Social investment involves taking a new approach to the tackling of our most entrenched social problems, thus enabling investors to have a positive impact on society and make a return that guarantees more long-term investment. After initiating the scheme, the Government, along with Sir Ronnie Cohen and others, launched Big Society Capital, which is the world’s first institution of its kind, and established the Early Intervention Foundation. My Department has set up 10 social impact bonds, taking the total in the country to 13. We are improving the concept, and we are now a world leader in the field.
Will my right hon. Friend seek to maximise the involvement of retail investors in the social investment market? Does he agree that the new social investment tax relief has great potential to unlock new funding to finance valuable local projects and help to turn lives around?
I will certainly try to encourage precisely those people to invest. The aim is eventually to establish a proven project which delivers a social return, thus encouraging both trusts and private sector investors, as well as local authorities, to supply guaranteed funds to organisations that would otherwise have no funding. We think that the potential market is enormous. The Americans, among others, have said that they are grateful for our leadership in this regard, and the G8 was very keen on hearing from us.
All those are options. We have put in extra investment in credit unions—some £35 million—to try to increase their scope and to bring them together again. My hon. Friend is right. Local is what this is all about. It is about giving projects in the local area, with local authorities, a chance to obtain reasonable, long-term investment to deliver life-changing results. It is interesting that, at the G8 conference—this is the most important thing—many of the countries said that this is the way for them to go, too. This country has led on this area, thanks to the coalition.