As SMEs prepare for the next easing of lockdown restrictions, business owners across the country are still looking to the government for further support.
However new research has revealed business owners are lacking awareness and understanding of the government support schemes on offer.
The research of SME leaders found nearly one in four are aware of at least one of the schemes on offer but worryingly know nothing about how these schemes can support their business in the future. A further 18% have no awareness at all of at least one of the schemes available.
Despite the various schemes introduced by the government, nearly six in 10 believe the government needs to do more to support SMEs, while 57% are calling for more practical and coaching support from the government.
Three in 10 business leaders are unaware of the recently introduced Help to Grow Scheme and the Re Start Grant, while one in five have no awareness of the Recovery Loan Scheme, which replaced the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme on 6th April.
Despite the knowledge gap, nearly a fifth of SME leaders are considering or planning to apply for the Help to Grow Scheme, 16% for the Recovery Loan Scheme and 15% for the Restart Grant.
The research revealed significant differences between awareness and understanding based on a business owner’s age, with younger business leaders being more clued up about the various government support measures. Half of those aged 18-34 are aware of the Help to Grow scheme and how it could support their business, compared to 19% for those aged 35-54, and 12% for those aged over 55. Similarly, over a third of younger business leaders are aware of the Recovery Loan scheme and how it can support them, compared to just 17% of over 55s.
Chirag Shah, CEO, Nucleus Commercial Finance, who commissioned the research, comments: “During challenging times like these, access to financial support is vital. While the government has demonstrated its commitment to helping British businesses throughout the pandemic, it’s evident that more education is needed so SMEs have a clear understanding of how the support schemes can help their business.
“As we enter the next stage of the lockdown exit strategy, SMEs will need more support than ever. They will be facing difficult decisions about the reopening of their businesses, both practical and financial, and need somewhere to turn to. This is where government and industry have a crucial role to play, and must work collaboratively to communicate how these schemes can help businesses not only survive, but thrive following the pandemic. We believe that the alternative finance industry will be paramount in not only providing businesses with access to the flexible finance they need to recover, but deliver the funds quickly too.”