Jo Wedderspoon_2

Joanne Wedderspoon

Development Manager

Charities Aid Foundation

Celebrating the resilience of small social enterprises

The impact of our SE-Assist Fund portfolio during the Covid-19 crisis

18 May 2020

The SE-Assist Fund, managed by CAF Venturesome and funded by Legal & General has, over the last 8 years, offered 44 small social enterprises across Wales, Greater Brighton/Sussex and Croydon interest free social investment loans up to £30,000. We currently have 24 social enterprises in the portfolio. 

Continuing to support early stage social enterprises

As the Fund supports early stage social enterprises we know that some of them will be greatly impacted by the current Covid-19 crisis.  The CAF Venturesome team is very busy, working remotely, to ensure our portfolio of social enterprises and charities have the support they need at this worrying time. It has become clear that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on many of our portfolio organisations is significant and we are working through how we can help with capital repayment holidays and additional loan finance. We are also signposting our investees to emergency grant funding and support loan schemes.  A full list is kept up to date on the CAF Covid-19 hub, our friends at Good Finance are doing all they can to help social enterprises find the right support for their organisation and Business Wales are listing Wales specific support.

In response to the current crisis our SE-Assist Investment Committee for Wales, met, via video, twice in April and we have been able to approve nine capital repayment holidays. The committee provided them with some extremely useful and essential guidance on funding and support available for organisations based in Wales. Our Brighton/Croydon/Sussex Investment Committee has also approved further repayment holidays. 

The resilience of our investees

Book of You is Wales based social enterprise that has created a new type of book that uses the proven benefits of reminiscence therapy using words, pictures, music and film. It brings family, friends and carers together in one place to show who a person was and who they are now. Primarily set up to help people living with dementia, the Book of You helps all sorts of people, including older people living in assisted accommodation and young adults with learning disabilities. During this very difficult time where the one thing at the forefront of everybody’s mind is coronavirus, the Book of You is still working, as digital providers, to support their clients remotely. They have had to suspend their face to face work but are sharing videos on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter with advice and tips of things people can do with loved ones during this time of isolation. Book of You was designed to help with loneliness and isolation – bringing families together wherever they are in the world – and what better time to share this aspect of work with the wider community.

Empower Be The Change, the Welsh social enterprise that supports and empowers positive mental health, is able to continue supporting communities across Wales during the coronavirus crisis thanks to National Lottery funding. The funding will enable the team to provide online mentoring and coaching to support community organisations that are providing vital support to local people. These sessions will help individuals to reflect positively and find suitable solutions to any current issues they are facing. In doing so they anticipate individuals and organisations will become more resilient and will build positive mental well-being.

Jo Clay, Founder & Innovation Lead at Empower – Be The Change said: “It has never been more important for people to look after their mental well-being in order that they remain healthy and are able to support others around them. Over the coming weeks we will be supporting over 120 people through our new online mentoring service.”

Inspire Alpine, is a Wales based social enterprise that works to help close the attainment gap faced by disadvantaged young people.  They offer free inspirational talks and purposeful adventures to young people in deprived areas to help raise aspirations and build confidence and resilience.  They fund their social mission by charging for inspirational talks to other schools and businesses, run UK mountain adventures and overseas trekking expeditions.  During the Covid-19 crisis they are running virtual talks for schools and free Everest webinars for school Geography lessons in Wales.

Pennysmart CIC aims to reduce financial exclusion and poverty by delivering money, debt and benefits advice, money education into communities, schools and workplaces and training for staff and volunteers. They achieve this by working with a diverse variety of community facing partners, trusted intermediaries who help them reach the most vulnerable and excluded so they can benefit from their specialist services. They continue to virtually support the people that need it the most at this worrying time.

The Good Wash Company, the luxury wash and ethical lifestyle brand that helps improve lives of animals and people in local communities in Wales, is currently working hard to provide soaps and handwash to their local NHS community. For every order taken they donate a bar of soap to pass on to a care worker. Their products are cruelty free and are sourced from only the finest natural products from the land and sea. 

Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership (WRAP) has, in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, expanded their remote working arrangements so that they can operate effectively in a flexible, accessible, safe and agile way. They recognise that the outbreak of Covid-19 will present many of their clients with unique and unprecedented challenges in terms of how they manage their work.  WRAP have now adapted and increased their offer of restorative support and existing and new training to be available remotely.

They are still:

  • offering online alternatives for training, support of individuals and teams
  • restorative and wellbeing practice, coproduction and consultancy services
  • increasing the amount of materials, resources and training that can be accessed online including webinars
  • available via email, phone and social media
  • offering 1:1 and team support via Skype, Zoom, Microsoft teams or GoTo Meetings

For 6 years Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership has been a quality assured provider of training, practice and consultancy services. They enable individuals to build, maintain and repair relationships; personally, and professionally. They have supported individuals and services to gain a greater self-understanding of their strengths and wellbeing needs; supported vulnerable communities to work to find their voice and co-produce solutions themselves; and helped teams become more healthy, collaborative and high-performing especially in times of pressure, trauma and conflict.

And in Greater Brighton/Sussex.

HISBE Food, the social enterprise supermarket in Brighton (and soon to be in Worthing) is committed to ensuring that good food remains accessible and affordable.  They have had to reduce their opening hours and put in place a queuing system to keep their customers and staff safe, but they are committed to keep open to ensure that the farmers, producers and suppliers they work with can protect their livelihoods. 

Sussex Peasant, a social enterprise, aims to drive society to eat and cook food that is local and well farmed.  They believe that responsible farming and consuming is a social and cultural glue and understanding this is key to underpinning key values of society and life. They are a community of enterprising Sussex farmers that supports the mobile farm shop and restaurant they have created. Whilst the restaurant has had to close they continue to sell the finest local produce direct to their customers through the mobile farm shop and online so that the people of Sussex can continue to buy locally grown produce during the Covid-19 crisis.

About the SE-Assist Fund

The SE-Assist Fund, being locally-based, ensures that the support offered is responsive to the needs of the community. In addition to financial support, working with our local delivery partners, we offer our investees the option of an experienced business mentor.

We have made four rounds of social investments in Wales where £585k has been lent, with an overall capital commitment of over £1m across all regions of the SE-Assist fund.
SE-Assist is privileged to have Business in the Community CymruInstitute of Directors WalesWales Co-operative CentreWelsh Government alongside, our founding partner and majority funder, Legal & General as members of our Social Investment Committee in Wales. 

In Greater Brighton/Sussex and Croydon we have been supported by Coast to Capital, the Goodall Foundation, the Pebble Trust, Croydon Council, Eastside Primetimers & The Good Business Club as well as our main funder, Legal & General.

CAF Venturesome is dedicated to providing social enterprises and charities with the affordable, flexible finance they need to sustain and grow their social impact and we reiterate our promise to do all that we can to support high-impact social organisations during this very uncertain time.  Unfortunately, we do not yet know if we will be able to open the SE-Assist Fund in 2020 but will continue to support our portfolio wherever we can.

Talk to our team on 03000 123 300 or email us at and we’ll be happy to help.