SMEs are the lifeblood of our economy and if your company is struggling to recover you’re not alone. After many months of lockdown, restrictions in place and lost sales due to COVID measures it’s no wonder most small businesses are on life support.

There is hope however.

As more and more of the UK gradually returns to normal, and lockdowns are being lifted, anxious small and medium-sized companies are looking to make up for lost time.

To boost recovery and jump start business growth once more, government has made available 3 new support measures. These new schemes will help SMEs boost productivity, acquire digital skills, reach new customers and access much needed funding to support their operations.

If you’re a small business owner here are 3 new government support measures you should be aware of.

Help to Grow Scheme

The Help to Grow scheme aims to provide access to management training, technology advice, discounted software and mentoring for small businesses across the UK.

The £520m scheme hopes to close the productivity gap with other G7 countries like the US, France and Japan by giving SMEs the help they need to reach new customers, learn new skills and boost their profits.

This plan is designed not only to improve productivity but also create new opportunities that would otherwise be unaffordable to smaller companies. It is expected to add £100 billion to the UK economy.

In his announcement Rishi Sunak said: “Our brilliant SMEs are the backbone of our economy, creating jobs and generating prosperity – so it’s vital they can access the tools they need to succeed. Help to Grow will ensure they are embracing the latest technology and management training, fueling our Plan for Jobs by boosting productivity in all corners of the UK.”

The scheme is comprised of two programmes:

  • Help to Grow: Management
  • Help to Grow: Digital

Help to Grow: Management

This June, small business owners will have access to a 12-week programme delivered by leading UK Business Schools. The program includes a practical curriculum and 1:1 support from industry experts in order for participants to further develop their strategic skills with key modules covering finance management, innovation and digital adoption.

By the end of this course participants will be able to draft personalised growth plans tailored specifically to their business which can lead their company to its full potential. The programme is 90% subsidised by the government so registrants will only have to pay £750.

In order to be eligible you must have been operating for at least one year, based in the UK, have between 5 and 249 employees and not be a charity. You must also be either a director or key decision maker in the business. You can register for the programme here.

Help to Grow: Digital

The Digital part of the Help to Grow scheme will launch in the autumn. It’s expected to be an online platform that will give businesses advice on how to use technology to boost their performance.

Some businesses may also qualify for a voucher, which would allow them access to approved software at up 50% off what they might have paid otherwise — potentially saving them as much £5,000 over time!

The government says these discounts are meant to help business owners get started with new technology and help small businesses build customer relationships and increase sales, make the most of selling online and manage their accounts and finances digitally.

The free online advice platform will be available to all businesses regardless of size. In order to qualify for a voucher your company will have to meet similar requirements to the Help to Grow: Management programme.

That is, have been trading for more than 12 month, be registered with Companies House and have between 5 and 249 employees. The full eligibility details are expected to be released later this summer.

Restart Grant

The Restart Grant scheme aims to support businesses that offer in-person services to reopen safely as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

The new scheme is set to replace the monthly Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) and Local Restrictions Support Grant (Open) both of which closed at the end of March. It is said about 700,000 small businesses in England would be eligible for the grant.

Grants of up to £6,000 or £18,000 may be available from 1 April 2021 for eligible business owners depending on the sector they find themselves working within.

Non essential retail businesses can claim up to £6,000 while eligible businesses in the hospitality, accommodation, leisure and gym sectors can get up to a £18,000 one-time cash grant from their local council.

To be eligible for the Restart Grant your business must be based in England, be rate paying, be trading as of 1 April 2021 and be part of the non-essential retail, hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care or gym sectors.

Eligibility remains at the discretion of Local councils whether or not your business meets the criteria. Also, you won’t be able to get funding if your company is currently in insolvency, administration or has been struck off the Companies House Register.

To apply, you must visit your local council website. You can find your local council here.

Recovery Loan Scheme

The Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) is a government scheme to help businesses affected by coronavirus to access financial support so they can recover from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and grow their company. Finance can be used for any legitimate business purpose, such as managing cash flow, investment and growth as long as you can afford to take on additional debt.

The scheme takes over and replaces the Bounce Back Loans Scheme (BBLS) and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme (CBILS) which both ended on 31 March 2021. The scheme opened on 6 April and is set to last until 31 December 2021.

How it works:
Businesses of any size and in any sector can apply for a loan of up to £10 million from a list of accredited lenders. The facilities provided are either term loan, overdraft, invoice finance or asset finance. Minimum facility size varies, starting from £1,000 for asset and invoice finance, and £25,001 for term loans and overdrafts.

The outstanding balance of the facility is backed by the government but you, as the borrower, always remains 100% liable for the debt. If you’re borrowing less than £250,000 the lender won’t ask you for any personal guarantees. Above this amount it will be at the lender’s discretion, however Principal Private Residences will never be taken as security.

Eligibility criteria:
To be eligible your business must be trading in the UK and you must show that it would be viable were it not for the pandemic, has been negatively impacted by the pandemic and is not in collective insolvency proceeding.

If your business has already borrowed from any of the other coronavirus loan schemes the RLS is still open to you but that may limit the amount you can borrow.

There are some exclusions as to the type of businesses who can access the Recovery Loan Scheme. Namely if you are a bank, building society, insurer, or reinsurer (but not insurance broker), a public-sector body or state-funded primary and secondary school then the RLS is not available to you.

If you need help

If you need assistance in applying for any of the programs don’t hesitate to contact us. Our London accountants are here to support you and your business recover from any downturn because of the Coronavirus pandemic. To get started you can request a quote here and and one of our accountants will get back to you shortly.