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211 people benefit from MHC uplift endeavour

09 Feb 2023 / education Print

211 people benefit from MHC uplift endeavour

A Mason Hayes & Curran endeavour has benefited four non-profit organisations.

Transformative educational programmes under the Engage & Educate Fund have been delivered to Care After Prison, Cultúr Migrant Centre, Galway Traveller Movement and Youth Horizons, enabling 211 young people and adults to progress their education.

The €1.2 million three-year Engage & Educate Fund was created by Rethink Ireland, in partnership with Mason Hayes & Curran LLP and the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund, specifically to empower people from marginalised communities through education.

Ireland showing the way

Educational participation and attainment have increased in Ireland in recent decades, and are relatively strong compared with other countries.

However, recent research has shown differences in participation and attainment among learner groups, with certain communities particularly underserved by the current system in Ireland, including:

  • Socio-economically disadvantaged learners,
  • Learners with special educational needs,
  • Learners with socio-emotional/behaviour difficulties,
  • Migrant learners, Roma, and Travellers. 

Access routes

The four awardee organisations are addressing this issue by directly working within these communities to create access routes into education for learners.

They are also working closely with schools, further education bodies and employers to ensure that they have the right conditions in place to attract learners from all backgrounds.  

Rethink Ireland supports the most innovative non-profit organisations working in Irish communities across the country. Since 2016, they have invested €27.2 million in education, supporting 104 projects at the primary, secondary, tertiary, and vocational and non-formal education levels.

Ripple effect

MHC managing partner Will Carmody said: “A more equal access to education helps to create a more just and fair society.

“We have supported the provision of educational opportunity, particularly for marginalised communities, for many years, and have seen first-hand the difference that access to support and resources can make.

“The ripple effect benefits not just the individual learner, but their family and wider communities, reducing poverty, addressing inequalities, and opening a world of opportunity.

“Our work with the Engage & Educate Fund provides critical support for the four awardee organisations, addressing urgent needs, but also shining a light on the transformative impacts of these programmes,” he said.

Youth Horizons

One project assisted is Youth Horizons, which, since the year 2000, has helped over 200 young people to complete the Leaving Certificate and enter both employment and third-level education.

It’s situated in Jobstown, West Tallaght, where early school leaving is a defining social issue. 

Founder, Sr Mairead Hughes, said: “The grant from Rethink Ireland has enabled us to increase and improve our service to recent graduates. It has also allowed us to rethink and adapt our managerial structure at a time of transition. In short, it has given us hope for the future. The need for our service has never been greater.”

She cites the view of a former Youth Horizons student that: “If it wasn't for Youth Horizons, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to do the Leaving Cert. The crèche was essential for me in staying in education.”

Life-skills module

Since receiving supports through the Engage & Educate Fund, Youth Horizons teacher Anne Kearney said the programme has been enabled to extend its coursework offerings to include a life-skills module, as well as introducing the students to budgeting and cooking nutritious meals.

According to the CSO, in 2019 an early school leaver is three times as likely to be unemployed than the general population aged 18-24. Average weekly earnings for early school leavers were €65 less than the 74% of their peers who had finished school – amounting to €345 per week compared with €410 per week.

Care After Prison project

The Care After Prison ‘Post Release Community Reintegration’ project, based in Dublin City, provides pathways and support to education, training, and employment for those with lived experience of incarceration. 

At the end of 2022, the programme had provided bespoke, individual plans to 62 programme users, with the aim of guiding participants, post-release, as they reintegrate into society. The Care After Prison project was awarded three-year funding of €1.2 million under the Engage & Educate Fund.  

Breaking the cycle

“A key challenge in criminal-justice policy is breaking the cycle of offending behaviour and supporting those who have spent time in prison to effectively engage with life outside the criminal-justice system,” said acting chair Caitríona Nic Góráin.

 “This funding is undoubtedly imperative.  While on paper, Ireland has a free education system, there are many real barriers to people of all ages engaging with, and successfully participating in, education.” 

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