AN advisory panel has been launched to help maximise the contribution of Liverpool City Region's "burgeoning social sector".

The Social and Solidarity Economy Reference Panel - featuring leaders from community and socially trading organisations across Merseyside - will advise Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and authority policymakers on how to help the sector as the region's economy recovers from the effects of Covid-19.

The sector supports 50,000 jobs locally and generates £2.9billion a year for the local economy yet, until now, its contribution to the city region has often been overshadowed by a focus on the commercial sector.

Boosting the community and social sector has been identified as a key part of the city region’s economic recovery plan and the Panel will provide a vital voice for the sector moving forward.

The panel's establishment follows last month's commitment of £6.5 million of Combined Authority funding to establish Kindred, a social investment vehicle that aims to support the growth of the social economy in the Liverpool City Region.

The sector has also seen nearly £2 million distributed to community organisations since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, through the LCR Cares Fund.

Launching the panel Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: "Our region’s social and solidarity economy has long been an underappreciated success story in our region, employing 50,000 people and generating nearly £3bn in economic and social value every year.

"Unfortunately, this success has too often been overlooked because of a focus on the commercial sector.

"I do not want our third sector to feel overlooked or ignored. It is the reason I have been working closely with them to support our communities through the past few months and to help draw up my plans for our region’s recovery in the post-pandemic world.

"I'm launching this panel to ensure that the social and solidarity economy will always have a strong voice and input that should help see the sector flourish and grow in the years ahead."