Major investment aims to grow northern social economy to tackle inequality

A multi-million-pound investment will tackle inequality by boosting the Tees Valley’s social economy.

Organisations in Redcar & Cleveland and in Hartlepool are to receive a share of a new £33 million investment programme launched this week.

The Redcar & Cleveland and Hartlepool area is one of only six UK locations to be provided money by Local Access, a partnership between Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, and Big Society Capital.

Facilitated by VONNE, the Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East, which supports charity, voluntary and social enterprise sector (VCSE) organisations from across the region, partners from across Redcar & Cleveland and Hartlepool came together to bid against others for the investment.

Major investment aims to grow northern social economy to tackle inequality
VONNE’s Chief Executive Carol Botten

The partnership, known as LARCH, (Local Access Redcar & Cleveland and Hartlepool) included key local infrastructure bodies, the two local authorities, a number of local funders, social investors and social enterprise development agencies.

Having been successful, the money will now be used by LARCH to develop activities to support charities and social enterprises in the area to grow its social economy and tackle community issues.

Peter Gowland, Director at Hartlepower CIO, one of the members of the LARCH partnership, said:

“We’re delighted to have been selected as one of the Local Access recipients. The programme, which will support those in the VCSE sector to be more enterprising, helping facilitate their growth, development and sustainability through specifically designed social investment products, will mean many organisations in Hartlepool will be better able to serve their communities for many years to come.”

Mike Milen, CEO of LARCH partner Redcar & Cleveland Voluntary Development Agency, added:

“Working across Redcar & Cleveland and Hartlepool, this partnership will enable much more shared learning and joined-up working across the two boroughs.

“We look forward to planning the programme of enterprise development activity and the social investment offer over the next few months, so it can respond to the specific needs and opportunities in our areas.”

Seb Elsworth, Chief Executive of Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, said: 

“We all know charities and social enterprises do good work in our communities, but the sector’s power as an economic force, one which can help reshape local economies, and in so doing, tackle the most entrenched inequality, is often overlooked. 

“We’re delighted to be working with the LARCH partnership to help organisations in Redcar & Cleveland and Hartlepool to realise this potential, growing their local social economy through enterprise support and access to investment through blended finance.”

Cliff Prior, Chief Executive of Big Society Capital, added: 

“Where you were born should not affect your opportunity to live a happy and fulfilling life. But there are many areas in the UK that have experienced high levels of deprivation for many years, and even in relatively prosperous areas, there can be pockets that reveal huge levels of inequality. 

“We believe the Local Access programme offers an innovative approach to levelling up the disparity between places through developing the social economy. Crucially, it’s a pilot programme, and so we look forward to gathering the learning emerging from each place as the programme progresses.”

The LARCH partnership will deliver a holistic enterprise development programme for organisations at different stages of developing earned income streams. Blended social investment opportunities will also enable organisations to take loans to support their growth and development plans.

The partnership will now begin a co-design process with Access and Big Society Capital to refine its plans, with the aim of launching the full programme in the second half of this year.