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Social Enterprises provide ‘significant social and economic value’ to communities

Laois County Council has been urged to consider the “significant social and economic value” of Social Enterprises for communities across the County.

Cllr Thomasina Connell told the Council that she believed Social Enterprises need dedicated support and assistance from a designated senior Council Official.

Speaking at the monthly meeting of Laois County Council earlier this week, Cllr Connell said:

“Social enterprises are businesses that are trading in order to provide essential services in their communities; to tackle some of the biggest problems in society or to address environmental issues.

“With the profits they generate from trading, social enterprises reinvest back into the business or the local community, continuing to provide jobs and other benefits to their communities.

“Social enterprises are everywhere you look – cafés, care organisations, creches, credit unions, leisure centres, recycling companies, youth centres, and a whole array of other businesses.

“If your children have fun in a community playgroup, if you ever hunt for bargains in a charity shop, or if you use community services like meals on wheels or accessible transport services, these are all social enterprises.

“Social Enterprise Exchange, a Just Transition funded project is mapping and gathering the existing regional social enterprise ecosystem.

“This will showcase the regional Social Enterprise asset base across the midlands regional geography.

“Social Enterprise Exchange is building a collaborative and cluster style approach to connecting with other regional stakeholders.

“From my discussions with Social Enterprise Exchange, it is evident local Social Enterprises don’t know who to go to when they require advice, assistance or support.

“Assistance can be provided by people within Partnership/Leader companies or Local Enterprise Offices for example, but the feedback from Social Enterprises is that there is a clear need for one dedicated ‘go-to’ person within each local authority to fulfil this role, preferably a Director of Service.

“There are about 4,500 Social Enterprises across the country, employing approximately 85,000 people with a further 74,000 volunteers involved in Social Enterprises.

“Social Enterprises provide significant social and economic value for local communities in County Laois.

“They provide key services within the community by providing employment, training, and invaluable work experience for people, not least to those who are experiencing social exclusion.

“I am calling Laois County Council to provide a pathway for those within the Social Enterprise space to link in with one dedicated Local Authority Staff Member in order to assist them in progressing their objectives.”

In response, a Council representative said:

“Social Enterprises are being increasingly recognised as an effective means for delivering community, social and economic development through innovative, integrated, and cooperative methods and operations.

“They are of great importance to Laois and to local communities as they typically bring about economic benefits such as job creation (often for those who are marginalised); community benefits such as social inclusion or education; and policy benefits such as service delivery or active citizenship.

“For anyone interested in starting a social enterprise, supports are available from many different organisations such as Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Offices, Local Development Companies / Partnerships etc.

“The Local Enterprise Office will continue to advise/support anyone looking at setting up a social enterprise in the County.

“In addition the Community Development Department will continue to offer support through its various grant schemes and through its administrative support to the LCDC which has overseen the LEADER programme in Laois.

“A number of Social Enterprises have been supported through the Town and Village Renewal programmes ranging, for example, from Ballinakill Swimming Pool to Bloom HQ and Killeshin Community Centre.”

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