Case Study: Smiles North East Nursery

After realising that there was a shortfall of childcare places in the Billingham area, the Billingham Environmental Link Project decided to establish a day nursery to provide high quality care and education to children aged from 6 weeks to 11 years old.

BELP, led by managing director Jenny Franklin, is run by the local community for the local community. The organisation provides a wide range of support services including over 60s clubs, back-to-work support and community gardening projects.

NESIC’s fundamental aim is to provide an innovative, regional, strategic solution to develop the market for social investment in the North East and to reduce disadvantage, deprivation and social need in the North East communities.

With a £110,000 investment from the North East Social Investment Fund, delivered via its fund manager Northstar Ventures, Smiles North East nursery, will provide 65 childcare places, create new jobs for local people and generate revenue which will be re-invested in BELP’s community projects.

Andrew Mitchell, Chair of the North East Social Investment Company, said: “At NESIC we are passionate about effecting real social change in the North East, whether this is by helping social enterprises, charities or community projects.

“The investment that we have provided to BELP has enabled it to deliver a much-needed resource to help local residents, and ultimately provide more support to the community by using the additional income from the nursery to fund its other much needed projects.”

In addition to day care provisions, Smiles will also run an after-school club, a holiday club during school breaks and a pre-school breakfast club. The aim is to encourage parents in the local area to engage more with BELP’s core activities while their children are at the nursery or school clubs.

The investment has been used to refurbish the property into a modern pre-school facility. The rooms have been designed specifically for different age groups to stimulate development and maximise educational opportunities.

Jenny Franklin, managing director at BELP and Smiles North East Limited, said: “Smiles will complement the activities of BELP by encouraging parents to take advantage of BELP’s programmes whilst their children benefit from the safe haven provided by the nursery.

“We needed flexible funding with on-going support to refurbish the building and set up the business. The North East Social Investment Fund has not only provided this, but they have enabled us to challenge ourselves and develop the skills we needed to be sustainable.

“Thanks to the funding, plus support from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, Tees Valley Community Foundation and our local community, the nursery is thriving, and we have high hopes for its future.  I would encourage any organisation wanting to pursue funding opportunities to have a conversation with Northstar Ventures to see how this sort of finance could help.”

The North East Social Investment Fund has a pot of £10m to support charities and social enterprises across the North East of England, where they might not be able to secure finance from traditional lenders. The fund is managed by NorthStar Ventures and backed by local and national organizations such The Community Foundation, Big Society Capital, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Northstar Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Northern Rock Foundation were founding funders of North East Social Investment Fund and their investment has now been taken over by the Community Foundation.