Report urges £50m injection into Mersey social businesses

New report published by Liverpool social enterprise The Women’s Organisation offers detailed and radical proposals for transforming the city region economy post-COVID-19. Tony McDonough reports

Maggie O'Carroll
Maggie O’Carroll, chief executive of The Women’s Organisation


A new report is calling for a £50m investment into Liverpool city region’s social business sector to help create a more “sustainable and inclusive economy” post-COVID-19.

Published by award-winning Liverpool social enterprise, The Women’s Organisation, Rethinking the Economy for an Inclusive and Sustainable Future identifies key areas of the Merseyside economy that that held build the recovery in a more inclusive way.

It highlights and recommends action and investment on four specific priority areas –  the social economy, the self-employed and micro businesses, the care sector, and the green economy.

Social sector

According to the report, which was produced in partnership with leading Liverpool academic, Professor Tom Cannon, social enterprises and social businesses account for almost 10% of the total Liverpool city region workforce. Pre-COVID, the sector was estimated to be worth £4.3bn annually.

Although the sector has suffered during the COVID-19 crisis, in common with the rest of the economy, many social ventures have also adapted and innovated to fill the gaps left by the public and private sectors.

They have provided lifelines for the most vulnerable members of society and have been exemplars of community action and co-operation, offering both practical and emotional support at the height of the lockdown.

The report says the social economy sector provides a platform for rebuilding the economy  under Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s Build Back Better strategy. It says it can create “better quality jobs and apprenticeship opportunities, delivering vital services, creating new enterprises and creating a green revolution”.

It recommends a £50m investment programme that would accelerate the growth of the social economy and the “multiplication of social enterprises”.


More support for people looking to start their own businesses is also recommended in the report. It says the current system of grants, loans and universal credit is confusing for those embarking on self-employment and too many have “fallen through the cracks”.

It adds that harnessing the potential of women and people from BAME backgrounds, currently under-represented in the UK’s 5m-strong army of self employed people, the economy could be transformed. The Women’s Organisation is the delivery partner for the city region’s Enterprise Hub programme.

Care sector

The report also highlights the need to reposition the care sector as a “high value and social economic contributor to the Liverpool city region”. It points out that the COVID-19 epidemic has exposed the lack of funding in the care sector which has resulted in a a critical fall in the quality of delivery. It has also fostered a perception that it is populated by a “low-skilled” workforce.

“The Liverpool city region recovery plan should therefore address structural inequalities within the care sector which relate to pay, parity of esteem with other health professionals, and training and support.”

Green economy

On the green economy, the report acknowledged the UK’s net-zero carbon ambitions but recommends the Liverpool city region needed to go further with “targeted, specific and ambitious action”.

It says focusing on ‘greening’ the economy, via things such as incentives for businesses and individuals to cut carbon emissions, there was the potential to create thousands of high-skilled jobs and encourage more women to train in emerging green technology sectors.

It also called for continued investment into cycleways and footpaths, decarbonisation of the public transport network and a major push on promoting electric vehicles. This, it added, would require better access to fast charging points in the city region.

Meeting, start-up, business, women, office
The reports recommends encouraging more women and people from BAME backgrounds into self-employment


Underpinning the report is a commitment to three broad programmes of change for the Liverpool city region economy. They are:

  • Firmly embedding inclusivity, diversity and gender equality.
  • Providing transformed educational attainments, skills and opportunities for everyone.
  • Addressing and redesigning how we measure economic wealth.

Maggie O’Carroll, chief executive of The Women’s Organisation, said: “It is essential that any economic recovery plan considers and places a firm emphasis on doing things differently and focusing on areas that will be transformational and produce economic and social gains.

“Failure to do so will only serve to delay the recovery, widen existing inequalities, and entrench them even further, which would be a socio-economic disaster on a regional and national scale.”

Ms O’Carroll is also quick to emphasise that the immediate crisis is far from over and we must keep the local and national lens on the immediate crisis, whilst planning for local and national economic recovery.

Emeritus Professor Tom Cannon, from the  University of Liverpool, added: “This report addresses the impact of COVID-19 on the Liverpool city region and its business ecosystem in a thoughtful, systematic, and solidly empirical way. Crucially, it has the courage to look forward creatively not only at the challenges but at the opportunities facing the local economy.

“The report presents a solid case for moving forward on two interconnected levels. First dealing with the continuing threat of COVID. Second building an economy based on; widening opportunities as happened after the last recession, rethinking ways of organising business, exploiting new opportunities notably the green and knowledge economy.

“Its core strength lies on practical proposals for action while avoiding blame and the backward look seen too often elsewhere.”

Click here to download and view the full report

You might also like More from author

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Username field is empty.