The role of social enterprise in employment over the coming year

Posted: 25 January 2021, in News

Employability will be an important policy focus for both the Scottish and UK Governments over the coming year – recognising that long term unemployment has a significant and scarring cost for individuals and society.

Many of the workplace changes due to the pandemic will remain – and the skills employers require are changing so we need an agile approach to employability, to best navigate our country and our economy’s recovery.

At a recent session with social enterprises on the challenges associated with business and financial planning currently, it became clear that the levels of uncertainty across the sector were palpable.

On reflection, however, there are a few things we can be certain of. Firstly that COVID-19 has exposed inequalities and also that existing structural inequalities have been exacerbated, alongside deepening poverty and increasing marginalisation.

JRF’s UK Poverty 2020/21 report highlighted that too many people were at risk of being cast adrift into poverty pre-pandemic and stressed that ‘our response to the pandemic should be measured by how just and compassionate it is to people in poverty, whether they were already experiencing hardship or have been swept into it.’

Social enterprises, alongside the wider third sector, have demonstrated extraordinary innovation and agility to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, and they remain committed to being equally resourceful and responsive going forward.

Social Enterprises (specifically Work Integration Social Enterprises – WISEs – who have a specific focus on supporting people with a disability or disadvantage into employment), have a significant role to play in tackling unemployment and underemployment, ensuring individuals who experience barriers to work are not left further behind.

WISEs can adapt at speed to meet the changing needs of individuals and the labour market. They offer a lifeline to some of our most excluded people – through person-centred training, skills development and social networks, increasing confidence, self-esteem and improving health and wellbeing. WISEs focus on empowering people to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to feel valued in society. And crucially – as the Social Enterprise Census shows – they create jobs.

We also face long term mental health impacts as a result of COVID-19. WISEs will be important in this context as they provide wrap-around wellbeing support for people engaged in their employability services, and also provide inclusive workplaces and quality jobs which we know are conducive to supporting good mental health.

Social enterprises in general embody the Community Wealth Building ethos – reinvesting all profits, employing local people and contributing to the local economy, ensuring money is retained within local communities, delivering maximum economic and social benefit. They know their local landscape and can also broker opportunities for people with local employers.

While the focus of SENScot and the Employability SEN is on our member social enterprises, we also recognise that we need a collaborative approach across all sectors to address the far-reaching consequences of COVID and deliver the best employability support for Scotland’s people. WISEs stand ready to be part of that responsive, inclusive and agile employability landscape.

Jayne Chappell, Development Manager (Employability SEN), SENScot