Blended finance programme Growth Fund is now more than half deployed, with charities and social enterprises in England having received more than 400 small scale unsecured loans since the programme started lending in 2016.
A total of £27million has now been invested: more than half of the £50m programme.
The Growth Fund combines grant funding from The National Lottery Community Fund with repayable finance from Big Society Capital and others, investing the blend into social investors lending to charities and social enterprises around England to enable them to offer more smaller scale unsecured loans. It is managed by Access – The Foundation for Social Investment.
The average investment from the Growth Fund is £63,000 and the median turnover of borrowers is under £250k. The Growth Fund now constitutes around a third of the social investment market in terms of deals done, with loans heavily concentrated in organisations operating in more deprived areas. More than half of the capital so far has been invested in the most deprived 30% of neighbourhoods in England.
One of the borrowers is Positive Support for You, a community interest company operating across the North East of England, supporting people with learning disabilities to live in the community. In 2018 it received an investment of £25k from Big Issue Invest’s (BII) Impact Loans England fund, which is funded from the Growth Fund, to support cash flow challenges relating to late payment from public contracts.
Dave Barras, Chief Executive of Positive Support for You, said:
“We couldn’t raise finance from the banks so we wouldn’t be here without BII’s investment. In addition to helping with our cash flow challenges BII have been a good critical friend and the process of raising investment has helped us be a better run organisation.”
Charities and social enterprises seeking investment should visit goodfinance.org.uk.
Rebecca MacDonald, Investment Director at Big Society Capital said:
“The blended model means that finance can be tailored to the needs of charities and social enterprises working in communities across the country, recognising that they not only need smaller scale unsecured loans, but also the flexibility from their lenders to respond to things changing or not going entirely to plan. Over time the Growth Fund will give us hugely valuable data about how much grant is needed to meet this need in the longer term.”
An evaluation commissioned by The National Lottery Community Fund is looking at how borrowers from the Growth Fund are able to build their financial resilience as well as the broader impact on the social investment market. However, most social investors managing the Growth Fund will run out of capital to make new loans by the end of 2021.
Seb Elsworth, Chief Executive of Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, said:
“The Growth Fund has shown that there is a clear need for an ongoing supply of finance which is properly suited to the needs of the sector. That means there is an ongoing need for subsidy. We are working closely now with a range of partners, including Government, to ensure that this is in place over the longer term.”
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