I am very appreciative of those who have helped deliver our programme of support to the Armed Forces Community over the past year. Our partners, clients, and beneficiaries have all helped to cultivate and grow support within the community. Last year we put in place the building blocks for greater peer-to-peer support through our brand new platform, the XFE Knowledge Exchange Hub, and the continued expansion of our free training programmes. Despite a pandemic, this year we have supported even greater numbers of beneficiaries, as evidenced by the figures in our report.
We have also continued to provide access to funding, through our partnership with British Business Bank, for those in the community looking for debt finance that cannot be achieved through their own traditional banking channels.
This year’s activity report highlights some of the ‘specialist’ projects which, as a social enterprise, have become part of our DNA, such as the Cadets in Enterprise programme which continued in 2019-20.
Further to that is a project that touches on a topic near and dear to my heart, empowering women in entrepreneurship. This year has seen the refinement of our Spouses, Partners & Family members Programme, supporting three cohorts already, with plans to offer a monthly programme for Spouses in 2021. To date, around 30% of our beneficiaries have been female entrepreneurs, a higher percentage than the national average of women in business.
The Activity Report also cites our success in spearheading the National Insurance Contribution Tax Relief for employers of Veterans, the building blocks for which were laid through research carried out over the past three years with Warwick Institute for Employment Research (WIER), Qinetiq and the Forces in Mind Trust. My position as National Armed Forces Champion for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) enabled us to take the research and lobby – in conjunction with FSB and the COBSEO Employment Cluster – for this policy to be enshrined in the Conservative manifesto.
This became our third policy change success and, significantly, led to XFE’s engagement with the consultation process for its implementation. Whilst this benefits our own veteran-owned businesses, it also has massive benefits for many SME employers across the country. A new, but related project – that we are co-funding – concerns supporting employment for Veterans through membership bodies, the results of which we look forward to publishing in next year’s Activity Report.
We hope you enjoy reading the 2019/20 report. It’s been a challenging year for all, and we’re so proud that we’re still able to support our Armed Forces community, and, through our new initiatives, to see the community supporting the community. Knowledge, support and information are crucial right now to anyone in business or looking to go into self-employment, and we will be there, with the incredible support of our corporate and charity partners, to provide all of that and more throughout 2021.