We know that many charities and social enterprises will need grants to help them at this difficult time, but we also believe there is an urgent opportunity to help many through this by providing loans through an emergency liquidity facility. This would allow trading charities and social enterprises to borrow money they need for working capital or to help with cash flow.
We are urgently trying to set this up and alongside twenty other Social Investment organisations and groups have written to the Government to ask for their help to ensure charities and social enterprises survive the Coronavirus crisis. Read the letter in full below.
Dear Secretary of State,
Emergency Liquidity Facility for Social Enterprises and Charities
Big Society Capital, The Social Investment Forum and a group including 20 leading social lenders are writing to you to make an urgent request for financial support to help ensure trading charities and social enterprises can survive the Coronavirus crisis. We have also written to The Times newspaper today with an open letter from funding organisations which are working to support the social sector.
A copy of this letter to The Times is below.
We strongly welcome the Government’s measures to support businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, including a liquidity support scheme backed by £330 billion of guarantees. However, many charities and social enterprises are also facing extreme challenges to their future existence and may not be able to access this support in practice. This is because there are very few social lenders accredited within the scheme who will be able to give these organisations access to funding and additionally because many of these organisations with less than half of their income through trading will not be eligible. We believe that social enterprises and charities which serve a public benefit should receive the same government support as private companies and that there should be a level playing field.
Therefore, as social lenders, we are working together with great urgency to create an Emergency Liquidity Facility which would serve this vital sector and be able to lend quickly to organisations supporting social needs facing immediate cashflow problems or in need of working capital.
The Facility would need significant financial backing to enable this in the same way as the Government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is guaranteeing the loans which will be offered to businesses through the British Business Bank. The easiest way to achieve the same support for the social sector would be for Big Society Capital to work with a group of social lenders who can channel funds direct to social enterprises and charities. The estimated need for an emergency liquidity facility is many multiples of the current lending capacity in the social investment sector - we are therefore in discussion with government and hoping to secure its financial backing in the same way this has been offered to mainstream business.
Unless this support is forthcoming, we believe the risks to society are significant. Social enterprises and charities play a vital role in the fabric of society supporting many of the most vulnerable people and addressing issues from homelessness to mental health with examples in nearly every sector from The Big Issue to Catch 22. In addition to their social impact, these social businesses and trading charities contribute more than £60 billion to the economy and employ two million people. Cash flow is already a serious issue with a devastating slowdown in trading conditions. Many of these organisations themselves employ or serve vulnerable or high-risk groups and many will have low or no financial reserves, making them particularly vulnerable to the current sudden economic freeze.
There is a real risk that many organisations that could be financially sustainable will simply fold or cease trading and never be able to recover without the ability to borrow money that is being offered by the government to private business.
Therefore, we urge the Government to take two immediate practical steps.
- First it should make changes to ensure the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is available to all charities and social enterprises that could make use of this finance to survive this crisis
- Second the Government should commit, either via CBILS or outside it, to provide significant financial backing to a dedicated Emergency Liquidity Facility to be delivered through the existing social finance infrastructure
We believe that when we as a country get through this extraordinary period, we will need a vibrant social business sector to help us rebuild the fabric of society. We hope the Government will work with us to secure the future for this sector and help prevent the widespread closure of these organisations in the coming weeks.
Chief Executive, Big Society Capital & Co- signatories
The Social Investment Forum and the following organisations;
Nick Temple, CEO, Social Investment Business
Sarah Gordon, CEO Impact Investing Institute
Seb Elsworth, CEO, Access: The Foundation for Social Investment
Holly Piper, CAF Venturesome
Richard Hunt, CAF Bank Ltd
Caroline Mason, CEO, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
Lisa Ashford, CEO, Ethex
Bevis Watts, CEO, Triodos Bank
Benjamin Rick, Managing Director, Social and Sustainable Capital
Theodora Hadjimichael, CEO, Responsible Finance
Matthew Mckeague, Architectural Heritage Fund
Ed Siegel, CEO, Charity Bank
Daniel Brewer, CEO, Resonance
Danyal Sattar, CEO, Big Issue Invest
Mark Norbury, CEO, UnLtd
Ian Richards, Director, NorthStar Ventures
Nathan Elstub, Executive Director of Investments, Nesta
Matt Smith, CEO, Key Fund
Alastair Davis, CEO, Social Investment Scotland