Social Enterprise Awards Northern Ireland

15 Oct 2012     Last updated: 20 Jun 2014

Chocolatiers, childcare supporters, churches and carers were among the winners of the Social Enterprise Awards (NI) announced at a gala ceremony in Belfast Castle on 11 October.

The Awards highlight and promote excellence in the social economy sector across Northern Ireland. The enterprises which make up the sector are businesses with primarily social objectives and their surpluses are put back into the business or into the community, rather than to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.

The Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland attended the awards and said,

“These awards highlight the importance of the social economy sector in Northern Ireland. They are also a recognition of this sector’s significant contribution to the Programme for Government’s key priority to ‘Grow a Sustainable Economy and Invest in the Future.’ I am particularly pleased to be able to present the Social Enterprise Regeneration Award.”

He continued,

“My Department will continue to support and invest in social enterprise growth, with a focus on community benefit rather than private profit. The social enterprise model can bring innovation and make a real difference to community regeneration and improved delivery of public services. I want to pass on my personal congratulations to all the award winners.” 

Audrey Murray, Chair of the Social Enterprise Awards (NI) said,

“Selecting tonight’s winners was incredibly difficult, all of the entries were of a high standard. We are delighted and amazed at the breadth of organisations represented and the diversity of the work they are doing. Some of tonight’s winners will go on to represent Northern Ireland in the Social Enterprise Awards in London and we wish them every success.”

She continued,

“The Awards were made possible through the pledge of support and sponsorship from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Invest NI, the Department for Social Development, the Department for Rural Development, the Charity Bank, UCIT and PWC, and we would like to thank them for all their support.”

And the winners are:

Social Enterprise Leader of the Year, Northern Ireland – sponsored by DETI

Winner: Paul Roberts (Chief Executive of the Ashton Community Trust based in North Belfast)

Highly commended in this category: Marie Marin (Chief Executive of Employers for Childcare Vouchers, based Lisburn)

Social Enterprise Start Up of the Year, Northern Ireland – Sponsored by Invest NI

Winner: Chocolate Memories (Autism Work Ventures)

Social Enterprise of the Year, Northern Ireland – sponsored by DETI

Winner: East Belfast Mission

Highly commended in this category: Footprints Women’s Centre based Poleglass, West Belfast and Ashton Community Trust

Social Enterprise Supporter of the Year, Northern Ireland – sponsored by Charity Bank

Winner: Lloyds TSB Foundation for Northern Ireland (based in Belfast)

Youth-led Social Enterprise, Northern Ireland – sponsored by Invest NI

Winner: Music Theatre 4 Youth (Ireland) based Belfast

Best New Product or Service, Northern Ireland – sponsored by UCIT

Winner: Extra Care (based in Antrim)

Highly commended in this category: Belfast Central Mission (BCM) and Ashton Community Trust

Rural Social Enterprise of the year – sponsored by DARD

Winner: Chain HR Ltd, based Larne

Social Enterprise: Regeneration Award- sponsored by the Department of Social Development (DSD) and PwC

Winner: Ashton Community Trust

Highly commended in this category: East Belfast Mission and Footprints Women’s centre


This year's Awards were organised by Sector Matters, Northern Ireland’s first social enterprise providing quality business services to the voluntary and community sector and to small businesses.

Social Enterprise Leader of the Year, Northern Ireland - Paul Roberts
Paul Roberts has been Chief Executive of Ashton Community Trust (ACT), a north Belfast community owned social enterprise and regeneration charity, for eighteen years. ACT’s services include: childcare, complementary therapy, property management, training, good relations, youth and arts. It now employs over 140 people and has an annual turnover of over £3.5m Last year £1.85m went back into the North Belfast economy from ACT’s salary costs alone

Paul has developed an enterprising culture within the organisation that has allowed ACT to take commercial opportunities and grow to become a major local employer and regeneration agent.  Ashton has over thirty different sources of income and by ensuring this diversity Paul has secured the long term future and independence of the organisation.


Social Enterprise Start Up of the Year - Chocolate Memories (Autism Work Ventures)
Chocolate Memories was established in 2010 by charity group Autism Initiatives NI. Based in Moneyreagh, County Down, they hand make delicious Belgian chocolates, using the highest quality ingredients. Trading in the in the open market, all profits are reinvested back into the business to fulfil the social aims and objectives.

In response to the on-going and extraordinary difficulties faced by young adults with Autism Spectrum Condition, Chocolate Memories offers exciting opportunities to trainee chocolatiers. Not only do they explore the world of chocolate making, they also learn about customer service, manufacturing, product development and administration but above all else they get to deliver a high quality, professionally made product to the public. Chocolate Memories began the journey with two full time employees and six trainees, and now employs three full time staff, a placement graduate and has 12 trainees.


Overall Social Enterprise of the Year
East Belfast Mission became a registered charity in 1985 to engage in community development and is one of the longest established and largest community organisations in the area. Based on the Lower Newtownards Road in Belfast, they currently employ 39 fulltime and 25 part-time staff. Their social economy programme: includes 11 shops, and two workshops providing high quality clothing and furniture at affordable prices.



Social Enterprise Supporter of the Year - The Lloyds TSB Foundation for Northern Ireland
Established in 1986 Lloyds TSB has invested more than £27 million in communities throughout Northern Ireland. The Foundation’s mission is to support people, particularly those people who are disadvantaged or disabled, to play a fuller role within their own communities. The Foundation currently operates six grant-making programmes, all of which focus on social and community needs, education and training. The most significant support of late has been in conjunction with Invest NI and the Social Entrepreneurship Programme in association with Enterprise NI where a sum of £180,000 has been ring-fenced for this programme. The Foundation’s support has been very successful and to date 34 Social Enterprises have received a grant of £3,000 totalling £102,000.


Youth led Social Enterprise of the year – Music Theatre for Youth
The core mission of Music Theatre for Youth (Ireland) is to “find, develop and inspire the best music theatre talent in Ireland”.  They are passionate about creating opportunities for young people of all abilities to develop their skills and talents under an internationally acclaimed artistic team.

Music Theatre 4 Youth (Ireland) has embraced social enterprise from the outset by ensuring that its services could be sustained through a mixture of income thus not purely depending on grant funding.  All profits are reinvested back into the business so they can further expand what they offer particularly to young people in areas of high deprivation with the inability to pay.  Our bursary scheme provides young people from low income families and disadvantaged backgrounds with an equal opportunity to develop their skills and talents. 


Best New Product/Service - Extra Care
Extra Care is the largest independent provider of home care services in Northern Ireland. This award is for their home dialysis service, Assisted Automated Peritoneal Dialysis (aAPD). Working in partnership with Belfast City Hospital (BCH) and Baxter Healthcare (provider of the home dialysis equipment) Extra Care helped develop a care and equipment product to support eligible people to have their dialysis treatment at home. Extra Care’s trained health care assistants visit the patient at home to deliver dialysis which would otherwise require a visit to hospital.  Patients who are on aAPD have an improved quality of life, less regular hospital appointments, reduced exposure to infection and can fit the treatment around their lifestyle.


Rural Social Enterprise of the year – Chair HR Ltd
Chain HR Ltd was established in 2007 as a rural based social enterprise.  They aim to be recognised as a centre of excellence for HR Services and Training, acting as a catalyst for local economic development.  They have established links and partnerships to assist support rural businesses. 


Social Enterprise: Regeneration Award – Ashton Community Trust
Ashton Community Trust (ACT) is a north Belfast community owned social enterprise and regeneration charity. ACT’s services include: childcare, complementary therapy, property management, training, good relations, youth and arts. Set up by local people as a response to the huge problems faced by the community ACT has, developed a structure that yields an on-going income ensuring long-term sustainability to its many projects and aims. By emphasizing the need for increasing skills and working tirelessly in the training and job creation fields they have significantly improved the economic prospects of hundreds of individuals and the communities they live in.  They employ over 140 mostly local people and have trained hundreds to access jobs for the first time or to improve their chances for better and more skilled jobs.  Their childcare is a model of best practice and allows hundreds of local parents to go out to work. It also employs local people and gives children a great start.

Over the last five years Ashton, through its development company, has developed three new Centres in North Belfast at a cost of over £4 million. This has been done by re-investing surpluses and managing its income.

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