UCIT Chairman’s Report
Over the last 15 years, Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) has provided funding to over 400 community organisations, charities and social enterprises who realistically would not otherwise have had access to loan finance. This has helped create employment, attract investment, bind communities and stimulate economic activity, in areas often marked by social or economic deprivation.
During 2016, UCIT and our subsidiary business in the Republic of Ireland, Community Finance (Ireland), approved loans of just over £6 million to 70 third sector organisations across a wide range of sectors, geographies and communities. In many cases, absent the support of UCIT, our clients would have struggled to achieve their investment ambitions.
In response to the need to further develop and widen the provision of social finance to the third sector in Northern Ireland, UCIT together with Building Change Trust have put in place a new £350,000 loan finance initiative. Building Change Trust was established in 2008 by the Big Lottery Fund with a National Lottery grant of £10 million. This new fund provides small unsecured loans of £1,000 – £25,000 to assist the needs of smaller community based organisations who undertake so much important work in all areas of our society. I am also very pleased to report that Belfast Charitable Society has committed a further £350,000 to this fund and together with a contribution from UCIT has allowed it grow to £1 million. Belfast Charitable Society is Belfast’s oldest and one of its most respected charities and UCIT is proud to be associated with it.
In December 2016, Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA congratulated the NI Small Business Loan Fund as it hit more than £5 million in new loans. The Small Business Loan Fund was launched just over four years ago to provide access to finance for small businesses, sole traders and partnerships which are keen to develop their business, but find it difficult to access funding through traditional sources. It is managed by our subsidiary, Ulster Community Investment plc, on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. Access to finance is often the main obstacle for businesses starting up and growing. It is estimated that the Small Business Loan Fund has helped its clients generate an extra £26.5m in sales and create 144 new jobs across 260 companies which is a small but important step in helping our economy to grow. The Fund is still open with facilities of up to £50,000 available. As a revolving fund it’s expected that between £7m and £8m will be made available in total over the Fund’s lifetime. I am delighted to further report that all independent reviews completed in relation to the performance of the Fund to date have been extremely positive.
Finally, I am very grateful to the staff at UCIT and my colleagues on the Board for their enthusiasm and support. Aidan Sloane, William Patterson and Audrey Murray resigned from the Board during the year. I would like to thank them for their contribution to the Executive Board and wish them well in their future endeavours.
Alan Moneypenny, Chairman
UCIT Chief Executive’s Report
SMEs and social enterprises are the bedrock of Northern Ireland’s economy, but it is proving increasingly difficult for business promoters in these sectors to secure finance from traditional sources.
During 2016, Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) approved loans of £3.7 million to a wide range of third sector organisations across Northern Ireland.
By way of brief example, we assisted Portglenone Enterprise Group purchase a historic building in the centre of the village which will be developed to provide office space and business units for new, start-up enterprises. We provided Slack Press, a young digital media social enterprise with a loan to upscale their business and we released funds to Clonoe Rural Development Agency in County Tyrone to acquire land to extend their community facilities.
We were also very pleased to provide a number of charities with loans to enable them to develop income generating activities. Support was provided to Avert Enterprises – the trading arm of Foyle Women’s Aid – to enable the establishment of a beauty and holistic therapy service. All profits from this social economy business will be used to support victims of domestic and sexual violence in the city. A loan was provided to Destined to enable them to purchase a private taxi firm in Derry. The acquisition of the taxi business will enable Destined to offer specialist accessible transport to the learning disabled whilst continuing to offer affordable general taxi services to the wider community.
We were delighted to further extend our reach by partnering with the Building Change Trust and Belfast Charitable Society in the development of a £1m finance initiative to help us meet much needed demand for smaller unsecured loans from within the third sector. The loan fund aims to match the needs of local communities, and be flexible and responsive in its delivery. I am delighted to say a number of organisations have already availed of this facility.
Our business in the Republic of Ireland also continues to flourish. During 2016, UCIT’s subsidiary company, Community Finance (Ireland) approved loans of €2.9 million to 30 third sector organisations. This trend is expected to continue with the appointment of two further team members – Rose Hally in the Connaught/ Munster region and Barry Symes in the South Dublin/ Leinster area.
Our successful management of the £5 million Small Business Loan Fund on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland has ensured over 260 loans have been provided to date. Our economy is critically dependant on small business, and access to finance is central to its ability to survive and grow. Interim external evaluation reviews have concluded that not only is the Fund operating satisfactorily in process terms but that it is delivering the economic objectives for which it was set up in the first place.
In conclusion I would like to express my thanks to the staff and the Directors on the Boards of UCIT and Community Finance (Ireland) for their continued commitment in making UCIT the successful organisation it has become.
Harry McDaid, Chief Executive