‘Jury still out’ on Futurebuilders’
It is still unclear exactly how the £18m Futurebuilders Scotland programme will operate – despite the fact that the Scottish Executive published the long-awaited social economy action plan this week.
There has been a broad consensus of approval for the scheme – which is aimed at helping voluntary and community organisations which deliver goods or services in a commercial way to develop and expand.
But after the initial welcoming clamour had died down, detailed reading of the programme documents (which can be accessed at www.scotland.gov.uk/viu) raised as many questions as it found answers.
Futurebuilders Scotland will be centred around an investment fund which is to be targeted in key areas which best help the Executive’s wider objectives: closing the opportunity gap, community regeneration, and support and development of young people.
It will be distributed by a new Social Economy Unit is to be launched by Communities Scotland in October.
Included in the £18m investment is a £1m training fund and a £1m support programme. These will ensure that social economy organisations have access to the best training and will also ensure that the specialist support is available to help them succeed and grow.
Futurebuilders Scotland was welcomed by SCVO’s director of corporate affairs, Lucy McTernan.
“This represents a milestone in the government’s acknowledgement of the vital economic role that voluntary organisations play in society.
“The funds available should boost Scotland’s social economy, helping existing organisations and encouraging the creation of new ones. Through the fund of £16 million and the money set aside for training and support, the sector should find itself in an enhanced position when bidding to deliver public services.
“This announcement is good news for Scotland’s communities and SCVO looks forward to working with Communities Scotland to help ensure that the money, given the delays, reaches the sector quickly and effectively.”
However, McTernan said a number of issues did remain unresolved.
“The voluntary sector will only judge Futurebuilders a success if:
• It encourages interest from a very wide range of social economy organisations keen to develop their public service delivery role.
• European funds can be successfully levered in to boost the resources available.
• The process can be launched and managed transparently and effectively in the time available with appropriate stakeholder involvement.”
Chief executive of Senscot, Laurence Demarco, said the document was a good one but there is no justification for it being over a year late.
“The time spent dithering over this has really left insufficient time to spend the money. I am also concerned that Futurebuilders was always intended to be allocated by the sector and there is no evidence that Communities Scotland has the experience required.”
Alistair Grimes, chief executive of CEiS said “Our research reveals that the social economy has doubled in size over the last six years and 75 per cent of organisations are planning to grow over the next five years. We welcome Futurebuilders Scotland in the belief that it can play an important role in supporting this.
“But the money must be used to fund those who can make a significant impact through growing sustainable activities in areas where the social economy can develop a long-term competitive advantage.”
Chief executive of the Wise Group, David Nicoll, said he was excited by the possibilities Futurebuilders Scotland offered.
“Principally, it’s a tangible expression of the idea that social economy organisations can develop further, but need the right type of investment, at the right time, to do so. It’s refreshing to see phrases like ‘asset development – backed up by cash.
“The sector has a long history of delivering high quality, innovative services with an ethos of public value and public service. Futurebuilders will undoubtedly act as a catalyst to allow us to do even more of this in the future.”