Parliamentarians launch inquiry to learn lessons of COVID-19 pandemic for UK’s 100,000 social enterprises

Parliamentarians launch inquiry to learn lessons of COVID-19 pandemic for UK’s 100,000 social enterprises

The APPG for Social Enterprise, a cross-party group of Parliamentarians from the House of Commons and House of Lords, has launched a new inquiry into the impact of COVID on the UK’s 100,000 social enterprises.

Social enterprises are businesses which trade for a social or environmental purpose, reinvesting their profits back into communities. There are 100,000 social enterprises and they contribute £60bn to the UK economy, employing 2m people. Social enterprises are one of the fastest-growing types of business in the UK.

The inquiry will be chaired by crossbench peer Charles Courtenay, the 19th Earl of Devon, and Partner at Michelmores, and will be supported by the Officers of the All-Party Parliamentary Group which bring together politicians from a range of political parties.

The inquiry aims to:

  • Understand how social enterprises experienced and adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Consider what lessons we can learn from the response to the pandemic to increase the future resilience of social enterprises;
  • Investigate the support offered to the sector by the government and how government can work better with social enterprises in the future.

The inquiry will take evidence from social enterprises, representative bodies, researchers, and politicians. The inquiry will report by the end of 2021.

Social enterprises have experienced challenges in getting access to some government support programmes and loans during the pandemic but have also seen rapid growth. For example, the number of Community Interest Companies, just one form of social enterprise, has grown by 15% since summer 2020 compared to just 3.5% for the overall companies register.

The Earl of Devon will be supported in this inquiry by the officers of the APPG for Social Enterprise. Members of the APPG include representatives from a range of political parties as well as prominent crossbenchers including Lord Victor Adebowale CBE, former Chief Executive of Turning Point & Chair of Social Enterprise UK & NHS Confederation, and Lord John Bird, founder of the Big Issue.

Speaking about the launch of the inquiry, Charles Courtenay, Earl of Devon, Crossbench Peer, and Partner at Michelmores said:

“Social enterprises have helped this country to get through one of the most difficult periods in our recent history. These businesses have had to adapt, not just to survive but to support the increasing number of people and communities that depend upon them.”

“This inquiry will seek a detailed understanding of how these businesses and entrepreneurs coped with the pandemic, including what can be learned from their experience, and provide government with ideas about how to support these businesses as we look to build back from COVID.”

“This inquiry will be an open process led by the evidence presented, from which we hope to make constructive recommendations.”

Alex Sobel MP, Chair of the APPG on Social Enterprise said:

“Now is the right time to begin learning the lessons from COVID and I am delighted that our colleague Charles Courtenay, Earl of Devon, has agreed to lead this inquiry on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group.”

“We’ve had representations from social enterprises throughout the pandemic, many of them inspiring stories of how they have helped communities to keep going, but also challenges in getting the financial support that they need.”

“This Inquiry will give Parliament a chance to hear directly from social enterprises and other experts. I hope that the sector, funders, and government will engage with our work.”