We know that community businesses and other social ventures are playing a crucial role for our communities in this pandemic. They are providing access to essential supplies and services, providing mental health support, supporting the most vulnerable community members, easing the pressure on front line health and care services; facilitating employment and training opportunities, and so much more. It is also clear that the pandemic will continue to affect us all for many more months and community business leaders need to be equipped and supported to keep doing their important work for the long-term.
In autumn 2020 we asked whether community enterprises were able to access the financial support necessary being offered by government and foundations, and what gaps and challenges you were experiencing. In particular we asked how easy it is for you to navigate the government emergency loan schemes – Bounce Back Loans (BBLs) and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILs).
The results of the survey, and consistent reports from community businesses, social enterprises and co-operatives, tell us there are two key obstacles that block access to government-backed loans.
The waiting times to open accounts are being quoted as months rather than weeks, and some businesses are being turned away.
These delays are being further exacerbated by the lack of infrastructure for social enterprises as they often have complex bank mandates and ‘out of the ordinary’ legal structures, requiring special channels to process loans which can take longer to get through compared to some processes elsewhere. A 12 week wait for a loan could mean a venture is unable to continue operating.
In response we have written to Minister John Glen (Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister) raising these concerns. We hope that by working together with the government these two obstacles can be swiftly overcome.
We are asking for a meeting with their team at the earliest opportunity this month so we can agree a way to jointly remove these barriers to the much-needed government-backed loan schemes.
Thank you to everyone who responded to the survey. Your time and answers have been very useful in helping us shape a supportive response, and we will continue to use them to advocate for a supportive political environment for social businesses.
The organisations taking part are: Community Leisure UK, Locality, Coops UK, Social Enterprise Mark CIC, Social Enterprise Northern Ireland, Social Enterprise UK, Social Value UK, Social Enterprise Scotland, UnLtd, Wales Co-operative Centre