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A SUFFOLK-based business which helps get unemployed people back into work through a community gardening scheme has received an award as the UK’s fasted-growing social enterprise.

Mow & Grow, based in Lowestoft, is among the organisations included in the RBS SE100, a new index compiled by Royal Bank of Scotland tracking the growth of social businesses.

And with its turnover of more than �1.2million for the last year representing a 710% rate of growth, Mow & Grow is named as the report’s national Growth Champion.

Mow & Grow offers gardening services to the elderly and other vulnerable people, with the work being carried by those disadvantaged in the labour market and the community in general, including ex-offenders and the long-term unemployed.

Individuals are referred to its network of franchisees across the country by agencies such as Connexions, the YMCA, JobCentrePlus, the police, the probation service and local colleges.

They embark on a life skills course, incorporated with on-the-job training in gardening and horticulture, so that they gain confidence and, in many cases, qualifications which enable them to obtain conventional employment.

Mow & Grow is part of the Grow Organisation UK group of companies, each offering a wide range of services and training opportunities. Chief executive Alex Cosgrove said: “Each operation is a social enterprise in its own right delivering the same successful model as the original Mow & Grow.

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“We engage people by offering them something they enjoy doing and offering recognised training and transferable qualifications, teaching new skills and showing them they are valued.”

The RBS SE100 Index was developed last year by Social Enterprise in partnership with RBS Community Banking.

Ian Cowie, chief executive for business and commercial banking at RBS, said: “RBS has been committed to the social enterprise market in UK for over a decade, and we are thrilled to be driving this pioneering initiative.”