My Department is at an advanced stage in developing Ireland’s first National Policy on Social Enterprise.
The development of the policy is underpinned by a research and consultation exercise which was conducted by my Department in partnership with the Social Finance Foundation. The aim of this research was to better understand the social enterprise sector in Ireland and to identify the issues that need to be addressed to enable the sector to develop and grow.
A Steering Group, which included practitioners from the social enterprise sector and key Government Departments, was established to oversee the research. As part of the research project, three consultation workshops were held in Dublin, Cork and Athlone, to obtain the views of stakeholders. An average of 40 people attended each workshop.
In addition, an on-line survey was carried out which was open to all interested parties. A series of meetings was also held with relevant Government Departments and other stakeholders on specific thematic issues, and my officials also have visited and met with many individual social enterprises and social entrepreneurs.
A draft of the Social Enterprise Policy will be published shortly for public consultation, with a view to the final policy document being published in the first quarter of 2019.
My Department is also working closely with the wider Community and Voluntary sector to develop a new Implementation Plan for the Policy Framework for Local and Community Development.
Taken together, the two documents will support the full range of organisations that are providing services to communities or tackling social issues, whether through a social enterprise model or through more traditional community service delivery.
Notwithstanding the timelines for the publication of the policy, my Department is already actively working to support the social enterprise sector. For example, my Department provides funding for social enterprises through the Dormant Accounts Fund, SICAP, LEADER and the CSP programmes. My Department has also recently taken a seat on the newly established EU Expert Group on Social Economy and Social Enterprises, to represent Ireland's interest at EU level.