Shaw Trust CEO plans big expansion of commercial division

23 Feb 2010 News

The Shaw Trust is establishing an enterprise division that will set up trading companies that employ disabled people.

The Shaw Trust is establishing an enterprise division to set up trading companies that employ disabled people. 

The Trust, the UK’s biggest charity for getting disabled or long-term unemployed people into work, currently earns almost all its income from national contracts with central and local government departments, mainly the Department for Work and Pensions.

But Sally Burton, its new chief executive, wants a much more diverse range of income sources in order to spread the risks in an era of reduced public spending.

Her ideal revenue model is a triple-pronged strategy whereby the charity earns a third of its income from delivering national contracts, a third from helping government agencies design new approaches to solving problems, and a third from its new commercial arm.

“Almost every penny of our income is earned through government contracts at the moment,” said Burton. “But my dream is that these three strands become three equal parts of our business, so we have a much more balanced portfolio.”

The charity has some trading subsidiaries already but the division is still in its infancy and Burton wants to grow it quickly.

It already boasts a business that has won some contracts to maintain local parks on behalf of local authorities, employing disabled people alongside able-bodied. It also runs a book recycling company, and an enterprise that conducts website accessibility testing. Web Accessibility Services in Neath, South Wales, employs disabled people to test new websites, make recommendations for improving accessibility and then grant a kitemark when it meets required standards. This business boasts clients such as Sky, the BBC, NHS Choice and directgov.

Burton said the Trust could be market leader in this field, and not just in the English-speaking world.

The charity is currently recruiting for a commercial director to develop this part of the organisation.

Return to profit next year

The Shaw Trust made a £2.8m loss in 2008/09 compared with a surplus of £7.4m the previous year, even though turnover grew by £8.48m to £81.39m during the year.  The deficit was blamed on the high start-up costs of delivering Pathways to Work contracts for the DWP.

Burton said she expected the charity would “just about break even” this financial year and next year is predicted to return to surplus.

It is waiting to hear whether it has won tenders for the DWP’s Work Choice programme for disabled people, the successor to the Workstep scheme in which the Shaw Trust has historically delivered up to 40 per cent of the contracts nationwide.