A report on the Social Enterprise sector in Ireland was published by Forfas in July 2013. The report, “Social Enterprise in Ireland: Sectoral Opportunities and Policy Issues”, profiles the sector and contains a number of recommendations for actions that could be taken to support the development of Social Enterprise in Ireland.
It is clear from the Forfas report that there are many different types of social enterprises in Ireland engaged in a wide variety of activities. These range from enterprises that are fully supported by State, through to a small number of commercially trading companies. The Forfas report indicated that of 1,400 Social Enterprises in Ireland in 2009, almost two-thirds did not generate any trading income.
Another feature highlighted in the report is that a number of Government Departments and agencies are engaged with the Social Enterprise sector, including the Departments of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Social Protection, and Health.
Following publication of the Forfas report, the Taoiseach assigned responsibility for cross-Departmental development of the Social Enterprise sector to Minister of State Sean Sherlock on a personal basis. Minister Sherlock established an inter-departmental group last October to provide a coordinated Government approach to the development of social enterprise in Ireland and to examine the recommendations of the Forfás report in greater detail with a view to their implementation. The Inter-Departmental Group is supported from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.
A number of actions have been identified by the Group and are being progressed. These include:
- Inclusion of support for social enterprises in the new Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme, under the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, which will be effective from January 2015.
- The Group is exploring mechanisms to develop capacity in the sector and examine how best to access EU funds e.g. the new EU Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) programme has a Microfinance and Social Entrepreneurship axis dedicated to support for access to micro-finance and social entrepreneurship.
- Discussions with the Central Statistics Office have taken place on the inclusion of Social Enterprise in CSO data collection. The Group has also engaged with representatives from Credit Unions to discuss supports for Social Enterprises.
- Initial contact has also taken place with the Office of Government Procurement to examine the scope for inclusion of Social Impact Clauses in Public Procurement.
- The new Local Enterprise Offices have been established and will act as the first-stop-shop and sign-posting service to any enterprise that is commercially viable and meets the eligibility criteria set down by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation.