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Social Enterprises

Volume 516: debated on Wednesday 20 October 2010

5. What assessment he has made of the likely effect on social enterprises of reductions in Government expenditure. (18052)

Of course, social enterprises will be affected by the spending review. However, as part of our structural reform programme, we are bringing forward huge new opportunities for the social enterprises of this country—indeed, for the voluntary and community sector as a whole—to participate in the delivery of public services.

I am heartened by my right hon. Friend’s response. He may be aware of the current uncertainty surrounding Foxgloves residential home, which provides respite care for families of children with epilepsy and autism. It is working well with the council to find a solution, but other solutions should come from the community. Are there are any plans to bring forward the use of unclaimed assets so that social enterprises can draw on them to provide alternatives, and the parents at Foxgloves can continue to use it and secure its future?

The sort of case that my hon. Friend raises is relevant to our concerns, and we are very focused on that. It is one reason for our introducing the big society bank, which will be partly funded in just the way that he describes, and can, in turn, fund social enterprises and voluntary and community service organisations that require funding in the interim.

According to research by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, third sector organisations that provide education and training opportunities could be the most imperilled by public spending cuts. What is the Minister doing to ensure that training opportunities in the third sector remain? Has he pressed the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Treasury on that?

I think that the reverse will turn out to be the case, in the sense that the Government are planning a huge and terribly important Work programme, which will focus heavily on not only getting people into jobs, but training them for jobs. We are also greatly enlarging the programme of apprenticeships, and there are various other elements, about which hon. Members will hear in the spending review announcement. Consequently, we anticipate more, not fewer opportunities for voluntary and community organisations to participate in training and employment.