Foster announces £2.5 million boost for social enterprises

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster launched Invest Northern Ireland’s new £2.5million support programme for social enterprises today.

Social enterprises are non-profit-taking organisations. They operate as a commercial entity and re-invest any profits back into the business or local community. Voluntary bodies, co-operatives and charities across a range of sectors including property, financial services, and health, are amongst Northern Ireland’s range of social enterprises.

Announcing the details of the new Social Entrepreneurship Programme at the Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast, the Minister said: “This new Social Entrepreneurship Programme will help potential social entrepreneurs to start a business. It will also encourage existing social enterprises to grow, create additional employment, exploit opportunities to export products or services and maximise their positive impact on society. Groups already in the voluntary and community sector will also be assisted to become social enterprises through this initiative.

“Social enterprises contribute to the achievement of many objectives of the Programme for Government, including the development of a dynamic, innovative economy. Through this new Social Entrepreneurship Programme, Invest NI will promote innovation and enterprise, and build the transferable business skills of people who manage social enterprises. It will also help create more sustainable, cohesive communities and regenerate local areas.”

The Minister highlighted the contribution that social enterprises make to the Northern Ireland economy.

She continued: “Over 11,000 people are employed or volunteer in social enterprises in Northern Ireland, and this demonstrates the considerable contribution the sector makes to the local economy. This region is ranked fifth in the UK for social enterprise activity, and it is important that we enhance the strong network of social economy businesses that exists here.”

The new Social Entrepreneurship Programme will provide improved support for participating groups. It will offer more flexible and timely assistance for those at the start-up stage, and there will be a greater focus on growing those existing social enterprises which can make a significant economic impact.

Tailored mentoring, business planning support, and capability advice will be provided to participating groups on the programme, helping them to successfully develop their socially-oriented business. There will also be the potential for groups to avail of financial assistance.

Disadvantaged groups and groups in areas of high social and economic need will be specifically targeted to ensure wide-ranging accessibility to the programme.