Each morning we listen to the news, and day by day hear of more and more price increases impacting our living standards with no sense of any easing on the horizon for a considerable length of time. The cost of fuel, energy and food are all soaring with these reflected in a double-digit level of inflation and no sign of any easing on the horizon. Against this background and with borrowing costs set to increase again, it is a perfect storm. Add to this a very uncertain funding future, and there is a real sense of uncertainty across the social enterprise sector. The withdrawal of European Social Fund support in early in 2023 with no obvious replacement creates a real atmosphere of uncertainty. The announcement this week of a family catering business on the North Coast which is closing its doors due to rising fuel costs, mirrored across the country, is not only heartbreaking to see, but also clearly won’t be the only business to suffer this fate. Individuals are being faced with having to make a real choice on how they spend their income. Having survived Covid and with organisations getting back to full strength in terms of their delivery, this is a real and seriously damaging challenge.
As far as social enterprise’s are concerned, they are by nature financially sustainable businesses, 100% focused on creating and solving social and environmental challenges, generating income for disadvantaged groups of individuals. It harnesses the power of the business model to scale its impact. Social Enterprise Chief Executive Colin Jess says “Profit is not a dirty word within the sector, but it is “profit with purpose” which these organisations generate, and which help create real social impact for those who are in most need in society. In essence without generating profit or surpluses, there is no impact. So where does this leave a sector which is making real impact on the society and environment, with the threats that are increasing all around? Like any other business they will suffer financially due to the increasing costs, however social enterprises have an additional threat in that by being hit financially, due to the pressures of increasing costs which impact on their bottom line, the social impact that they generate is being eroded with the knock on effect of hitting those that need their help most, their service users, many of whom rely on the social enterprise and their business model for help and support. It is not individual shareholders that will be impacted by lack of dividends but those who rely on the day to day support of local social enterprises.”
As the representative body for social enterprises in Northern Ireland, Social Enterprise NI calls upon our local politicians to re-establish the Assembly and Executive as soon as possible, and recognise the challenges that lie ahead for all in society, enabling decisions to be made in support of all the people of Northern Ireland. It is clear that without a structured approach and active solutions to support the challenges that lie ahead, many will face a situation over the winter months where they are facing survival for them and their families. The increasing challenge of growing hospital waiting lists adds to the stress and uncertainty faced by many. This is a great opportunity for all sectors to consider their spend, to support local, support social, and integrate social enterprises into your supply chains.
We call upon all decision makers to engage, to bring forward plans to support the hardest hit in society and enable all to be able to survive the crisis which is facing us all. We need action and we need it now.
For further information on the social economy please contact firstname.lastname@example.org