It was with great sadness that I heard last week that Enta CIC had gone into administration and closed its doors, the latest victims of the disastrous austerity policy being pursued by this short-sighted and uncaring Government. Enta had been a vital part of Birmingham's social economy for three decades, employing more than 70 people at its peak and our thoughts are with those affected by its closure.
Enta's core business was providing training, guidance and support to help people overcome barriers to work and paid employment. In recent years, this had led them to look at ways in which they could help people get jobs in the emerging low-carbon economy. In this respect they were part of a welcome and growing group of non-environmental third sector organisations who bought their working methods to help achieve environmental outcomes in a way that the environmental sector itself was unable to, on some occasions.
In 2008 Enta developed and delivered the Growing Up Green learning module for young people aged 16-18 who were not participating in any form of learning. When I was asked by Enta to help them prepare a funding application I was really enthusiastic about the future of the course since it filled a gap among a group of people that were normally regarded as being disinterested in environmental issues. Sadly despite the success of the original programme funded by the Working Neighbourhoods Fund, as we moved towards the Green Deal then learning of this nature became more difficult to fund as it didn't directly lead to carbon savings.
More recently Enta has been involved in a project to take on apprentices who were trained as energy advisors, working with a major utility company and a large national training provider with all the challenges this entails. This showed a commitment by Enta to the big-time - mainstreaming employment support to young people in large numbers within the green economy - and a step up from the small, cuddly, heroic amateurism that still characterises some of the environmental third sector. Some of the apprentices taken on by Enta have gone on to other paid roles within the environmental economy including in the private sector. Until last week, Enta's meeting rooms were regularly used by Carillion and became a hive of activity as Carillion and partners mobilised for the start of Birmingham Energy Savers and Birmingham and Solihull Together.
Carillion won the Birmingham Energy Savers contract with the laudable pledge to deliver Europe's biggest energy saving programme through the community. Ed Davey MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has said that "he wants nothing more than a community energy revolution" and DECC are preparing a Community Energy Strategy. Birmingham Social Enterprise Energy Network works with community anchor organisations in Birmingham to deliver energy efficiency programmes such as Birmingham Energy Savers. The worrying thing is that as more of those community anchor organisations face the same threats as Enta did, then there will be no community infrastructure left to deliver. #BigSocietyFail. No doubt there will be large regional and national third-sector and pseudo-third-sector organisations offering to parachute into Birmingham and carry out 'community engagement'. It would be tragic if the opportunity presented by Birmingham Energy Savers to save third sector jobs were wiped out by the sweeping cuts that the mainstream third sector now faces.
Third Sector Assembly Interim Environment Network Champion
The opinions expressed in Champions' blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily relfect the view of BVSC