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Support When it Matters (SWIM) Charity Social Investment Readiness Consultancy

Eastside People

SWIM Support When it Matters logo eastside people

Social Investment Expertise and Investment Readiness Consultancy Services help deliver funds for ambitious growth

Summary

  • Project: Investment readiness consultancy: Reach funded services, investment project support plus financial modelling and forecasting services
  • Project duration: Two years
  • Number of Eastside People team members involved: Three, including a governance expert and a finance specialist, with the oversight of Jo Simpson
  • Outcome: £110,000 blended finance package: £77k unsecured loan and £33k grant followed by £530K through social finance and grants to fund a property purchase
  • Now in negotiations with a number of investors (including Charity Bank, city charity investors and the Greater London Authority) for a sum of up to £3m to purchase a development site.

 Background

Support When it Matters (SWIM) is a community interest company that empowers people in Hackney and its neighbouring communities to improve their health, well-being and life chances. Significant components of this black-community-led organisation are financial resilience and independent and social wealth creation.

SWIM Founder and Chief Executive Peter Merrifield turned his life around when he was in his 30s. “I’m the product of good rehabilitation,” he says. Thanks to what he calls the “unwavering support” of many people, he was able to recover from a period of substance misuse, homelessness and offending.

Peter’s experiences inspired him to start his own social enterprise in 2019. Support When It Matters, known as SWIM, which is based in east London, builds on Peter’s knowledge and expertise to offer specialist, culturally appropriate help to people, particularly people of colour. The enterprise mainly works with the often overlooked community of older black men leaving the justice system and/or those with experience of substance misuse, and the wider African, Caribbean and Dual Heritage community, many of whom are facing similar challenges to Peter.

SWIM grew rapidly, winning contracts from public sector bodies to deliver mental health and wellbeing services, resettlement programmes and rehabilitation. Within a couple of years, the enterprise reached the point of needing investment to move forward.

Eastside People initially met SWIM through a project with Clinks where we provided advisory support and mentoring. From this Peter then reached out as his organisation began to grow rapidly, winning contracts from public sector bodies to deliver mental health and wellbeing services, resettlement programmes and rehabilitation and had reached the point of needing investment to move forward with plans to expand their services by providing housing and accommodation services.

The biggest challenge to moving ahead with these plans was having the people in place with skills in 2 key areas – bid writing and management and running complex business development and infrastructure projects.

Surround yourself with people who are cleverer than you, our relationship with Eastside People was a key part of the story.

Peter Merrifield, Chief Executive, SWIM

SWIM Support When it Matters thoughtful black man website post SWIM Support When it Matters single old black man website post

Project

“Accessing funds was critical for us to continue on our journey,” says Peter. But raising investment was a new step for Peter and his team: “This opportunity was a first for us.”

After discussions with social investor CAF Venturesome, SWIM was referred to the Reach Fund, which supports small social enterprises and charities in England to prepare for social investment. A grant from the Reach Fund meant that SWIM could take on a consultant to help it to become investment ready.

Peter knew Eastside People from a previous project, and they were a perfect choice for this project. “Eastside People understands the space in which we work, our concerns and the relationships with the organisations we are connected to. They also have the experience needed to help clients meet the stringent good governance, due diligence and data requirements made by funding organisations such as CAF Venturesome,” he says.

Solution

Eastside People’s role was to develop a financial forecast to demonstrate that SWIM could support a loan, and that its ambitions for growth were realistic. Additionally, social investors require investees to have strong governance, so SWIM’s structure was reviewed including analysis of potential conflicts of interests and a review of the SWIM board of directors.

“We didn’t know the kind of information, the quality of information and the depth of information that would suffice,” says Peter. “Eastside People’s previous experience took out the angst from our perspective and brought simplicity to the process.”

He adds: “We are a relatively young, but growing organisation. The experience of working with Eastside People and CAF Venturesome has given us a greater understanding of the importance of strong governance and financial transparency to help us attract new contracts and funding.”

Peter also highlights Eastside People’s commitment to the project. “They had a real belief and a desire to make this happen. They were fast and very supportive, and easy to work with,” he says.

As a result, in summer 2022 SWIM was awarded its biggest funding injection to date: £110,000. This blended finance package from CAF Venturesome was made up of a £77,000 loan and £33,000 grant.

This investment has launched SWIM into its next phase of expansion. Peter recruited new members of staff, including a business development manager, finance manager and frontline staff.

“The most significant part of this is the creation of more business,” says Peter. “We have been successful in winning bids in other boroughs and with new partners and there are more bids going in.”

“SWIM is doing amazing work,” says Eastside People’s Jo Simpson. “I hope this first investment will be a real accelerator.”

Social Investment funds the SWIM Housing project

As a result of this success, Peter started planning SWIM’s next steps. With the support of Eastside People, he sought more social finance to back a housing project.

The reason for prioritising housing is because many of SWIM’s client group have exited from the prison system or from mental health services. With 70% to 80% having experienced some sort of homelessness, rough sleeping or sofa surfing, housing and accommodation is their biggest challenge. Safe and good quality accommodation is a basic requirement at the start of any rehabilitation process so the next step in SWIM’s strategic objectives was to build their housing and homeless offer.

Now that the organisation had a skilled team in place, they could begin to put together the plan needed to acquire a mortgage to buy their first property. The SWIM team (together with some financial planning support from Eastside People), prepared a proposal to a number of social investors including Charity Bank. an ethical bank that uses its savers’ money to lend to charities and social enterprises.

As this was the 1st time that the team from SWIM had tried to apply for a mortgage, it was very important to them to find a helpful provider.

“The experience of working with Charity Bank was relatively smooth, they had a real willingness to make it work, being flexible with their processes and finding ways to make sure that we could navigate our way through their requirements, finding solutions instead of presenting obstacles. This was definitely not the case with some of the other investors that we approached.” said Peter.

SWIM acquired their 1st property (a high quality 5 bedroom house in Newham) early in 2023, raising £530K through social finance and grants which now houses a thriving community of residents.

As a result of the initial investment by Charity Bank, they have developed a portfolio of 5 properties with 25 individual units and they have worked with both Hackney and Newham local authorities together with the Greater London Authority (GLA) to deliver supported accommodation and support services across 31 units. SWIM manage and own 11 of these units with 20 managed by a housing association.

“These brilliant partnerships with our 2 local authorities came about because they were able to see the success and outcomes we were able to achieve after our 1st round of social investment and they could see the value that a black-community-led social enterprise would add to delivery of services in their local areas”. Peter adds.

Peter has big ambitions for SWIM. “I’ve always felt compelled to give back what was given to me,” he says. “I need to see more people of colour achieve recovery.”

The next step in the journey for SWIM is to purchase a redevelopment site in Hackney in partnership with a local authority to re develop into up to 10 residential units (of which some would be temporary accommodation for the local authority, and some directly managed by SWIM.

They are in negotiations with a number of investors for funding for this including Charity Bank, city charity investors and the Greater London Authority for a sum of up to £3m.