Barclays launches nationwide drive to boost small businesses, as over a quarter of SMEs say their mental wellbeing has declined during the pandemic

Hannah and Nisha1

Barclays has launched a package of support aimed at boosting small businesses, with the bank set to host 50 masterclasses a month this year across the UK, which will focus on managing cash flow, business growth and support for wellbeing.

The classes are open to all small business owners, with national events focused on the hospitality and care home sectors.

The nationwide drive is in response to new research conducted by Barclays, which has highlighted the impact of the pandemic on small business owners, with over a quarter revealing that their mental health has declined.

Over the last two years, more than 80 per cent of South West small businesses that took on debt did so for the first time, the majority through Government lending schemes. Barclays facilitated over £13 billion through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme to small businesses.

And whilst almost 70 per cent of small businesses in the South West surveyed are optimistic about the future of their business and are confident they will repay, four in ten say that taking on debt for the first time made them feel anxious or worried. Three fifths (58 per cent) of businesses are also owed money from late payments, with unpaid invoices constraining cash flow.2

Barclays is teaming up with Nisha Katona MBE, owner of Mowgli Street Food restaurants, including eateries in Bristol and Cheltenham to raise awareness of their new support package for small businesses.

Nisha Katona MBE, CEO of Mowgli Street Food restaurants and founder of the Mowgli Trust charity, said: “Hospitality businesses have had a really rough time throughout the pandemic. My team are like family and our number one priority during lockdown when we mothballed the company was to phone them regularly to check if they were ok, and ask what more we could do to support their emotional needs. We encouraged people to try to enjoy their time off and told them their jobs would be waiting.

“The first thing to do if you’re worried about your finances is to go and get help. One of the things about this pandemic is that it’s made many more people understand what it’s like to be in debt. Business owners are part of a great fraternity and there is no shame on calling upon support, whether that be from friends or family, or your bank.”

Hannah Bernard, Head of Business Banking at Barclays, said: “Everyone at Barclays is incredibly passionate about supporting small businesses the length and breadth of the UK. Our number one priority is to help businesses to not just recover from the pandemic, but to make a solid growth plan for the future.

“There is no one size fits all solution to the challenge, but we hope the steps we’ve taken to provide hundreds of expert masterclasses and hire additional colleagues will make a real difference.

“We’re here to help, and we want any business owner who might be worried about the future of their business to reach out to us early.”

To sign up for one of the masterclasses, visit: https://labs.barclays/business-health-hub