Small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) business owners are lacking awareness and understanding of the government support schemes on offer, research has revealed.
Nucleus Commercial Finance’s survey of 500 SMEs found that 18 per cent have no awareness at all of any of the schemes available, while 23 per cent are aware of at least one of the schemes on offer but know nothing about how these can support their business in the future.
19 per cent of SME leaders are unaware of the recovery loan scheme and over a quarter (26 per cent) know of the scheme but not how it could support their business.
Three in 10 (28 per cent) of SME business leaders are unaware of the recently introduced help to grow scheme and the restart grant.
Despite the knowledge gap, nearly a fifth (18 per cent) of SME business owners are considering or planning to apply for the help to grow scheme, 16 per cent for the recovery loan scheme and 15 per cent for the restart grant.
The research also showed that younger business leaders are more knowledgeable about the various government support measures. Half of those aged 18 to 34 are aware of the help to grow scheme and how it could support their business, compared to 19 per cent for those aged 35 to 54 and 12 per cent for those aged over 55.
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Similarly, over a third (34 per cent) of younger business leaders are aware of the recovery loan scheme and how it can support them, compared to just 17 per cent of over 55s.
Despite the various government support programmes, nearly six in 10 (58 per cent) of SME business owners believe the government needs to do more to support SMEs, while 57 per cent are calling for more practical and coaching support from the government.
“During challenging times like these, access to financial support is vital,” said Chirag Shah, chief executive of Nucleus Commercial Finance.
“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.”