Seven inspiring social enterprises we’ve funded to fight Covid-19

8 Sep 2020

The Social Enterprise Support Fund re-opens for applications this Thursday 10th – Thursday 17th September. We’re really pleased to have opened up this final round to more social enterprises. You can now apply if your pre-COVID annual income was £20k – £1.8m (previously £25k – £1.5m; see full eligibility criteria).

We’re offering grants of £10k – £300k for social enterprises in England that support people at direct health risk from COVID-19 and/or those hit hardest by the pandemic. The fund was established in partnership by The National Lottery Community Fund and five social enterprise support agencies: UnLtd, School for Social Entrepreneurs, Key Fund, Resonance and Big Issue Invest.

All partners are committed to inclusion through this fund. We’re keen for grants to reach social enterprises that support and/or are led by people from minoritised and marginalised communities. We’re pleased that, so far, we’re on track to meet our inclusion targets.

Meet some of the inspiring social enterprises who have been awarded grants so far, and find out how they’ll create impact with the funding…

We Rise

Based in Brixton (London) and set up in 2016, We Rise supports young people making the challenging transition from school to work. Through project-based work experience, mentoring, and targeted programmes, We Rise equips young people from BAME and low-income backgrounds with the skills and confidence they need to thrive.

With the grant, the team plans to organise mentoring for disadvantaged 17-year-olds in Lambeth. The first offering will be a career-focussed programme for those from BAME and/or low-income backgrounds. The second will support those with low confidence, anxiety, or depression.

Photo of school children smiling, some with arms in the air, looking into the camera. Most are wearing white t-shirts with the We Rise logo


Set up in 2008, Gaydio is the UK’s only national LGBT+ community radio station. The Manchester-based station delivers a broadcast service that gives a platform to those who may struggle to access mainstream media, and produces informative programmes from an LGBT+ viewpoint.

Gaydio also delivers a series of bespoke, targeted workshops. For example, a 12-week course for unemployed people to help them build skills and confidence as they search for a job.

The team plans to spend the grant on creating and delivering a specific programme to work with LGBT+ people experiencing poor mental health.

Gaydio team


SAAFI is a community-based organisation in Brent (London) – one of the most disadvantaged communities in the country with the highest death rate from coronavirus. Led by British Somali mums, the organisation helps them, and their children, integrate into the local area. They have since extended services to provide advice and support to refugees and migrants from other communities.

During the pandemic they’ve provided emergency response and support, including 2,320 meals and food bank deliveries. SAAFI received recognition from the Mayor of Brent for their work.

With this funding, they plan to employ new staff, allowing them to continue their COVID-19 support.

SAAFI founders Rhoda on the right and Hodan on the left and banner

The Umbrella Café

The Umbrella Café is a community hub in Whitstable, which supports vulnerable people in the area and aims to reduce social isolation and food poverty.

Because of the pandemic, the café was closed to the public for five months and transformed into a redistribution and cooking centre. 3,000 meals were made in the kitchen, and volunteers gave more than 700 hours of their time to cook and deliver meals, as well as offering befriending support.

The grant will be used to ensure the safe re-opening of the café, and to continue helping socially isolated families and older households in Whitstable.

Jo and Anna in the foyer of The Umbrella Cafe


Restart promotes the health and wellbeing of people in prison, their family members, and others affected by imprisonment. The team has over 100 years’ prison-related experience as professionals working within the system, and individuals who have spent time in prison.

During the pandemic, Restart is supporting people leaving prison, providing them with food and toiletries, and prioritising those going into hostels and supported accommodation.

Restart will use the grant funding to cover salaries, continue their helpline support for families, and sustain the food bank until the café returns to its pre-COVID state.

Maureen (left) who is Asda's Community Champion presenting a £500 cheque to Penny (right) - a volunteer and now a director of Restart.

The Cooke E-Learning Foundation

The Cooke E-Learning Foundation is a community hub in Beaumont Leys, a deprived part of Leicester that has been re-locked down. They usually offer a range of support to address poverty including a food bank, community activities, and youth groups.

They have made a significant emergency response to Covid-19 including a delivery scheme sending 4,400 food parcels over 12 weeks. They have also started a befriending service for social isolated people.

The team plans to use the funding to continue emergency food provision, extend outreach services, and make their premises COVID-secure.

Open Barbers

London-based Open Barbers provides a hairdressing experience free of assumptions around identity, with an emphasis on meeting the mental health and wellbeing needs of LGBTQ+ people.

The hairdressers have recently reopened their doors to the public after having to close due to the pandemic.

Open Barbers will use the grant funding to keep providing affordable and accessible hair services for marginalised individuals, in a COVID-secure environment. It will also ensure that the team maintains a workplace that is trauma informed for the wellbeing of freelancers, and supports stylists to return to work.

Felix (left) and Greygory (right) of Open Barbers

At SSE, we’re proud to support our students and fellows further through the Social Enterprise Support Fund during this difficult and uncertain time. We’re excited to see where this grant funding takes them, and look forward to catching up when they’re a little less busy changing the world!

Find out more and apply. Our partner UnLtd has created this video and this blog with tips to help you with your application.