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SOCIAL ECONOMY IN THE HIGHLANDS
AND ISLANDS GENERATES £360 MILLION
The social economy covers a wide range of activities including housing, arts and culture, music, business and employment support, community development, education, environment, health care, religion, social care, social groups, sport and lifeboat/mountain rescue.
According to the survey commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the housing related sector accounts for the greatest proportion of full-time employment and the highest level of paid employment. Housing, education and social groups also show a rapid growth in income.
The findings of the study are revealed today (Wednesday 29th May) as delegates meet in Inverness to discuss housing, economic and community development in the Highlands and Islands. The event, jointly hosted by HIE and Communities Scotland, aims to enhance partnership working between Local Enterprise Companies (LECs) and Housing Associations.
Director of strengthening communities at HIE Stuart Black said: "It is encouraging to see that the social economy of the Highlands and Islands is playing an increasingly important role in the economy of the region as a whole. However the key requirements for further improvement in the social economy are strong relationships and partnership working among the various supporting organisations and social economy groups, along with better funding and skills development opportunities.
"Events like today's seminar involving the local
enterprise companies and housing associations are a valuable way of
exchanging information and good practice. We hope events in the future
will result in improved partnership working with an increasing focus on
the development of the social economy."
The assessment of the social economy of the Highlands and Islands was carried out by SQW and Simon Clark Associates. The study analysed organisations in terms of their structures and activities, their beneficiaries, wages, employment, income and growth, barriers to further development and support and linkages with other organisations.
With regards to incomes, the majority of funding for organisations comes from trading services or products, including fees and membership charges. Grants from local authorities, LECs, lottery and national or EU sources represent 21 per cent of income with the largest recipients of grants being arts, music and culture groups.
For the majority of organisations, the single most important issue is funding. This is identified by 56 per cent of organisations as being the most useful type of support they receive and the availability of funding is seen as the biggest barrier to growth (55 per cent). The availability of volunteers and premises are also seen as barriers especially for more socially orientated groups.
A major issue for the development of the social economy is the strength of relationships between organisations and local authorities, LECs, schools and so on. The survey discovered the strongest links exist between the organisations and their local authority and LEC.
Other key findings are: