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Policy Work

Social Firms UK is dedicated to lobbying government on policy and funding issues relating to the Social Firm sector. Below are details of recent lobbying work and publications:

Social Firms UK’s response to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s consultation on a Third Sector Partnership Board (August 2008)
The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) is setting up a Third Sector Partnership Board to provide them with strategic advice on the design, development, implementation and evaluation of their activities. In our response we stress the importance of the social enterprise sector being represented, in addition to representatives of the voluntary and community sectors. We also point out that the Board’s remit must be clear, and that the work of this board should complement and not overlap with the activities of similar boards in other government departments. We see that this board can provide opportunities to gain greater recognition for the role social enterprises are already playing and to find ways to overcome barriers that constrain social enterprise and Social Firms at a local level.

Social Firms UK’s Response To DWP’s Consultation “Improving Specialist Disability Employment Services” (March 2007)
DWP is proposing to streamline the Job Introduction Scheme, Work Preparation and WORKSTEP into a single flexible programme. The concepts that are shaping the proposals are
• a greater focus on those who need specialist support;
• less prescription and greater flexibility;
• better links between elements of the provision;
• better consistency and quality of provision;
• provision for all types of disability;
• a greater focus on job entries;
• improved support for people in work;
• improved progression to unsupported employment; and
• improved progression within longer-term supported employment.

They are also seeking views on the role supported businesses should play in providing employment for disabled people, whether changes should be made to Access to Work funding, and the role of the Jobcentre Plus Disability Employment Advisors.

In its response, Social Firms UK generally supports the move towards a single flexible programme. We highlight the unique role Social Firms can and do play and flag up the need to create supportive working environments for people who face particular barriers to employment in the open labour market. We call for continued flexibility in Access to Work funding and we do not see that increased contributions from small organisations can be justified. We want to more, better trained Disability Employment Advisors.

Social Firms UK’s Response To The Department Of Health’s Consultation “Valuing People Now” And Its Proposals For The Learning Disability Agenda For 2008 – 2011 (March 2007)
Department of Health has put forward it priorities as personalisation; what people do during the day (with a focus on paid work); better health; housing that people want and need; and making sure change happens.

Social Firms UK has highlighted how the Social Firm model fulfils their aspirations for paid work for people with a learning disability. We call on the Government to give greater recognition to Social Firms and support the growth of the sector.

Social Firms UK’s Response To DWP Commissioning Strategy (February 2008)
Following the publication of its Green Paper on Welfare Reform “In Work, Better Off” DWP has been drawing up a strategy on how it will commission employment support programmes. It favours moving towards a position where it has large contracts with a small number of prime contractors. They in turn will subcontract with smaller or more specialist providers. In its response, Social Firms UK highlights the role that Social Firms play in providing employment and employment support for people furthest from the open labour market and flags up the need to support job creation as well as employment support. We include a proposal aimed at helping the Social Firm sector to grow and highlight ways in which the needs of Social Firms should be taken into account in any future contracting arrangements.

Social Firms UK’s Response To “Principles For Representation: A Framework For Effective Third Sector Participation In Local Strategic Partnerships” (February 2008)
This discussion paper http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/principlesofrepresentation
sets out some principles that are aimed at assisting third sector bodies to come together to form networks and act as the collective voice for the sector in a local area. The principles are not intended to be a blueprint, but try to offer a framework which can be adapted according to local circumstances. Social Firms UK’s response explains what Social Firms are and the impact they can have on local social and economic wellbeing. It highlights the need for Local Strategic Partnerships to be aware of the Social Firms in their area.

Response To New Developments In Government Support For Skills Training And Benefits (3 December 07)
The government’s latest policy announcement, “Opportunity, Employment And Progression: Making Skills Work” heralds a new range of steps aimed at enabling people to get into work and then to develop their skills at work. Changes are to be made to rules on incapacity benefit and eligibility for Pathways to Work, and the “Train to Gain” funding available for employers is to be extended.

Full details have yet to be announced, but highlights include:
- For employers, funding for “Train to Gain” will be expanded from
£440m to £1.1m by 2010, it will be made more flexible and extended to the voluntary sector, and will also be available for training by employers making pre-release job offers to offenders.
- A legal right for adults to training for basic and intermediate skills and
qualifications will be set out in the Education and Skills Bill, which is scheduled for debate in this parliamentary session.
- A commitment to ensure that people on incapacity benefits are
better off in work even after reasonable transport costs.
- Mandatory “skills health check” for people entering and remaining
on Employment and Support Allowance (the allowance being introduced from October 2008 for people who would have previously been eligible for incapacity benefit)
- A commitment to test out improved support for people with mental health problems seeking work
- Opening eligibility for Pathways to Work to people under 25
- Removing the “16 hour rule” in Housing Benefit for short term recipients of incapacity benefit
- Targeting public investment in the Foundation Learning Tier, Skills for Life (Literacy, numeracy and ESL) and Level 2 training provision on people on benefits or seeking work.
- New “Skills Accounts” will be available to people in or out of work, offering a “virtual voucher of state funding” to purchase relevant learning at an accredited, quality assured provider of their choice.
- A range of support for lone parents
Read the whole document (30 pages) at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/welfarereform/making-skills-work.pdf

Response To Government Consultation Paper, 'In Work Better Off' (October 2007)
The government recently brought out a consultation paper called 'In Work Better Off'. The paper sets out that the Government’s aim is to reduce the number of people on Incapacity Benefit by 1million, enable 300,000 more lone parents to get work and increase the employment rate of older people by 1 million. The consultation focuses on employment support.

From Social Firms UK’s point of view, these proposals are limited in that they focus primarily on supporting people to find jobs in the open labour market, through advice, skills training and the use of incentives. However, Social Firms UK sent a response to the DWP in October 2007 that highlights what Social Firms are all about and offers ideas on changes that could be made and how Social Firms UK could play a positive role in this.

Position Statement On Welfare Reform, The David Freud Paper & The Social Firm Sector (May 2007)
Social Firms UK and Social Firms Scotland have presented to the government, a position statement on welfare reform, the David Freud paper and the Social Firm sector. The statement requests that social enterprise be one of the solutions the government adopts to help those furthest from the labour market into work.

Response By Social Firms UK To The DWP's Welfare Reform Seminar (March 2007)

This document shows the response by Sally Reynolds of Social Firms UK to the high profile seminar on Welfare Reform held in London on 26 March 2007.

In Business For Good: The Social Firm Solution To Employability (December 2006)
This report, produced in December 2006, calls for support to grow the Social Firm sector to create more jobs for people who do not get an opportunity to work in mainstream employment. It is hoped that this document will be widely used to influence policy and persuade others to use Social Firms as a solution to the employability needs of disadvantaged people.
Summary Report
Full Report

Social Firms UK Response To The Comprehensive Spending Review Consultation On The Future Role Of The Third Sector In Social And Economic Regeneration (11 October 2006)
In this paper, Sally Reynolds, Chief Executive of Social Firms UK outlines the issues faced by the Social Firm sector and recommends solutions.

Social Firms UK's & Social Firms Scotland's Responses To The Welfare Reform Green Paper (April 2006)
In April 2006, Social Firms UK and Social Firms Scotland sent responses to the Welfare Reform Green Paper to the Department of Work & Pensions. The paper, entitled 'A new deal for welfare: empowering people to work' was launched for consultation on 24th January 2006. It contained major new proposals to help individuals achieve their potential through work and presents significant opportunity for Social Firms and social enterprise.

Instances Of Social Firms Being Mentioned In Government Publications
A profile of Social Firms was included in a recent Treasury report called, "The Future Role Of The Third Sector In Social & Economic Regeneration: Final Report".

Policy Work

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