A report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation proposes that Social Enterprise Zones (SEZs) should be created in areas of long-term, multiple deprivation - to operate as partnerships between public sector agencies, private business community organisations and local people.
Building on the experience of Business Enterprise Zones, where planning and other regulations have been relaxed to encourage private investment and the creation of new businesses, the consortia running SEZs would be allowed to re-write existing regulations in ways that would accelerate regeneration. For example:
Unemployed residents in SEZs might be given the chance to perform unlimited voluntary work while on benefit as an alternative to the conventional job seekers' agreement. This would help them to gain skills, experience and confidence
Social security rules might be relaxed to allow unemployed people to claim top-up benefits while getting started in their own, self-employed business.
Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs) might be given greater freedom to run programmes for groups in the community, including courses for building the confidence and skills needed as 'stepping-stones' towards employment.
The proposals for SEZs are the result of collaboration between David Robinson of Community Links (a community development project in East London), Kathryn Dunn of Business in the Community and Scott Ballintyne of the Institute of Public Policy Research. They build on discussions in the London Borough of Newham where plans for a pilot zone are being considered.
The report describes how SEZs would actively engage local residents in preparing a strategic plan covering social, welfare, health and education issues as well as job creation and economic development. Relaxation of public funding regulations would be sought so that local partnerships could pool and retain any savings they achieved for reinvestment in their area. Some of the money could be used to establish a Community Development Fund to provide loan support for local businesses, voluntary sector ventures, housing projects and other local schemes.
David Robinson said: 'Social Enterprise Zones would ensure that regeneration strategies were truly 'local' and were developed in the community as close as possible to the point of impact and need. By bringing together those who use and manage public services and private and voluntary sector agencies they would establish a force capable of replacing stigma and blame in deprived areas with a new creativity.'
Social Enterprise Zones: Building, innovation into regeneration by David Robinson, Kathryn Dunn and Scott Ballintyne is published for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation by York Publishing Services Ltd., 64 Hallfield Road, Layerthorpe, York YO31 7ZX (01904 430033) price£12.95, plus£1.50 p&p.
A summary of findings from the report is available, free of charge, from JRF at The Homestead, 40 Water End, York YO3 6LP OR from LGCnet. Tel 0171 833 7324/5.