Help to Grow initiative falling flat

Read about our recommendations to improve this support initiative for SMEs

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If you haven’t come across the government’s Help to Grow initiative you are not alone. Take up has been poor with under 10% of the targeted 30,000 SMEs registering so far for either the:

The scheme, which opened for applications in May 2021, is designed to address sluggish productivity among SMEs, which is seen by economists as a barrier to long-term growth.

But the criteria – especially employee numbers – as well as the limits to accounting software in the digital scheme resulted in ACCA asking for change so you and the businesses you support would consider the scheme.

These are some of the recommendations we made:

Reduce the eligibility threshold

As with the Help to Grow: Management scheme, the digital scheme for small businesses needlessly excludes over 90% of small businesses from participating by only being eligible to those employing five or more people. This should be reduced to one to broaden eligibility to a much larger pool of talent and to recognise that those who have taken the step of employing their first member of staff are most likely to benefit from digital adoption, are most likely to realise productivity gains and are most likely to grow.

Widen the range of providers available

There is a very short list of suppliers for users to choose from. For example, in the accountancy field only three different providers, Sage, Crunch and Intuit, are listed. In comparison, HMRC lists more than 500 software suppliers as being compatible for its Making Tax Digital programme, including over 40 self-assessment commercial software suppliers.

Widen the types of software available

CRM and e-commerce software is currently covered by the scheme but Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), which is inextricably linked with CRM and just as important, is not. Accounting software is also covered but only in its most basic form; planning and forecasting software, vital for improved productivity and growth, is not.

Widen the vendor cohort

Resellers and partner networks are specifically excluded despite their obvious importance and considerable experience in this area. This unnecessarily excludes an army of potential recruiters for the scheme.

Broaden the range of costs for which the £5,000 of available funding can cover

This will not result in any increased costs for the taxpayer as the £5,000 limit will remain in place, but it will greatly enhance the effectiveness and participation rates for the scheme. At present only licensing costs are covered, the smallest cost in adopting digital technology, compared to the far greater costs of installation, training and advice/consultation.

You can download our letter to Paul Scully, minister for small business, consumers and labour markets, and Lord Callanan, Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, minister for climate change and corporate responsibility.

You can also use ACCA’s guide as a marketing tool for your practice by highlighting the information to your clients.