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Social enterprise NOW wins top social enterprise accolade

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Staff and Service users of NOW Group celebrate after winning big at the Social Enterprise Awards Northern Ireland 2014. NOW Group’s CEO Maeve Monaghan (pictured front far right) named Social Enterprise Women’s Champion.

Staff and Service users of NOW Group celebrate after winning big at the Social Enterprise Awards Northern Ireland 2014. NOW Group’s CEO Maeve Monaghan (pictured front far right) named Social Enterprise Women’s Champion.

Staff and Service users of NOW Group celebrate after winning big at the Social Enterprise Awards Northern Ireland 2014. NOW Group’s CEO Maeve Monaghan (pictured front far right) named Social Enterprise Women’s Champion.

A social enterprise which gives training and employment to people with learning difficulties has won the biggest accolade for the sector.

NOW, which is based on Belfast's Springfield Road and runs a number of cafes, was named as Northern Ireland Social Enterprise of the Year at a ceremony at Belfast's Hilton Hotel.

The event was held to celebrate the best of the sector, in which companies re-invest any profits they make for the good of society.

Juliet Cornford, director of Social Enterprise NI, congratulated NOW for its achievements.

She said it had implemented "a strong social enterprise model creating real jobs for those who are often described as furthest from the labour market".

She added: "Its catering arm, LOAF, has seen significant growth in the last 12 months, and its successful tender to run The Bobbin cafe in Belfast City Hall has helped to build the public profile of its own organisation."

NOW, which is led by Maeve Monaghan, also recently bought the Oak Bar and Hive on the Grosvenor Road.

Including The Bobbin, it also operates cafes at the Maureen Sheehan Centre in Albert Street in Belfast, Belfast Met's Millennium Building and Springvale Learning.

There were five other category winners on the night, including Christian charity Vineyard Compassion, which took home the 'one to watch' prize.

Counselling service Carecall was the winner in the 'health and social care social enterprise' sector and it also triumphed in the 'consumer-facing social enterprise' category.

Andrew McCormick, permanent secretary at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, said: "With social enterprise playing an increasingly significant role in our economy, it is important that the efforts of the sector are rightfully acknowledged and rewarded. Each of this year's awards nominations reflect the exceptional work currently taking place in a wide range of social enterprises and which is having a real impact in communities throughout Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph