Experts from Middlesex University are to launch a project that could help thousands of people into work and save taxpayers money.
The University has joined forces with Social Firms UK (the national support agency for the social firms sector), with the aim of boosting the development of social firms – companies which create sustainable employment for people who might otherwise struggle to find work.
Workers at social firms often include those with learning disabilities, mental health problems or rehabilitated offenders, and it is thought the firms have the potential to save millions of pounds a year that would otherwise have been spent on benefit payments or health costs.
The project is supported through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) grant awarded to the University, which will see experts from its Social Policy Research Centre working alongside Social Firms UK to identify areas where social firms can grow and make an impact, with work focussed on discovering how new social firms can be a success and providing tools and advice.
The partnership is expected to ultimately lead to the creation of 600 new jobs with about 20 per cent held by people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Research gathered throughout the project will also help Social Firms UK to advocate for the 3,000 or so organisations using social enterprise to help disabled and disadvantaged people to get and stay in work.
Middlesex University was awarded the grant in recognition of its track record of working with social enterprises and third sector organisations. By pooling expertise with Social Firms UK it’s hoped that many more people across the UK will benefit from greater opportunities to find work.
Project supervisor Alessio D'Angelo, from Middlesex University, said: “Social firms represent an exciting business model and generate a valuable social impact across the UK; I am really looking forward to working alongside the UK’s leading support network for these firms”.
“To be awarded a KTP grant is a big coup for Middlesex University, it is rare for one to be awarded to a third sector organisation.”
Social Firms UK CEO Sally Reynolds said: “We now have 180 businesses in the social firm sector. It is important that we - and those considering starting a social firm - know the success factors, in order for us to guide and evidence what will help social firms start, grow and remain sustainable."