Given the low levels of awareness of Framework activities amongst the social enterprises consulted for this assignment, and their continued demand for clear signposting support within the region, it would appear that limited progress has been made in terms of this action. However, this should represent a long-term objective and ‘work in progress’, given that the support requirements of social enterprises will constantly change. A key factor in improving levels of awareness of signposting support will be the ability of the newly restructured Business Link to market its services effectively to social enterprises. One of the main future support requirements of the social enterprises consulted was for the improved provision of signposting support.
Some pre-start advice is available for community and voluntary sector organisations through RAISE. Our research findings (similar to other assignments involving consultations with social enterprises) have suggested that rigorous mentoring support systems are required for people wishing to start social enterprises in the future. This needs to be delivered by individuals with previous experience of successfully managing social enterprises. The training recently provided to Business Link employees on the social economy will help to improve their capacity to provide start-up support. Those partaking in the ‘Personal Development for Social Enterprise Advisors’ initiative will also be ideally placed to provide such support.
Through the ‘Personal Development for Social Enterprise Advisors’ initiative, a network of mentors is starting to be developed. However, linked to this, the County Support Networks, in the future, should investigate means of developing networks of mentors at a sub-regional level. The national restructuring of Business Link should help to address this issue, given that Business Link will represent a regionalised point of information, diagnosis and brokerage support for all types of businesses. Some of the support they offer will be signposting support to social enterprises in terms of finance. Given that the restructuring of Business Link came into effect in April 2005, Pest Inspection Cost it is too early to establish whether this has been an effective point of access for social enterprises.