Social Firms Scotland: 2017 AGM and Mini Conference

by Allana Grant

6 months ago

Social Firms Scotland hopes to inspire a debate at this week’s 2017 AGM and mini conference.

Tomorrow will see Social Firms Scotland host its annual general meeting and mini conference event at the Edinburgh home of the social enterprise of the year 2017(Grassmarket Community Project).

Founded in May 2000, SFS is the national support body for the country’s many social firms; those social enterprises whose mission is specifically to create sustainable meaningful employment opportunities for people who have been marginalised from the labour market.

The theme of this year’s packed four-and-a-half hour programme is targeted, person-centred employability support; with the focus being placed largely on people who encounter significant barriers that hinder them from finding work. In particular, those people with a physical, mental or learning disability, those with a substance abuse issue, those who have served a prison sentence, those who are homeless, and many of Scotland’s young people just setting out on their professional journey.

The programme on the day

Speaking about her expectations of Tuesday’s event, Pauline Graham, CEO of Social Firms Scotland said:

“We are looking forward to inspiring presentations and engaging conversations! AGMs are not always the most stimulating of affairs, but this year Social Firms Scotland will precede the necessary AGM business with a mini conference; to profile some of our members and hear about their targeted employability support to people who have barriers to mainstream employment.”

Throughout the day, delegates in attendance will for example hear presentations from third sector business leaders who are taking a collaborative approach to targeted employability support for those in the process of recovering from addictions.

In the years since the independence referendum, Scotland’s political landscape has changed greatly; with employment support services being devolved to holyrood. Consequently, SFS is urging the sector, as well as the government, to take a fresh approach to combatting what it regards as being “significant and long-standing inequalities” in the labour market. Having said which, the contribution of the day’s keynote speaker, Gavin Gray is being anticipated with much enthusiasm. In his address to the conference, Mr Gray, Deputy Director of employability at the Scottish Government, will explore the Scottish Government’s future vision and ambition for the employability landscape.

The day will also feature a series of workshops on a variety of subject matters; ranging from setting out how a Scottish wage incentive programme could be structured in the future, to exploring the effect an increased contribution from Scotland’s Social Firms could potentially have on improving the well-being and employment prospects for people with convictions. The hope, as Pauline explains, is very much that they will provide food for thought for third sector business leaders, in the weeks and months preceding the event itself:

“Our workshops, we hope, will also stimulate some discussion around the need for ‘wage subsidies’ to support more people into work and how social firms might increase their contribution to community justice outcomes.”