A total of €300,000 has been allocated to social enterprises that tackle re-offending rates, by providing employment opportunities for people with a criminal past.
The funding is being provided by the Department of Justice and Equality’s social impact programme, under its ‘KickStart’ seed fund.
The fund will provide matching grants up to €30,000 to 14 organisations that provide employment to former offenders and those leaving prison.
The funds have been approved under the Dormant Accounts Disbursement Scheme to enable organisations to conduct a feasibility study or market research, or for start-up and development costs.
Justice minister Charlie Flanagan said: “This funding will help social enterprises to increase employment opportunities for people who have found it difficult to access the labour market as a result of their past.
“Those who have paid their debts to society will be given an opportunity to make sustainable changes in their lives, get back on their feet, and access employment.
“We are justifiably proud that the unemployment rate at 5.4% is the lowest it’s been since February 2008. However, we need to ensure that no one is left behind, and that employment opportunities exist for all.”
He said that in order to break the cycle of re-offending, it was important that former prisoners who wanted to make a positive contribution to society had an opportunity to work.
“Supported employment in a social enterprise provides a much-needed buffer, allowing people in this situation to gain confidence in their own abilities, while also earning a wage,” the minister said.
“It’s as simple as this: people who are given access to training, and are in work, are less likely to re-offend,” he said. “This is important for the individuals, their families and the wider community.”
Probation Service director Vivian Geiran indicated that interest in the fund had been stronger than expected.