Minister Sherlock Tasked with Leading Government Action on Social Enterprise Sector

The Minister of State for Research and Innovation, Seán Sherlock TD, has been tasked by the  Taoiseach with leading efforts across Government to develop the social enterprise sector following  the publication of a Forfás report showing that the sector has the capacity to double employment  with the creation of an additional 25,000 jobs by 2020.

Driving the development of a vibrant social enterprise sector is a key commitment in the  Programme for Government and under the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs. Social enterprises are business models set up to tackle social, economic or environmental issues.  Some social enterprises engage in trading or commercial activities to pursue their objectives and  any surplus earned is re-invested in the social objective.

The sector employs more than 25,000 people in over 1,400 social enterprises in Ireland, with a  combined total income of around €1.4 billion. A new Forfás report has found that there is potential  to double employment in the sector over the period to 2020.

The Forfás report, which the Government noted this week, contains a series of recommendations to  support the development of the Social Enterprise sector and is a significant deliverable under the  Action Plan for Jobs. It also supports the Programme for Government commitment to promote the  development of a vibrant and effective social enterprise sector.

A number of Government Departments currently engage with the Social Enterprise sector and  provide supports through a range of programmes and schemes. A key finding of the Forfás report is  that a coherent national policy across Government is necessary if the sector is to achieve its  potential. In this context, the Taoiseach has tasked Minister of State, Seán Sherlock, with  developing the sector on a cross-Departmental basis, with support to be provided by the  Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Welcoming the Forfás report, “Social Enterprise in Ireland - Sectoral Opportunities and Policy  Issues”, Minister Sherlock said “The social enterprise sector has played a key role in Irish society  and in the economy for many years. Social enterprises offer jobs across a range of skill-sets, and  provide services and employment in many local and rural communities. That is why as part of the  Action Plan for Jobs we have committed to supporting the development of a vibrant social  enterprise sector. It has huge potential for employment growth and I am particularly pleased to  have been asked by the Taoiseach to develop the sector further.

“Social enterprises cover a broad spectrum of activity from community-based projects funded by  the State, to a smaller number of businesses trading on a commercial basis. It is important that we  build a framework through which social enterprises across the spectrum can obtain supports from  Government Departments and agencies which are appropriate to their level of development, the  nature of their activities, and their commercial ambition.

For example, social enterprises that are developing self-sustaining business models will be well  suited to benefit from the supports to be provided by the new Local Enterprise Offices. “I will be arranging for the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Group as soon as possible to  develop the sector and to determine how the recommendations in the Forfás report can best be  delivered. I invite those in the Social Enterprise sector to play their part in working with  Government Departments and agencies to maximise the potential of the sector”.CEO Forfás, Martin D. Shanahan said: “Social enterprise is a small but growing part of the  enterprise base. It undoubtedly has the potential to bring further jobs and economic potential. It  is timely to bring focus on social enterprise in Ireland, with full recognition of the societal,  enterprise and employment dimensions of the sector. The sector has the potential to develop  enterprises that are self-sustainable and self-reliant, with innovative business models that can  exploit emerging opportunities. There is a demonstrated need and market for social enterprises  with potential in the areas of community retail and care services; tourism and heritage products;  leisure and sports services; and energy production. Many of the measures needed to support the  development of social enterprises can be addressed through adjustments to existing policies and  may not require additional funding. These include adjustments in areas of access to finance,  procurement, capability building and ensuring supportive legislative frameworks.”  

Download the Forfas Report (PDF)