Our response to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock’s speech on the Civil Society Strategy which makes positive statements on social value but is short on ambition in recognising the potential of social enterprise. 

Today’s speech by Matt Hancock, whilst delivered with panache, is more of the same from a Government that is increasingly looking bereft of good ideas.

Whilst we welcome the Secretary of State’s recognition of the latent power of the Social Value Act to transform procurement and breathe new life into communities left behind; the overall narrative is more or less the same as it has always been – an overemphasis on social impact bonds and a lack of ambition when it comes to the potential of social enterprise.

When in opposition there was a real desire within the Conservative Party to embrace social enterprise – seeing within it the tools with which to build a fairer economy. The publication ‘A Stronger Society – Voluntary Action in the 21st Century’, now seemingly no longer available in the party archive, talked of government being “driven by a vibrant civil society” and the creation of a “powerful office for civil society at the heart of government.” Since then we have had the Lobbying Act, a move to DCMS, and been told to “stick to the knitting”.

Government needs to bring back this Cameronian era zeal for social enterprise and take civil society more seriously. For social businesses this would start with moving responsibility out of DCMS and into BEIS. Social enterprises are businesses and the government needs to see them as such.

– Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive – Social Enterprise UK