The Department of Health has announced that the Social Enterprise Investment Fund (SEIF) is to reopen, with new investments totalling £19 million for social enterprises - also known as mutuals - over the next year.
Health was the first UK government department to give staff, including doctors and nurses, new rights to form social enterprises. The new £19 million funding, which comes on top of the £100 million already invested by the Department in more than 600 enterprises over the last five years, will be used to support frontline staff to run services which, Ministers say, will provide what their local populations really need.
"The NHS is full of people with new ideas about giving patients the care they need. Social enterprises are able to harness these innovations and provide services that will greatly help patients," said Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health, announcing the new funding.
"We have already seen 600 social enterprises within the NHS offering staff more freedom and giving patients more tailored health care," he said, and added that the extra funding "will help roll out more of these services across the health service and shift power and control to frontline workers."
The Department has also announced that its social enterprise team is to work with the Cabinet Office to help roll out similar rights across all government departments.
"There is a real pent-up frustration among frontline public servants who are fed up with constraints imposed by the monolith within which they are imprisoned. Spinning out into a mutual gives them a chance to do things in ways they know are best," said Francis Maude, the Minister for Cabinet Office.
"The team from the Department of Health know how Rights to Provide work and will bring valuable expertise to the Cabinet Office as we roll out these rights across government. Now is the time for entrepreneurial public servants to take the initiative and push for ownership," the Minister added.
The new move was welcomed as "really encouraging" by Iain Hasdell, chief executive of the Employee Ownership Association.
"It is both the latest part of the infrastructure needed to support the emerging growth in such spin-outs, and a good time to reflect on the opportunities there are within some parts of the public sector for entrepreneurial managers and staff to create new businesses in which there is full or a high degree of employee ownership," he said.
- SEIF investment packages, which include grants and loans, have supported organisations at different stages, helping them become investment-ready and to scale up and grow. To help potential applicants to the Fund, the Department of Health is organising a series of workshops next month, in conjunction with The Social Investment Business, which manages SEIF, and the public sector advisory body Local Partnerships. The workshops will take place in Taunton on July 11, Leeds on July 16 and London on July 19.