Beginning in 2011 with Fightback Britain, SEUK’s indispensable survey of the sector is carried out every two years. There is simply nothing else like it available — essential reading for anyone wanting up-to-date facts and figures about social enterprise and emerging trends.
The 2017 report reveals that while social enterprises continue to out-perform mainstream SMEs against a range of business measures, the past couple of years have been harder for the sector. Cash flow pressures are rising, as is the need for working capital. Recruitment has slowed, with only 12% increasing the size of their workforce, and almost a third (30%) have reduced their number of employees in the past 12 months. Optimism is high, but has dropped in almost every region of the country since 2015. Access to the right finance remains the principal barrier to sustainability and growth, although the demand for finance has dropped slightly from previous years.
Other headline findings:
» There remains a steady stream of start-ups coming through, at a proportion three times that of mainstream SMEs.
» The public sector remains a key source of income for social enterprises, particularly the largest: it is the main source of income for 59% of those turning over more than £5 million. One in eight of those with public sector income secure this via European programmes — a further anxiety as we move towards Brexit in 2019.
» 89% of social enterprise leadership teams have a female director, 34% have Black Asian Minority Ethnic representation and 36% have a director with a disability. More than two-thirds are supporting individuals from disadvantaged groups, and more than four in ten employ them.
» Start-ups: 25% of social enterprises are under 3 years old, three times the proportion of start-ups compared to SMEs (8%). Almost four in ten social enterprises are five years old or less, showing that the start-up wave continues.
» Trading: 74% of social enterprises earn more than 75% of their income from trading.
» Social enterprise and areas of deprivation: 28% of social enterprises are based in the most deprived communities in the UK. 34% of social enterprises are operating at a neighbourhood or local level, demonstrating reach into communities.