Social businesses are worth over £35m in South Ayrshire
A report into social enterprises operating in South Ayrshire has revealed a thriving sector that has created 1,000 jobs and an income of £35m for the local economy.
Voluntary Action South Ayrshire (VASA) published the report this week showing how social enterprises impacts on the wider third sector and the communities they serve.
It found that 54 organisations in the area could be classed as social enterprises with 26% of these working to provide community facilities (such as community and village halls), 23% proving health and social care and 11% operating in the retail and hospitality industries.
Social enterprises in South Ayrshire are bucking the trend in that they are thriving against quite stiff funding cuts elsewhere - Chris Colvin
Nearly 60% of organisations surveyed also expect to see their income increase over the next 12 months.
However, over 70% of all organisations surveyed also expected demand for their services to increase over the next 12 months, not always in line with a rise in income.
Chris Colvin, VASA development officer, said one of the biggest challenges facing the sector was recognition for the impact social enterprises made in the community as well as a lack of suitable training and development.
“I think this study proves that social enterprises in South Ayrshire are bucking the trend in that they are thriving against quite stiff funding cuts elsewhere,” he said.
“The data shows many are looking to grow in terms of both income and reach but counteracting this is a demand on services.
“It’s not always the case that demand is met by income so organisations are looking to tighten their business development plans in order to manage their growth."
The study found that social businesses in the area are still heavily dependent on fundraising and donations to sustain them, particularly the smaller organisations.
Service level agreement contracts form the backbone of funding (38%), usually from the local authority, while business and trading formed 34% of overall income in the SE sector in the region.
However, interestingly, 38% of organisations said they wouldn’t be interested in bidding for service level agreements because they felt the effort wasn’t worth the outcome.
Bryan Finnegan, chair of Ayrshire Small Business Forum, said social enterprise made a crucial difference in the area.
“They are in effect small businesses but promoting social good so to know they are holding their own in what are essentially very tough operating conditions is encouraging,” he said.
“Small businesses find it very difficult to cope under the increased pressures of the current economy but this shows social enterprises are not just able to adapt but also thrive.”
Organisations surveyed said the biggest barriers for growth were finding suitable premises, coping with legislation, funding and a lack of training.
The study also estimated over 2,000 volunteers were active in the social enterprise sector in South Ayrshire.