The Covid-19 crisis has been challenging for individuals and organisations across Wales, and the social enterprise and co-op sector is facing unique challenges. The Welsh Government has recognised this and acted quickly to respond, augmenting the funding packages made available by the UK Government and seeking to fill the gaps in these complex arrangements.
Many social enterprises and charities are in the unique position of being partly funded through government grants, with the remainder being funded by commercial functions or fundraising. This makes the application of some of the Government schemes, such as furlough, more difficult in the context that many will be operating in. Recognising the key role of such organisations means that the Welsh Government is ready to offer support to help meet these challenges.
Welsh Government has made unprecedented levels of funding available to all business to support them during this crisis. Not since the Second World War have we seen such large state intervention in the economy.
From the very start, Welsh Government recognised the key role social enterprise plays in Welsh communities and economies, and specifically included them in the earliest measures of support to deal with the crisis.
The Welsh Government has now launched a £500 million Economic Resilience Fund to provide extra support to the Welsh economy, businesses, and charities experiencing a sharp drop in trading as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The scheme opened for applications on Friday 17 April, and aims to plug the gaps in the support schemes already announced by the UK Government, including the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which will guarantee 80% of people’s wages and income. This is in addition to support we have made available to all rate-paying organisations in Wales. Overall, Wales has a very favourable offer compared to other parts of the UK.
The new £500 million Welsh fund will support firms of all sizes, including social enterprises and co-ops, with a focus on those which have not already benefited from the coronavirus grants already announced by Welsh Government.
The Development Bank of Wales, Banc also have a loan provision facility to assist with short term cash flow issues, and this support is available to all types of organisations. Further additional support is also available for the third sector in Wales, and some funding expectations have been relaxed to give organisations flexibility in tackling the crisis. Social Business Wales, part of the Business Wales advice service are well placed to support and advise the co-op and social enterprise sector throughout the crisis.
Covid-19 has brought into sharp relief how essential social enterprise is to create a sense of community, and the key role social enterprise plays in supporting society. We’ve seen organisations in the sector across Wales rapidly reconfigure themselves to provide essential services during the crisis, and social enterprise has focused on providing the necessary infrastructure to keep the most vulnerable in our communities safe and fed.
After the crisis is over, social enterprise will be well placed to help re-establish everyday life and reconnect people. I hope all social enterprise will be beginning to think about how to move out of crisis mode and back to day to day activity, and what shape that will take.