programme and will assess all applications on individual financial capability.”