Six places in England begin their journey to tackle inequality through boosting their social economy

Local Access, the partnership between Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, and Big Society Capital, has today announced which six places in England will take part in the new experimental £33 million programme.


Each place will receive a mix of support, grant funding and repayable investment to grow their local charity and social enterprise sector as part of increasing prosperity and boosting the local economy, with the ultimate aim of reducing inequality.

The six places, selected from a shortlist of 12, are: Bradford; Bristol; Gainsborough; Greater Manchester (Bolton, Oldham, Stockport and Wigan); Hartlepool, Redcar & Cleveland; and Southwark in London. Each place will now begin developing detailed funding and investment plans.

The six places will have access to funds totalling £33 million, £25m of which will be to enable local charities and social enterprises to access loans and other investment products to help grow their enterprise activity, become more resilient and enable more local people to benefit from their work. A further £8 million of grants will support organisations at an earlier stage of growth to develop their enterprise plans and support social infrastructure.

In each place, over the last six months, a partnership has come together and developed a widely shared vision for the growth of the social economy. These partnerships are unique to each place, but commonly represent social enterprises, local authorities and local sector infrastructure organisations.

The visions of the partnerships build on the opportunities in each place, and show significant ambition. Some focus on developing their place as a destination for social enterprise, or removing barriers to setting up new social businesses. Others focus on raising aspirations of existing originations, plugging gaps in support and bringing together initiatives into a thriving ecosystem.

The six partnerships will now begin a co-design process with Access and Big Society Capital to refine the detail of their enterprise development and investment plans with an expectation that the first place based programmes will launch in the second part of 2020.

Seb Elsworth, Chief Executive of Access, said:

“We all know charities and social enterprises do good work in our communities, but the sector’s power as an economic force, one which can help reshape local economies and in so doing tackle the most entrenched inequality, is often overlooked.

“We are delighted to be working with six hugely ambitious places to help them to realise this potential and grow their local social economies through the tools of enterprise support and access to investment through blended finance.”

Cliff Prior, Chief Executive of Big Society Capital, said:

“Where you were born should not affect your opportunity to live a happy and fulfilling life. But there are many areas in the UK that have experienced high levels of deprivation for many years, and even in relatively prosperous areas there can be pockets that reveal huge levels of inequality.

“We believe the Local Access programme offers an innovative approach to levelling up the disparity between places through developing the social economy. Crucially it is a pilot programme, and so we look forward to gathering the learning emerging from each of the places as the programme progresses.”

In March 2019 twelve places were invited to apply. In the end, eleven applications were submitted at the end of October as two places merged. Each place was visited by a team from Access and Big Society Capital during November and December 2019. On the process Elsworth added:

“Each place we had invited to apply has done a huge amount of work to bring a partnership together and develop a vision for how grant and investment capital through Local Access could help grow their local social economy. All were compelling, but the ones we have chosen are where we feel that the tools we bring can make the most impact.”



All six places are happy to be contacted – please email for contact details OR please see below for contact details.

Additional details about the grant funding and impact investment:

● £10 million from Access to provide the grant subsidy for the blended social investment (sourced from Dormant Accounts)

● Around £15 million of matching repayable finance from Big Society Capital for the blended social investment

● £8 million from Access’ existing endowment from the UK Government to support enterprise development activity


Access – The Foundation for Social Investment works to make charities and social enterprises in England more financially resilient and self-reliant, so that they can sustain or increase their impact.

Access does this by supporting the development of enterprise activity to grow and diversify income, and improving access to the social investment which can help stimulate that enterprise activity.

Access will be around for a decade, but the need for this work will continue well beyond that. So the approach of the Foundation is to work through others to create partnerships which can outlive us, test and learn from new approaches, and generate knowledge which improves the work of others seeking the same goals.

Set up in 2015, Access was endowed with £60 million by the Government to support more organisations to access social investment. It also runs the Growth Fund, a blended finance programme supporting small scale lending to the sector, on behalf of the National Lottery Community Fund and Big Society Capital.


Big Society Capital improves the lives of people in the UK by connecting social investment to social enterprises and charities.

We know that investment can help social enterprises and charities achieve more. We believe the greatest chance to improve lives comes when investors and enterprises are both motivated by social mission.

We engage with investors, fund managers, social enterprises and charities to make it easier to use social investment. With our co-investors, we have made over £1.7 billion of new capital available to organisations with a social mission, through investments into fund managers and social banks. We have a special focus on: providing homes for people in need; supporting communities to improve lives; and early action to prevent problems.

Press Contact

David Dinnage, Communications Director, Big Society Capital

T: 020 7186 2540, E: