What is a Social Firm?

A Social Firm is a specific type of Social Enterprise where the social mission is to create employment, work experience, training and volunteering opportunities, within a supportive and inclusive environment, for people who face significant barriers to employment – in particular, people with a disability (including mental ill health and learning disability) substance abuse issue, a prison record, homeless issue and young people.

  • Learn more about Social Firms

Social Firms

Social Firms operate in any market sector and they all offer an inclusive workplace environment where people are valued for their abilities, encouraged to participate and supported to achieve. People undertake meaningful work and contribute to the success of a real business.

Social Firms can act as a stepping stone for some people on their way to open employment, or serve as the ultimate employment goal for others who would have difficulty retaining a job in a mainstream company.

Social Firms significantly contribute to social inclusion, economic activity and health improvement. Because they are a business and earn a proportion of their income through trade, they are one effective solution for the employability and employment of people who experience significant barriers to work.

“I grew in confidence and independence and supported myself and my team”


of offenders enter employment upon release from prison

Centre for Mental Health. Employment support and addiction: what works. 2013

Starting a Social Firm

The development of Social Firms in Scotland has traditionally been approached in a number of ways:

  • New business start-up – where new businesses are started from scratch, occasionally replicating successful approaches elsewhere.
  • Transformation of charity projects – where voluntary or community organisations attempt to transform existing day care or employment-related projects.
  • Externalisation of public sector services – where existing public sector day care or employment-related services are
    moved out of public sector control and transformed into a Social Firm.
  • Social franchising – where individuals or organisations take on a licence or franchise of an already existing successful Social Firm and try to replicate that success.

We have a wide range of resources and information to assist you in starting a Social Firm. If you would like to learn more about the support we can provide you when starting a Social Firm, please read more about our services or contact us directly

0131 225 4178


  • Employment rate for people with disability (Scotland, 2015) *1 42% 42%
  • Employment rate for non-disabled people (Scotland, 2015) *1 80% 80%
  • People with a learning disability in employment who work more than 16 hours/week*2 5% 5%
  • People Crisis work with are in full time employment (5% work part-time) *3 2% 2%
*1 http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Equality/Equalities/DataGrid/Disability/DisabLab
*2 Keys To Life – Scotland’s learning disability strategy

*3 Crisis (2014) Crisis Skylight: an evaluation year 1 interim report

Working in a Social firm

Social Firms are an opportunity to:

  • Test the water and try working in a supportive environment, where people are understanding of your disability but focus on your ability
  • Adjust to a work routine and build up stamina
  • Achieve a job with real pay and all the associated social and economic benefits
  • Progress through the Social Firm – some people start off as trainees and move on to become supervisors within the business
  • Move in to the open labour market – for some a Social Firm is a stepping stone into mainstream employment but without the time limitations and pressure of some other initiatives

Read the stories of participants from our members:


of people on the autistic spectrum don't have full-time jobs

National Autistic Society. Facts and Statistics. 2009

“I did two months training and it took me two months to transfer off of benefits and into work. My manager is called Jane – she is very understanding and allows you to work at your own pace. I now have a full time job as a supervisor working sixteen hours per week’”