World-leading business support fund helps charities and social enterprises win deals worth more than £115 million


World-leading business support fund helps charities and social enterprises win deals worth more than £115 million

ICRF - £117m raised from just over £4.5m government grants

A world-leading business support fund, funded by the Cabinet Office and managed by the Social Investment Business, has helped charities and social enterprises win investments and contracts worth over £115 million, Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society, announced yesterday.


The Investment and Contract Readiness Fund (ICRF) is dedicated to helping charities and social enterprises acquire the skills they need to raise investment and compete for public service contracts.

A recent report for the G8 identified it as a vital tool to grow the UK social sector, which already contributes more than £80 billion to the economy each year.

To date 51 charities and social enterprises have won deals worth £117 million with the help of ICRF grants worth just £4.5 million – £26 for each £1 of grant – and the figure is expected to grow. Key successes include:

  • Steps To Work, whose £91,600 has helped them successfully compete against commercial rivals to land a contract from Walsall Council to fill approximately 250 temporary jobs each week, worth about £27 million over three years.
  • Empower Community, whose £108,650 ICRF grant helped it secure a £10.1 million loan from a UK institutional pension investor, which will allow it to provide free daytime solar energy to social housing tenants in more than 2300 homes in Sunderland.
  • The Big Life group, whose £105,000 grant helped it win contracts worth £5 million over five years to run six nursery schools for around 450 children in deprived areas of Greater Manchester, creating 100 new jobs.
  • City and Hackney Mind (CHM), which won a competitive tender valued at £10 million over 5 years to become the lead provider of mental health services in Hackney and the City of London, offering a personalised service to more than 2,500 people.

Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society, said: “As highlighted by the recent G8 report, the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund has had a significant impact both on the charities and social enterprises that have received funding and on the wider social investment market. Throughout the country there are fantastic charities and social enterprises, providing invaluable services to their community and making significant contributions to the national economy, and the ICRF is helping them scale up their activitiesrapidly. I am pleased that this fund - the first of its kind anywhere in the world – has been such an indisputable success.

ICRF has been a fantastic example of how, with the right support, social ventures can grow and prosper. That's why we are planning to direct available capital from the Futurebuilders loanbook - estimated to total £60m over the next decade - to similar programmes that will support social ventures that are getting ready to access social investment, and we will be announcing further news about this soon.”

Jonathan Jenkins, CEO of the Social Investment Business, said: “This pilot programme has over-achieved and its success shows how, with specialist business support, charities and social enterprises can scale up rapidly and create much greater impact in their communities. There is a clear need for this type of funding and we will continue our work to develop this type of finance.”

The ICRF was in a UK report for the Social Impact Investment Taskforce set up by the G8, which recommended expanding and extending the fund as a key step in growing the social investment market and developing a sector which provides key services and makes a major contribution to the economy.

“Charities and social enterprise respectively already deliver more than £63 billion and greater than £18.5 billion annually to the economy. Yet there is a lack of high-performing and investable social organisations that can scale up their activities,” according to Building a social investment impact market: the UK experience.

The ICRF was set up as a three-year pilot programme in March 2012 to help social ventures with high potential for growth to secure investment and compete for public service contracts by providing grants to purchase specialist support, such as legal advice, financial management and bid writing. Organisations looking to raise at least £500,000 in investment or win contracts worth £1 million or more, could apply for grants of £50,000 to £150,000 to purchase the support they need from a list of approved providers.

Since launch the ICRF has made grants worth £13.2 million to 154 ventures. Some 103 ventures with combined grants of £8.7 million are still pursuing their business support programmes or pursing investment or contracts.

The Big Life group won contracts worth £5 million over three years to run six nursery schools for around 450 children for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. It has already created 66 new jobs, which will rise to 100 when the nurseries are full.

The nurseries are in areas which rank high on measures of multiple deprivation. Several also have high levels of immigration so that many children do not speak English as a first language. Big Life employs staff who understand local communities and their needs, speak their languages and are able to help children develop their English language skills.

Caroline Price, Executive Director, said their £105,000 ICRF grant had allowed them to buy specialist support from Baxendale to develop a business plan and make the successful bid. “Baxendale’s breadth of in-house specialist investment and contract readiness expertise has been indispensable to realising our sustainable growth strategy,” she said.


The top ten ICRF grants based on investment raised or size of contract won:

ICRF Top 10 investments featuring CAN Invest


If you would like to find out more about the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund, you can speak to CAN Invest as Approved Providers.





Category: Invest