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Social Enterprise to be taken seriously?

There are signs that at last the area of social enterprise is going to be taken seriously at government level. The speech by the Minister at the Guinness Awards last week were positive about the social enterprises that were awarded prizes at the event; not only the social impact of these organisations but also the job creation element that is often forgotten by government and its agencies. 

There is no doubt that in the current financial and employment crisis that we find ourselves, that we will need to push the job creation and training elements of many of the social enterprises that exist in Ireland. Not just that, but also the opportunity cost of not supporting social enterprises in the work that they do. For example, we are all aware that the rate of re-offending by ex-prisoners is very high and that the cost of keeping them in prison is well into the six figures per prisoner.

Yet Ireland has been slow at supporting organisations that help ex-offenders into work placements. It is common sense that most prisoners find it very difficult to get employment and whatever chance they had in the good times, it is now almost impossible with unemployment so high. Our prisons are filled to bursting, as can be seen by todays high-profile resignation. Governor Kathleen McMahon has left her position at the Dóchas Centre, Ireland’s only women’s prison, saying her role has been made ‘completely impossible’.

Organisations that help to train ex-offenders and put them in employment have a very good Social Return on Investment story to tell and at a time when the finances of the government are clearly under some stress, surely we need to support a national system here? This is exactly the kind of work that social enterprises are designed to do. Seeing the work that organisations such as Trasna do with ex-offenders is an example.

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