Two Northern Ireland businesses last night won the top prizes at the Social Enterprise Awards at the Indigo O2 Arena in London. Newington Credit Union was presented with the Social Enterprise of the Year Award, while John McMullan, Chief Executive of Bryson Charitable Group won the Social Enterprise Leader of the Year Award.
As a result of winning this award Newington Credit Union will receive £10,000 worth of vital business support from sponsors, CAN, which will help it measure the social and economic impact of its work.
It is the first time that companies from Northern Ireland have received awards at this prestigious annual event, which celebrates the achievements of the UK’s most successful social enterprises.
More than 500 people involved in social enterprises throughout the UK, gathered for the awards reception. This year’s awards have been more hotly contested than ever before, with a record number of entrants taking part.
A third Northern Ireland company, Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre, based in Enniskillen was a runner-up in the Start-up of the Year Award.
Dennis Loughran, a Director of Newington Credit Union was delighted that the business has received nationwide recognition for its work in helping to improve social and economic conditions in one of Belfast’s most disadvantaged areas.
He said: “It is a shot in the arm for credit unions and the work they do. We consider ourselves to be leaders in social economy. We have a membership of 10,000 people and are always looking to extend that and to help the local community with their financial problems.”
John McMullan received his award in recognition of his role in Bryson Charitable Group, which tackles issues such as social care; energy efficiency and fuel poverty; training services for people in unemployment; supporting ethnic minority families/communities and recycling.
He said: “It is great news that there have been two winners from Northern Ireland. It recognises the high quality and value of social enterprises. It is a huge part of the Northern Irish economy that is not being sufficiently recognised. I think these awards will shine a light on social economy in Northern Ireland and help it to grow. “
Audrey Murray, Social Economy Network Chair congratulated the two Northern Ireland winners. She said: “To win the two top awards is a fantastic achievement for the social enterprise sector in Northern Ireland and it shows that we are being recognised throughout the UK as models of good practice.
“The businesses that have been awarded are really making a difference to the local community. These awards highlight the role that social enterprises play as part of the solution to our current economic problems. “