I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 84 together.
Social enterprises make an important contribution to Ireland's social and economic progress. They deliver a range of services to support communities and disadvantaged individuals and use innovative and creative approaches to address social, economic and environmental challenges.
As the Deputies may be aware, there have been calls for a national policy to support social enterprise for many years. I am pleased to say that my Department is now at an advanced stage in developing Ireland’s first national policy on social enterprise.
The policy is underpinned by a research and consultation exercise which was conducted by my Department in partnership with the Social Finance Foundation. The research project was overseen by a steering group which included practitioners from social enterprises and key Departments.
As part of the research project, three consultation workshops were held in Dublin, Cork and Athlone at the end of 2017 in order to obtain the views of stakeholders. In addition, an online survey was carried out which was open to all interested parties. A series of meetings was also held with relevant Departments and other stakeholders on specific issues and my officials have visited and met many individual social enterprises and social entrepreneurs.
In recent weeks' my Department has engaged in intensive and detailed discussions with a broad range of social enterprise stakeholders and with the wider community and voluntary sector.
I now anticipate that a draft of the social enterprise policy will be published for public consultation in the coming weeks, with a view to publication of the final policy document in the middle of the year.
The policy will be complemented by the implementation plan for the framework policy for local and community development and the new national volunteering strategy, both of which are also being developed by my Department.
Taken together, this suite of initiatives will support the full range of organisations providing services to communities or tackling social issues, whether through a social enterprise model or through more traditional community services delivery.