The Community Services Programme provides funding to community businesses to address local social needs and is managed by Pobal for the Irish Government.
The Community Services Programme (CSP) arose out of a policy decision by the Irish Government in 2000 that noted ‘there is a clear case for developing the social economy in the context of combating disadvantage and with the aim of regenerating communities’. The purpose of the Programme is to support voluntary and community organisations to provide essential services and businesses to their communities with services designed to:
• Alleviate disadvantage
• Promote sustainable social and economic development
• Provide employment for those most distant from the labour market.
• Strengthen local ownership through participation in decision-making.
The funding provided to service providers is expressed as a fixed annual co-funding contribution towards the costs of employing a manager and/or a specified number of full time equivalent positions (FTEs).
Within its broader purpose, CSP funding is focussed on certain priority activities and disadvantaged sectors of the population. Supported initiatives can be generally categorised as:
• Community Services, which includes services targeted at older people, Travellers and people with disabilities.
• Community Enterprises, which employ people most distant from the labour market e.g. people with disabilities, recovering drug mis-users, People with convictions, Immigrants (legally allowed to work in Ireland).
• Community halls and facilities
The programme is managed by Pobal on behalf of the Irish Government and staff allocation to support the programme is currently 25 full time equivalents spread across a number of roles.
Funding to services is expressed as a fixed annual co-funding contribution towards the costs of employment.
Evidence of success
Since its creation CSP has contributed circa €600 million to over 500 community businesses, averaging 400 services and €46 million per annum. Funding has allowed community businesses develop their social enterprise and provide an additional 830 full and part-time staff through their traded income. This is on top of the 300 managers and 1,700 full time equivalents per annum supported directly from the programme in long-term employment. 70% all employees come from a welfare payment category.
Some of the challenges encountered consist of:
Rural isolation and sparsely populated areas.
Sustainability of some.
Lack of understanding of social enterprise by some.
Inability of some services to pay the living wages.
Understanding their business model.
Potential for learning or transfer
CSP provides long-term employment to people formerly long-term-unemployed.
CSP responds to local community needs that have identified a social problem and have developed a local solution to the problem. It supports and develops local participation on governance structures. Ownership is in the hands of local people and not government, social services or private for profit individuals/organisations.
CSP provides business supports to assist organisations to understand and work from a social enterprise model i.e. through a co-funding model approach and for example, the provision of 1-2-1 business coaching supports to those with sustainability issues. This involves a business coach working with the board and senior management of individual services to address viability and other concerns so that services move forward on a path to sustainability. The service is nominated through case management to participate in the coaching but they can also request it themselves.
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