Dáil Éireann - Volume 524 - 12 October, 2000

Written Answers. - Social Economy Programme.

12. Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the main features of the recently announced social economy programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21576/00]

30. Ms Fitzgerald asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the key target groups and programme structure of the social economy programme; the number of places available under this programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21636/00]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney): I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 30 together.

I am pleased to say that I launched the new social economy programme on 18 September 2000. The programme arose from the Government decision in July 1999 on foot of the recommendations of the Partnership 2000 working group's report on the social economy. Following that decision a national monitoring committee representative of relevant Departments and the social partners was established.

The monitoring committee agreed the “Framework” for the operation of the new programme including the eligibility criteria and the local operating structures. Details on the social economy programme and the “Framework” are available on the Departments website at www.entemp.ie.

The main objectives of the social economy programme are to promote the emergence and consolidation of the social economy; to maximise the potential of the social economy to generate employment that is sustainable and of high quality, subject to labour market constraints; to regenerate both urban and rural communities by providing urgently needed local services, employment opportunities and experience for people who have been distanced from the labour market; and to promote equal opportunities between men and women.

The programme will be particularly targeted at disadvantaged communities and long-term unemployed persons.

Three categories of project will be funded under the social economy programme; community businesses, which are ultimately expected to be financed from trading income alone; deficient-demand social enterprises, where the demand for particular goods and services within a community is not matched by resources to pay for these due to disadvantage or low density of population; and enterprises based on public service contracts, where public services in disadvantaged areas and communities are subcontracted to local social economy enterprises.

[118] When fully operational, the programme will provide for an annual expenditure of £41 million per annum. A total of £213 million has been provided in the National Development Plan 2000-2006. The objective is to create employment for 2,500 by the end of 2003. The programme will be phased in over the coming years through the reallocation of funding from community employment and from the remodelling of the FÁS community enterprise programme.

Preparations are well advanced for the commencement of projects.

The programme will be operated by FÁS. Local working groups have been set up by FÁS to ensure the principle of partnership between statutory bodies, the social partners and local community and voluntary interests and to oversee the operation of the social economy programme at local level, including identifying and prioritising areas of social economy activity. Working groups will advise and make recommendations to FÁS on specific funding applications under the social economy programme.

Social economy enterprises will receive grant aid supports for up to a period of three years. These grants will include supports for employees, a manager, accountancy, training, capital and overheads.