Why community should be at the heart of government policy measures

Had you asked someone standing on their doorstep one Thursday in lockdown why they were clapping, new bridges and broadband would not have been their first answer.

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Written by

Tessa Godley, Policy and Strategy Manager

People were clapping for the awe-inspiring acts of the NHS and other workers on the frontline of their communities, such as 100-year-old Captain Sir Tom Moore who walked more than 100 laps of his garden, raising nearly £33 million for NHS charities.

Community has been at the heart of Britain’s response to coronavirus. The ONS has reported the rising importance of community to the British public as the pandemic has unfolded, with more than half of the UK population reporting that they felt a sense of belonging to their community, and more than two-thirds saying they thought people were “doing more to help others since the coronavirus outbreak”.

The awe-inspiring acts of those on the frontline of their communities has not gone unnoticed by government. The Prime Minister (PM) has asked one of his former advisors, and now Conservative MP for Devizes, Danny Kruger, to investigate and develop proposals to maximise the role of community groups, social enterprises, charities, volunteers, and faith groups in the coronavirus recovery. This includes proposals on philanthropy, social investment, and business, and what new forms of finance that can be used to support communities.

We have been feeding into this PM commission, and seeking to elevate the unique role that community groups, social enterprises, and charities can play in the recovery and beyond. We have done this both on our own and with others, as we believe that working together will be critical to securing the Government policy measures we all hope for. For example, with the national forum for UK social investment and finance intermediaries, and the partnership of Access, Big Society Capital, the Impact Investing Institute, Power to Change, the School for Social Entrepreneurs, Social Enterprise UK, Social Investment Business, and UnLtd.

There is much to shout about, such as the impressive track record of social enterprises on employment, especially given that unemployment is our biggest incoming challenge. We are eager to make the most of the glimmer of interest from Boris Johnson.

The UK’s 100,000 social enterprises already employ 2 million people and contribute £60 billion to the UK economy. Social enterprises offer more jobs relative to the private sector – for every £100,000 of turnover, social enterprises create three jobs compared to 0.66 in the private sector. What is more, the jobs social enterprises create are disproportionately in the poorest communities, and target those furthest from the labour market.

Around 30% [or 600,000] of their total jobs created are in the most deprived communities, and 40% of social enterprises actively seek to employ people with disabilities, care leavers, ex-offenders, the homeless, and veterans. Last but not least, social enterprises invest more in improving the quality of those jobs – 74% of social enterprises invest in work and training for their staff compared to 47% of SMEs.

The recovery will be long and hard, and we will need kindness and generosity from our communities that goes beyond statutory welfare, economic / infrastructure stimulus and cranes in the sky. We hope that the Government acts on the proposals they receive from Danny Kruger, and sustains and builds on the goodwill generated during the response to the crisis Supporting the social sector is critical in enabling the UK to weather the storm, improve lives and build back a more prosperous and fair society.