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The Chancellor Rishi Sunak

Firms could save up to £5,000 with government software scheme


A new government scheme offering discounts for small businesses looking to adopt digital accounting or CRM tools for the first time has opened.

27th Jan 2022
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Launched on 20 January, the Help to Grow: Digital scheme aims to assist eligible businesses choose, buy and adopt digital technologies by providing advice and money off accounting and CRM software licences.

Through a government portal on the Help to Grow: Digital website, eligible businesses can apply for a one-time discount of up to 50% on the costs of buying approved software, worth up to £5,000.

The offer covers one discount towards the purchase of 12 months of approved software product ‘core costs’, up to a maximum of £5,000 (not including VAT). 

Companies registered in the UK that are a year old or more and employ between five and 249 people are eligible for the discount. They must also be purchasing the approved software for the first time, although some technology upgrades are permitted for approved product categories - full eligibility criteria are available on the scheme’s guidance page. There are currently no restrictions on firms applying from different sectors.

At the time of writing, only three vendors appear in the ‘digital accounting software’ section of the scheme’s product page: Sage Business Cloud, QuickBooks Online and Crunch Pro. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) providers listed include Capsule, Zymplify, Livepoint. Esteiro and Deskpro. It is currently unclear how vendors were selected for the scheme.

The Help to Grow site promises that additional products, including e-Commerce software, are expected to become available for ‘digital discounts’ soon.

Businesses can also use the scheme’s new online platform to access videos and advice articles on how to choose the right digital technologies. A tool is also available to help less experienced applicants discover what services they could use, although businesses will have to enter additional information such as how they typically engage with customers and the size of their IT teams.

A release accompanying the scheme claimed businesses that adopt digital accounting software see on average an 11.8% increase in employee sales over three years, evidencing this with a link to a 2018 study by the Enterprise Research Centre.

Trailed in the Chancellor’s 2021 Budget and run by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the digital scheme runs alongside the existing Help to Grow: Management programme, which features a 90% government-funded 12-week management course costing businesses £750. The government has faced calls to widen the criteria of the management scheme, as only 810 people had signed up to the programme by October 2021, despite there being 30,000 places available.

Replies (7)

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By Hugo Fair
27th Jan 2022 00:23

This is a pure exemplar of how such a scheme should NOT be put together:

1. Businesses below a certain level of size won't get a worthwhile return (even if you believe the arbitrary "average 11.8% increase in employee sales over three years" - particularly when you take account of their investment in time (and indirect costs) to get these systems up and running in any meaningful manner.

2. Conversely, businesses above that size might well get a decent return from implementing these systems - but are well able to afford the £5k yr1 costs and would be buying without the inducement of a backhander from the taxpayer (aka you and me).

Or to put it more simply, those SMEs that think they're getting a £5k handout will be in for a rude shock when they look at the scheme details and find that they'll have to cough up £7k of their own money on top of the 'discount'.
This isn't going to motivate them to investigate options that don't matter to them in the first place ... whereas those that truly believe this is the way to go will be doing so anyway, so the bribe is just a waste of our money.

Frankly this reeks at best of smoke & mirrors, and at worst of cronyism for a few 'supporters'.

The only advocates of the "Help to Grow: Management programme" whom I've encountered have been the snake-oil salespeople clogging up my email inbox (and lying to staff on the phone in order to get put through to me) - and were typically employed by organisations with less knowledge of Management competences than the proverbial MDTP!

P.S: do please visit their website. The under-5 yr old audience for whom it appears to have been designed may like the pretty blocks of colour, but I've rarely seen anything less attractive to a busy business person. Sums it up really!

Thanks (1)
By stepurhan
27th Jan 2022 08:34

"All UK businesses.....that have a registered office. "

So no self-employed or partnerships, nor anyone that has rental property.

"Between 5 and 249 employees"

So no small companies run by 1 to 3 directors that would benefit most from the support.

Good to see the ongoing practice of not targeting support to the people most in need is continuing.

Thanks (4)
John Toon
By John Toon
27th Jan 2022 18:04

The list of approved suppliers is slim pickings for any business looking for a decent system

Thanks (0)
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
28th Jan 2022 09:30

its a classic government funding announcement.

Sounds good.............but it will pay out a fraction of the sum pledged. There seems a very long history of this tactic in the past 10 years.

I imagine that is however the entire point, the scheme seems to have been cynically designed to ensure the only business who might be interested will already being doing this.

No wonder hardly any suppliers have signed up - laughably including QBO which would be wholly unsuitable to businesses of this size.

Thanks (0)
Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
By Winnie Wiggleroom
30th Jan 2022 09:07

The inclusion of QBO baffled me, even if you are going to use it for a business this size (which you are not) would you really go through the hassle of applying for such a meagre saving.

When I first heard the announcement I thought that sounds good, but when it comes to the detail its a complete waste of time for 99.9% of businesses.

All mouth and no trousers

Thanks (0)
By Accountant101A
31st Jan 2022 14:57

Couldn't agree more with the previous replies.

As far as I can see it is imposible to claim the £5,000 for software as all the products on the website are subscription based and you can only claim 12 months costs. E.g. Most expensive Sage product is £30 pm - £360pa x 50% grant - a grand total of £180!

Crunch is on there and has included the cost of its accountancy support, which is not software at all.

I was so frustrated with the poor design of this scheme I even completed their survey!

Thanks (0)
By D V Fields
01st Feb 2022 11:49

So the cost of going digital for MTD purposes might not be the couple of pound sterling we thought!

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