Written answers

Thursday, 21 March 2024

Department of Rural and Community Development

Departmental Policies

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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344. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the role that her Department plays in promoting social innovation in communities to respond to environmental and demographic pressures, particularly in counties with higher old age profiles. [13550/24]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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My Department is responsible, in part, for the delivery of the Social Innovation Priority of the European Social Fund+ 2021-2027.

The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) is the European Union (EU)’s main instrument for investing in people and supporting the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

My Department's Social Innovation Programme is divided into two key delivery strands.

Firstly, the ‘Social Innovation for Inclusion’ programme will aim to support innovative approaches to the challenges faced by disadvantaged groups while also developing the social innovation ecosystem in Ireland. The Programme will have a specific focus on:

  • Increasing access to employment for disadvantaged groups who are distant from the labour market;
  • Increasing access to education for disadvantaged groups;
  • Personal and social development of young people most at risk of poverty and social exclusion;
  • Harnessing the potential of sport for personal development and social inclusion of disadvantaged groups;
  • Capacity building of organisations involved in social innovation; and
  • Awareness raising of social innovation.
In December 2023, Pobal was appointed to support the Department in delivering this programme and a call for applications is currently being finalised.

Secondly, the ESF+ co-funded ‘Achieve Together Social Innovation Coaching and Mentoring Programme’ is being designed by my department in conjunction with Pobal. This programme will offer coaching and mentoring supports to over 420 social economy organisations currently funded under the CSP Programme, across the country. Many of these organisations provide social services, including to older citizens. The supported organisations will benefit from business development expertise, to test and scale up their innovative social service models to provide an enhanced service to their service users. The objective is to provide mentors and coaches for a 12 month period to facilitate, support, encourage and inspire organisations to attain their social innovation goals.

In addition, Rethink Ireland (formerly Social Innovation Fund Irealnd) has been funded from the Dormant Accounts Fund through contractual funding arrangements since its creation in 2013. The current five-year contract between Rethink Ireland and my Department runs from January 2021 to December 2025 and provides match funding to a maximum of €5.5m per annum. In 2023, my Department provided a total of €5.5m to Rethink from the Dormant Accounts Fund.

To date, with philanthropic and Government support, Rethink Ireland has created a €96 million Social Innovation Fund and created 54 individual funds across five key themes of Health, Education, Equality, Social Enterprise, and Climate, supporting 415 social innovations. These funds have reached over 829,000 people and supported 2,700 people into employment. During 2023, Rethink supported 143 awardees with a total Fund value of approximately €41 million.


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