Caritas Westminster has embarked on a groundbreaking new project to develop and support socially conscious business start-ups in London, The Tablet can reveal.
The charity has refurbished a diocesan property in Wembley, in north London, transforming it into an open plan office space with meeting rooms and training space. Desk space at the Social Innovation and
Enterprise Hub is available to rent by start-up businesses that trade for a social purpose: for example, to help meet a need in the community, or to help lift people out of poverty and into work.
It is believed to be the first time a diocese in England and Wales has engaged in this kind of project.
Elena Bologna, Hub Manager, told The Tablet that the hub met a need in Wembley: “The neighbourhood is next to the stadium and there has been a lot of urban regeneration. The local population is being pushed out. So it is important to us to stand in-between the new and the old, and show we can work together.”
The Hub will launch officially in January, but is open now for applications. Start-ups already at work at the Hub include a business to mentor young women in Brent and a community cafe for elderly people.
Applicants can choose a level of membership appropriate for their needs - for example with more or less office access, mentoring and support. Members will all have access to facilities and peer-to-peer support, as well as mentoring from experts within the diocese to help them meet their business objectives.
People from marginalised groups, like ex-offenders and refugees, who might not be able to afford membership, can apply for a bursary that is paid for by a grant awarded by the Cardinal’s Appeal.
Caritas Westminster said in a statement that the majority of people living in poverty in London were in work, with 21 per cent of people being paid below the London Living Wage. Social enterprises, it said, offered opportunities for dignified employment and were one way to help people in poverty, and working people in poverty.
Ms Bologna said: “What really matters is the difference it makes to people when they can have a job, and chose their own future.”
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