The next Government should take note: social entrepreneurs could transform the job market

Social entrepreneurs are transforming the job market so it works for all

The steady drop in unemployment is a good news story for the UK. Not only does our economy thrive when more people are earning a living, but not being in work impacts on peoples' income, health and happiness. Yet not everyone with the desire to work is able to gain appropriate, meaningful employment. This is particularly the case for people with complex lives or additional support needs, including disabled people, care leavers, ex-offenders, veterans, single parents and people who are homeless.

In the run up to the General Election, this inequality of opportunity was noted by the main political parties, with most committing to address it. The good news for the next government is that people across the UK already have solutions, with social entrepreneurs creating serious impact in helping more people to access the job market.

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Ignition Brewery: serving up jobs These include people like Nick O'Shea, who set up Ignition Brewery, where he employs people with learning disabilities to brew and sell beer. He looked at the skills of his new workforce, and realised he had a talented and dedicated team of brewers, bottlers and salesmen. With start-up funding and support from UnLtd, and a dedicated mentor who has now joined the team, Nick has moved in to larger premises and how has his eye on scaling his venture so he can help people into meaningful employment.

Social entrepreneurs don't just create jobs, they help people to access them. Sharon from Specialisterne Northern Ireland was working as a successful recruitment agent for many years until her son was diagnosed with autism. She soon realised her husband was on the spectrum too. Seeing the talents of her husband, and knowing that her son was going to face unnecessary challenges to find work in the future, she realised she could to do something about it. She investigated different training tools and discovered a technique that allows her to access the hidden talents of people with autism. She has a waiting list of 200 people for her help in Northern Ireland alone.

It is not just innovation that people like Sharon and Nick bring, but also a deep understanding of the people they are helping.

So far we have supported over 900 social entrepreneurs tackling access to employment. Through our scaling programme we have worked with 38 ambitious social ventures who together have supported 1,677 people into employment, providing 117 work experience opportunities, and supported 96,874 individuals with training and accreditation. Working with UnLtd these social ventures raised over £3.8m of investment, generating an average investment of £127,767 during their support period.

Social entrepreneurs struggle to get access to the right kind of finance or find sustainable revenue streams to scale up their social venture. Likewise, finding routes in to sell to the public sector is a significant challenge due to commissioning structures and commissioners' low appetite for risk. And a general lack of awareness of social entrepreneurship compounds these challenges. Social entrepreneurs need to be seen as a legitimate and effective way of providing access to employment for those distant from the labour market. The next Government should benefit from harnessing the talents of these leaders.

Read about our previous blog, thoughts from the Social Economy Alliance, and why we must show the next government that social entrepreneurs have the solutions.  

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