I used to work in what was called a ‘Community Home with Education’, similar to an ‘Approved School’. A residential home for young men with emotional and behavioural ‘difficulties’. When they reached 16 they would have to leave the home and make their own way in the world. For many, the next step, after a short spell in the community, would be prison.
However we worked hard to give them the best chance that we could, and this often meant trying to find them work, trying to find employers who would give them a chance. And, surprisingly it wasn’t as hard as you might think. Despite their dubious CVs and frequently a complete lack of qualifications, we could usually find an employer who would give them a chance. These were not ‘social enterprises’ set up specifically to provide vocational training and development for the needy. They were good old ‘for profit’ businesses who were more than willing to do their bit. This was the time BSE.
And I don’t think things are that much different now.
While we have a small number of social enterprises specifically setting out to help particular groups with a step on the employment ladder, I reckon that for every one of these there are probably a hundred or so for profits that work with the same client group. Restaurants and kitchens that employ people struggling with addictions or to stay out of prison. Building companies employing ex-offenders. Football clubs giving players with drink driving convictions, anger management problems and occasional inclinations to racist abuse a second chance.
I wonder what impact the rise of the specialist social enterprise might have on the willingness of mainstream for profits to ‘do their bit’. They don’t get the rate rebates, soft loans, grants, PR or additional support of their social enterprise counterparts, so why should they push the boat out.
Or will they all become ‘social enterprises’ and reap the same rewards?