Enterprise Minister Welcomes £10million Boost to Social Economy

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, pictured at Parliament Buildings with Brendan Whelan, Chief Executive of Social Finance Foundation in Dublin, Seamus O'Prey, Chairperson of Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT), and Nigel Kershaw, Chief Executive of Big Issue Invest.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, today welcomed a partnership offering social enterprises in Northern Ireland access to a £10million investment fund.

Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT), a community finance development organisation, is partnering with Big Issue Invest (BII), a UK based provider of loans to social enterprises, to offer new finance to social enterprises in Northern Ireland through the Social Enterprise Investment Fund. UCIT is investing £250,000 into BII’s Social Enterprise Investment Fund in order to bring the initiative to Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, Arlene Foster commented: “This partnership is encouraging news for our social economy, which accounts for approximately eight per cent of economic activity in Northern Ireland and employs over 30,000 people.

“I commend UCIT and BII for their leadership and innovative thinking in bringing finance to the sector. The Social Enterprise Investment Fund will offer social enterprises in Northern Ireland the opportunity to make investments towards the future growth of their business. Invest NI through both its Social Entrepreneurship Programme and core business supports, continues to make a key contribution to the business development of the Social Economy sector.

“This investment fund, along with the advice and support of the Social Economy Network in Northern Ireland, will enable the sector to strengthen its position as an essential and invaluable part of sustainable and inclusive economic development.”

Seamus O’Prey, Chair of UCIT, commented: “UCIT is committed to assisting social enterprises to become more efficient and have adequate resources in place. I am delighted to be working with BII in bringing this fund to Northern Ireland as it will enable local groups to get access to these investment opportunities.”

Nigel Kershaw, CEO Big Issue Invest, commented: “In order for the social economy sector to make its mark and play an effective role in the economy it needs access to support and investment. Working with UCIT we identified the clear need for a method to provide medium and long-term funding for social enterprises. The Social Enterprise Investment Fund presents a new and innovative way of introducing finance to Northern Ireland’s social enterprises.”