Access announces first investment

New fund to support health and social care charities and social enterprises in the South West now open.

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Access – the Foundation for Social Investment, has announced details of the first new social investment fund in which it has invested, providing affordable loans at a small scale to charities and social enterprises.

The Health and Wellbeing Challenge Fund South West, to be delivered by Resonance, will offer funding of up to £150,000 to charities and social enterprises in the South West of England working to bring about positive impact in health and wellbeing. The fund totals nearly £5m and the South West Academic Health Science Network has also invested £400,000.

Daniel Brewer, Managing Director of Resonance said:

“There is a significant opportunity for local organisations to play a key role in evolving the regional health and wellbeing system here in the South West. This Fund will help to increase the social impact and financial sustainability of those helping to make a difference in this sector”.

The new programme is an initiative of the Growth Fund, which is designed to increase the availability of small, affordable, unsecured loans for charities and social enterprises. The Growth Fund totals £45m and provides a blend of loan from Big Society Capital and grant from the Big Lottery Fund, to social investors across England. This allows those social investors to offer smaller loans and take much greater risk than other lenders like banks would be able to.

Seb Elsworth, Access’s Chief Executive said:

“The Growth Fund is there to bridge the gap between what charities and social enterprises say they need and what social investors have typically been able to offer. The blend of loan and grant, which we make available to social investors, means that those investors can provide smaller loans on affordable terms with appropriate support.”

In addition to the investment in the Health and Wellbeing Challenge Fund South West, Access has already agreed in principle to make investments in five further funds around England, with details following over the next few months.

Elsworth continued:

“Just over a year since the Growth Fund launched we are pleased to have committed more than one third of the total programme, with six social investors who are committed to making social investment more accessible and relevant to the social sector.”

Today Access is calling for further applications to the Growth Fund, particularly from organisations like membership bodies and federal charities. They are keen to hear from organisations that have not previously been social investors, but who can offer reach and have an ambition to develop tailored investment products for different parts of the sector.

On widening the range of organisations offering loans to charities and social enterprises, Elsworth said:

“Over the coming two years as we invest the rest of the Growth Fund, we look forward to broadening the range of social investors we work with and hope to build around a dozen more funds across England. We are committed to reducing the barriers for new organisations to become social investors. We are also encouraging the development of partnerships which can help to open access to social investment for more charities and social enterprises to help them to sustain and grow their impact”.

Access also delivers a major capacity building initiative, funded by a £60m spend-down endowment from the Cabinet Office, aimed at helping charities and social enterprises engage with and access social investment.

The first two grant programmes which Access is funding, the Reach Fund and the Impact Management programme will open later in the year.