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Health and Social Care Act 2008

Financial assistance related to provision of health or social care services

67.The Department of Health’s White Paper, “Our health, Our care, Our say” (published in 2006) included a commitment to support and encourage social enterprises in health and social care.

68.There is no single definition of a social enterprise and there are many legal forms. However, a general description would be ‘businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community’.

69.In the White Paper, the Department also identified lack of access to finance as a barrier to the development of social enterprises. To address this, the Department made a commitment to establish a fund within its budget to support social enterprises delivering health and social care. This fund is now the Social Enterprise Investment Fund (‘SEIF’), which was established in August 2007 as a means of facilitating access to finance for social enterprises and to provide support for business start-ups. While it has been possible to open the SEIF and make grants to 26 social enterprise pathfinders, existing powers are not sufficient to allow further development of the SEIF; for example, to provide a range of different investments (for example, grants, loans and guarantees) to qualifying organisations.

70.Sections 149 to 156 ensure that the Secretary of State has the powers to finance social enterprises delivering health and social care, and social enterprises providing services that are related to health and social care, provided the social enterprises meet certain qualifying conditions. This means that the Secretary of State may, for example, finance a social enterprise delivering integrated health and social care for homeless people and/or a social enterprise providing support services to NHS or social care providers.

71.In addition, the Secretary of State will be able to finance any person (this includes bodies) who wishes to set up a social enterprise to deliver such services. However, like the existing social enterprises, the social enterprise that is being set up must comply with the qualifying conditions.

72.The qualifying conditions set out in the sections are intended to ensure that the funding is only for those businesses with primarily social objectives, which reinvest their surpluses or profits into the community, or into a service with social benefits.

73.The sections allow the Secretary of State to delegate these powers to NHS trusts, PCTs, Strategic Health Authorities, Special Health Authorities, and other organisations such as companies. The latter will enable a company to manage the SEIF within the parameters set by the Secretary of State. Provision is also made for the Secretary of State to impose terms and conditions on the financial support given to social enterprises.

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