Prolonged support required for most vulnerable

A new ESRI study highlights the importance of providing longer-term targeted supports for people facing multiple challenges, such as low levels of education, lack of self-confidence and living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
The study, part of an on-going research programme, found that the most vulnerable participants on the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) 2015 - 2017, funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development and administered by Pobal, required prolonged and intensive supports in order to tackle the level of poverty and social exclusion they face.

SICAP programme implementers aim to support the most marginalised by offering educational and employment supports and working with local community groups. There is flexibility to respond to local need. As a result, those receiving support differ in their gender, age and ethnic profile across areas.

The embedding of programme implementers in the local area facilitates the identification of needs that are not being met by existing provision. However, the requirement to meet throughput numbers on the programme meant there was not enough emphasis on more in-depth engagement. There is greater scope for SICAP to offer more targeted assistance, including intensive one-to-one support and guidance, and referrals to education and training programmes.

SICAP programme implementers take an integrated approach to meeting needs founded on community development principles. However, there is greater scope for the programme to take a broader approach to community development.
The new phase of SICAP, operating from 2018 to 2022, has introduced programme improvements, including fewer targets and greater flexibility to allocate funding across activities.

Michael Ring,TD, Minister for Rural and Community Development, the Department with responsibility for SICAP said, “SICAP is delivered locally by local development companies and provides access to those individuals that other mainstream services could not cater for. SICAP 2018-2022 will build on this work and by having more focused targets, the programme can provide deeper supports to those living in disadvantaged circumstances.”

One of the report authors, Professor Emer Smyth, said that: ‘Our findings show the success in engaging with hard-to-reach groups in SICAP through building up relationships of trust with the local community and adopting a holistic approach to meeting their needs. There is greater potential for community development principles to permeate all of the work under SICAP in order to facilitate the social inclusion of marginalised communities.’