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Last week, Big Society Capital held a seminar on social investment and social care with members of the Care & Support Alliance. Scope CEO, Richard Hawkes, shares his thoughts on the relevance of social investment in addressing some of the issues around health and social care.

They didn’t grab the Budget headlines, and they don’t trip off the tongue like ‘penny off a pint’, but the Chancellor’s plans to include Social Venture Capital Trusts in the Social Investment Tax Relief scheme are another crucial step forward in social investment.

Social investment is vital for the future of the charity sector. Charities can’t rely on traditional donations. Investors are looking for ways to invest their money that has a social as well as financial return. We need to bring them together.

The plans in the Budget will encourage investors. But what about charities? The day after the Budget I spoke at a seminar organised by Big Society Capital. It’s clear many organisations are still finding their way with social investment.

Scope launched a Bond in 2011. It offered investors a return of 2% and the opportunity to support our work making this country a better place for disabled people and their families. We raised £2m and used it to fund new charity shops and seeking new regular donors, which in turn provided us with a sustainable income for the work we do providing advice and support to families with disabled children.

There were challenges. As one of the first charities to launch such a product, there was a huge amount of time spent to develop the investor prospectus, and work through regulatory and compliance processes and documentation usually used for large corporates. We were fortunate to receive pro bono legal support for this, as well as the commitment of Investing for Good who arranged the bond programme.

Hopefully our experience shows that the challenges can be overcome.

The seminar last week was focusing on social investment in the context of health and social care. As Chair of the Care and Support Alliance – which represents more than 80 charities working together for better care in this country – it was interesting to bring these two urgent issues together.

Social care is the support you receive from your council if you struggle to do the basics – like getting up, getting dressed or getting out of the house. The care system is on its knees. As more and more of us need support fewer and fewer of us are getting it. Chronic underfunding has led to a rationing of support. People become isolated, can’t live on their own and slip into crisis – and the health service is forced to pick up the pieces.

The CSA believes that we need a sustainable funding solution. But at the same time there is an onus on service providers to do everything they can to deliver better outcomes within this challenging context. And that’s where social investment comes in. It’s not about replacing statutory funding – but commissioners and providers need to stimulate, pump prime, and scale up innovations.

At the seminar we heard how social investment kick-started innovative services such as Big White Wall, an anonymous, digital mental health and wellbeing service where people who are experiencing mild to moderate mental health issues can talk freely about their problems and get support to manage their own mental health.

Hopefully examples such as this – or case studies from Leeds and the Black Country where social investment has provided the impetus for new thinking on community and supported living services for older and disabled people – show what’s possible.

We’re at the beginning of the journey – both in terms of charities engaging in social investment and thinking how the developments can improve social care. The need is there. The structures are increasingly in place. I know the hardest part is finding the organisational head-space to make it happen. Hopefully this blog, and last week’s seminar show it’s worth the effort.

Last updated | 
25 March 2015

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