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Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Children at Risk

Posted by on January 20, 2016

Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Children at Risk

In this blog, Wayne Dignam of Care Leavers’ Network reflects on Ireland’s record on child protection, and suggests ways we can approach this issue differently. Join the conversation @CLNetworkIRE 

Last week the Minister for Children defended the State’s record on child protection to the United Nations Committee in Geneva under the UN Convention on the rights of the child.  It was the first such scrutiny in ten years.  Ten years too long.  This should happen every year, or even every quarter.  Child protection is not top of the agenda when the Irish people hold our Government to account at local and national elections every few years. It is important that international experts hold the Irish Government to account on child protection issues much more regularly.

Ireland signed up to the UN Convention on the rights of the child in 1992 after a legacy of failure to protect children.  Has our legacy improved?  In many ways it has.  We now have the Child and Family Agency that is focusing on children’s welfare, we have a Cabinet-level Minister for Children and in 2012 we amended the Irish constitution to allow for improved Children’s Rights.    However the impact of these reforms has yet to be felt by many of our most vulnerable children in Ireland.

The best-selling book ‘Children of the Rising, the forgotten casualties of 1916’ commemorates how the 1916 Easter Rising affected children.  Sometimes it is easier to face up to the truth of the past rather than the truth of the present.  A more apt book would be about 2016 ‘Children of the Recession, the forgotten casualties of 2016’.  The facts are startling and we should think of the human story to these figures:

  • One child in nine is living in poverty;
  • As of October 2015, 1638 children are homeless;
  • There are approximately 5,900 child protection cases awaiting assignment of a social worker.

The Government has a lot of work to do to alleviate poverty and homelessness.  The third problem is a more specific problem that the Care Leavers’ Network believes can be addressed.

The Care Leavers’ Network  represents adults who spent time in the State care system as children, and many care leavers come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.  As an Elevator Awardee from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland in 2015, we are passionate about changing Ireland and speaking out about what could be improved. Once we were children who were assessed for child protection and then assigned a social worker because we were at risk.  So we care about this figure of 5,900 children who are currently at risk because we understand deeply what types of risks these children are facing, and the effects these will have on the rest of their lives.  We have some suggestions to improve this situation.

Consider the backlog of child protection cases awaiting social workers.  These social workers are so busy because their focus is on children within the care system.  Are they really the right people to assess child protection cases and develop a ‘family plan’ of family support to that family, when some day they may end up taking that child into the care system?  Ideally, a ‘Child welfare and protection officer’ should make the assessment, decide on the level of risk to the child, and explore all avenues of family support.  We need to give families a chance before a social worker is brought in.  By doing so, the child welfare and protection officer has gathered enough information about the family, and if a care order is required, then there is sufficient grounds for such an order.  In addition, a range of family support measures need to be implemented in some cases where there is a chance that a child can remain with their family.

Some States in America adopt this preventative approach to child protection and have seen a decrease in the amount of children entering the care system.  Those in the care system have much greater therapeutic and social care support which will most likely lead to improved outcomes.  It has been led by an Irish American social worker, Molly McGrath Tierney, who manages Maryland’s child protection system. Between 2007 and 2010 the results were dramatic:

  • The number of children in foster care dropped 28% from 6,342 to 4,556
  • The number of children placed in group homes dropped 71% from 1,251 to 365
  • The number of annual adoptions rose 59%, from 265 to 422

To get to these numbers required a lot of soul searching and leadership development.  Irish agencies still have a lot to learn, and working on a crisis basis is not the best place to start.  But there is a better way, and we must learn from the countries and States that manage their care systems better than ours.  And most importantly, we can learn from those adults who have lived through the care systems.

If you would like to contribute to this conversation, follow us and send your thoughts @CLNetworkIRE

Taking Impact to the next level – Foodcloud

Posted by on October 11, 2015

Taking Impact to the next level – Foodcloud

From the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland “Minnovation Fund” to expanding operations to the UK and beyond – Foodcloud have had whirlwind of a journey since accepting their Impact Award last year. In advance of the SEI Awards, Iseult Ward reflects on the last year as a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Impact Awardee, in the next entry to our series “Generation 2014″. Iseult Ward speaks of her journey with SEI and what advice she would give to the new Awardees 2015. 

Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien founded Foodcloud after working on a university innovation project together, which is now saving tonnes of food across Ireland and the UK, connecting supermarkets with too much food to charities with too little. After winning the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Minnovation Fund as part of the Impact Series in 2013, Iseult and Aoibheann attended the 2013 Award Ceremony “thinking wouldn’t it be amazing if something like this would be possible for us“, but never believed it could and would happen for them the following year.

In 2014, walking into  the Award Ceremony as Impact Finalists, Iseult & Aoibheann felt a sense of “déjà vu” and “quite emotional at the same time, having walked the exact same steps the year before, but in completely different shoes“.

Moving into the Impact Programme, Iseult comments “We were at the stage as an organisation that we needed to grow, and the Impact Award was a good fit for the organisation. It’s fantastic knowing people are there, who care about this nearly as much as you do, and are there to help you through the challenges and with new opportunities”. 

Giving advice to the new Awardees who will be announced on Tuesday, Iseult highlights the importance of “getting to know all the awardees and helping each other through the experience

Its a great feeling knowing you’re not alone as there are other organisations working towards a social change and trying to have a social impact too.

Moving Foodcloud to the next level with the second year of SEI Impact Programme, Iseult acknowledges “getting retailers on board in Ireland, diversifying retailers supplied and hopefully being able to bring on more charities” is their goal. Foodcloud have started to have an international impact, with a pilot programme running in the UK with Tesco. “The next phase will mean us taking on 100 stores in the UK with Tesco in partnership with Fairshare – it’s really about taking it all in stages to develop a social franchise model that can work beyond the UK.”

We’ve been growing really quickly since we began, but it’s the energy and momentum that has helped us gather so much support.

Iseult concludes how “it’s the passion of the team that has allowed us to get to where we are, and making such ambitious plans for the future.” With the incredible success of Foodcloud since being announced as an Impact Awardee 12 months ago, we’re excited to see where the next 12 months will lead the organisation.

Necessity – the real mother of invention

Posted by on February 24, 2015

Necessity – the real mother of invention

Head of Development at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, Lucy Masterson looks at the number of female entrepreneurs launching projects in the commercial and social enterprise sectors, and some of the potential factors influencing the gap.

In her article Women, Tech and Hell, Dublin’s Commissioner for Startup’s, Niamh Bushnell, talks about the growth of female entrepreneurship in Ireland. The good news for advocates of #changetheratio? Since Enterprise Ireland started offering female specific programmes in 2012, funding for female led businesses has jumped from 7% to 23% – an impressive figure and one that is ahead of both EU and US levels.

On the down side we are still more risk averse than our male counterparts and while female led technology companies achieve 35% higher return on investment, new research in the US and UK shows that men are still 40% more likely than women to get approved for a bank loan.

In contrast, when we look at activity in the social landscape the terrain is different – women are rocking it!

Almost 50% of the high potential social impact (HPSI) start-ups coming to us for support each year are female led organisations and these numbers show no  sign of flat lining. That rate is significantly higher than the traditional commercial space, where men are twice as likely to be engaged in early stage entrepreneurial activities then their female counterparts.

More than two thirds of SEI supported businesses in 2014 were female led organisations – FoodCloud, Virtual Community College, Sensational Kids, Future Voices Ireland, Irish Charity Lab, MyLife Solutions, and Sólás. These women are highly entrepreneurial in their approach to driving social change. Like all innovators they refuse to take no for an answer because the alternative simply isn’t acceptable. They are willing to put everything on the line for their idea. They are not afraid of risk and we all know that every business investment worth its salt involves risk.

Why is this?

Is it that women tend to be the glue that holds communities together? Is it because women take action around specific causes that are closest to them? Is it that women are serial connectors and when we are deeply dissatisfied with a status quo we aren’t afraid of rolling up our sleeves and coming up with new ways to address the gaping holes in our education, childcare, political or environmental systems? Whatever the reasons, we salute those mothers of invention. And, as our Awards process gets ready to kick in to gear this March we look forward to supporting many more women as they step forward with bold new solutions to Ireland’s social problems.

Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards

Posted by on July 22, 2014

Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards


UB Blog

Ulster Bank – Business Achievers Awards

Social Entrepreneurs Ireland is proud to have Ulster Bank as the corporate partner of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland’s Alumni Network. Ulster Bank is committed to entrepreneurship. Currently Ulster Bank is running their ‘Business Achievers Awards’. The awards cover a range of business categories; we’re delighted that this includes a Social Enterprise award too.

 “Celebrating your business success”

The Ulster Bank ‘Business Achievers Awards’ celebrate the spirit of the excellence and innovation that are the hallmark of our most successful entrepreneurs.

Open to businesses across the Island of Ireland regardless of size, location, sector or turnover, the Awards recognise and reward entrepreneurial success and achievement across the Island.

The overall winner will receive a comprehensive reward package including a €50,000 publishing bursary with the Irish Independent or Belfast Telegraph, business mentoring from Enterprise Ireland, a full service communications workshop, a business laptop and a specially commissioned ‘Business Achievers Award’ trophy.

This year’s categories are:

1.     Business Start Up Award

2.     Small Business Award

3.     Established SME Award

4.     International Business Award

5.     Social Enterprise Award

6.     Food & Drink Award

7.     Agri-Business Award

8.     Women Led Business Award

You can enter a maximum of two categories per business. The awards are open for entries until 26th September 2014.

What happens when I enter my business?

  • All entries are judged by a provincial panel
  • Three companies in each category will be short listed for the four provincial finals in October 2014.
  • There will be one winner per category in each provincial final and they will receive a ‘Business Achievers Award’ Provincial Trophy and media profiling.
  • All provincial category winners are judged by our national judging panel
  • These companies will also be invited to our National Awards event in December 2014
  • Eight all-island category winners will be announced and they will receive a ‘Business Achievers Award’ National Trophy and media profiling.
  • One of our eight category winners will become the overall Ulster Bank Business Achiever 2014.

Once you complete the application process, there are also opportunities for your business to benefit from:

  • Extensive national and local media coverage through our media partners, the Irish Independent and the Belfast Telegraph.
  • Sell, pitch and gain insights from some of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs and industry experts.
  • Network and promote your company at our provincial and national awards ceremonies
  • Gain access to a focused business forum for like-minded entrepreneurs through www.smallbusinesscan.com

All this information and more is available at www.businessachieversawards.com

Terms and conditions apply.

Neuro Hero launches ground-breaking speech and language therapy app

Posted by on November 22, 2013

Neuro Hero launches ground-breaking speech and language therapy appAviva Cohen of Neuro Hero launching her new app with Minister Sean Sherlock, TD

Congratulations to SEI Award Winner 2012 Aviva Cohen who recently launched ground-breaking speech and language therapy apps for stroke and brain injury survivors

The apps (for IoS and Android) will provide affordable home-based therapy solutions for families whose loved ones have communication difficulties arising from stroke, brain injury and a range of other conditions.

We were delighted to see Minister Sean Sherlock TD, who was recently announced as the Minister with responsibility for social enterprise, launch the four Talk Around IT apps.

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Timeline of the birth of a social entrepreneur

Posted by on December 14, 2012

Timeline of the birth of a social entrepreneurGetting started

Timeline of the birth of a Social Entrepreneur
By Myles McCorry

Step 1: Elation of idea. Can’t get over your own brilliance. (2 weeks)
Step 2: Talk yourself into resolving the problem. Feel like Gandhi. (4-5 weeks)
Step 3: HOW?? Feeling low, as you have told your partner and committed yourself – and only now do you see how tall the mountain that you have chosen to climb is. But you do it any way. (7 weeks)
Step 4: A friends son does you a web site and you feel like you are Kofi Annan Presiding over the UN for 20 minutes. The idea has legs and you are running.
Step 5: You realize it is not actually financially viable or someone (anyone!) would have done this before (5 days). You trip and fall – but get up stronger.
Step 6: Who can give me money; sure it’s a good cause. (This lasts from that point for the whole duration of the project)

Keep running.

12 months on

Posted by on November 22, 2012

12 months onSeán Love receiving the 2011 Impact Award

12 months on from Winning a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Impact Award, Seán Love from Fighting Words reflects on his time so far as an Awardee. 

The SEI Awards process feels a bit like a graduation, and my experience last year was that the previous award winners came across as modest, confident, wise and generous. A bit like your slightly older friend/brother/sister, who’s been there already, trying to reassure you that “it’ll all be grand”. There is no training for the role. I was certain last year the Frances and Dara were operating from a script, but, if so, Annalisa has forgotten to forward it to me. This year, being cast in that role of “elder” myself, I hope I measure up for this year’s awardees.

12 months on…

Fighting Words has had a great 12 months since receiving an Impact Award from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI). We’ve hosted another 10,000 students over the past year in free creative writing workshops and courses; and, on the basis of the applications we receive, we know we could fill 4 centres around the country, every day, on an ongoing basis.

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A note to 2012 Award Winners

Posted by on November 12, 2012

A note to 2012 Award Winners

A short message to the new Award Winners from Michael Kelly of GIY Ireland, 2011 Impact Award Winner. 

It was very strange being at the awards on Oct 18th and being there as an alumni, rather than an awardee! At the same time, it was nice to be there and not to have a sick feeling in the stomach as I did the previous year! A huge congrats to all the awardees – all of your projects are simply awe-inspiring. Congrats also to the SEI team on pulling off another incredibly inspiring event – as is always the case with SEI gigs, I returned to the GIY trenches feeling reinvigorated and re-inspired.

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A bit like learning to dance? Collaborative working & Fumbally Exchange

Posted by on October 8, 2012

A bit like learning to dance? Collaborative working & Fumbally ExchangeGeorge Boyle. Architect and founder of fumbally Exchange, at the official launch of fumbally Exchange, a not-for-profit design and innovation in Dublin 8. Founded a year ago, it is now home to more than 40 small buinesses. Photograph: Stephen Kilkenny

Following on with our blogs from the 2012 Finalists, we meet George Boyle of Fumbally Exchange.

A bit like Learning to Dance?

I used to be afraid of dancing. I soon got over it.

I didn’t believe it could be true – a place where you were free to unleash your inner wilds without rebuke. It took such excruciating time and effort to learn “the codes”, so this public invitation to exhibitionism and indulgence was – an incredible nonsense.

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