As featured in the Wexford People Paper – Tuesday 15th September

NEW research from the ESRI has revealed that people who are supported through the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) are up to 18 per cent more likely to progress to employment or self-employment as a result.

At the launch of the research by Minister Joe O’Brien last week, it was highlighted that such definitive and positive findings are relatively rare for pre-employment programmes across Europe, let alone in Ireland. SICAP is delivered in Wexford by Wexford Local Development in coordination with Wexford Local and Community Development Committee.

‘We were delighted to see the very positive impacts of the SICAP programme that we see every day here in Wexford borne out in the results of the ESRI research,’ said Siobhán O’Brien, Policy, Evaluation and Monitoring Coordinator with Wexford Local Development.

‘We often say that our people are the programme so it was no surprise therefore to hear that the way we work one-to-one with people is one of the strongest contributing factors to this success.’

Leonard Kelly, Mayor of Wexford and Chairperson of the LCDC SICAP sub-committee, noted the importance of the programme.

‘As chairperson of the LCDC SICAP Subcommittee I am very much aware of the importance of this programme and in particular the supports that are administered and delivered by Wexford Local Development in tackling poverty, social exclusion and long-term unemployment through local engagement and partnerships.

‘I am delighted to see that this important work being done by WLD under this programme and its successes being highlighted by the ESRI in this report.’

ESRI researchers selected Wexford Local Development as one of five case studies from the 46 local development companies nationally that deliver the SICAP programme on behalf of the Department of Community and Rural Development.

Drs. Emer Smyth and Judith Delaney visited Wexford in October 2019 and met with members of the SICAP team who provide mentoring and coaching support to people who are marginalised from the jobs market.

They also met with some of the 2,700 people who have received this support since the programme commenced in 2018. Of those people supported since 2018, to date 300 people have progressed into self-employment and 250 people have moved into employment as a direct result of the supports received through SICAP.

‘The emphasis is on meeting people where they are at,’ added Siobhán. ‘Everything we do in SICAP is based on creating a positive relationship with the person before us.

‘We believe in the potential of each person. By developing relationships based on trust and belief, we help people to overcome barriers, discover and use their own strengths and connect in to other supports in order to plan for a brighter future.’

SICAP is delivered within an ecosystem of programmes available from Wexford Local Development, including the Local Employment Service and the Tus programme, multiplying the impact of the programme by extending the range of supports available to Wexford people under one roof.

‘Since Covid-19 we have found that the one-to-one supports we provide are even more important than ever. Many of our clients found themselves suddenly out of work and in dire circumstances as a result of the lockdown,’ Siobhan said.

‘We have kept in contact with people the whole way through, whether by phone or by Zoom and we are beginning to hear stories of people getting back on their feet and finding a way through.’

Fran Gleeson, Client Support Officer in Wexford, also feels that the one-on-one structure of the SICAP programme is crucial in establishing close relationships with clients. ‘This one-to-one mentoring offered by the SICAP programme in WLD allows for each person to be treated individually and the service and supports provided tailored to their specific needs.

‘The ESRI research has clearly shown that progression into employment is driven by one-to-one support and clients value this one-to-one support. They have stated that they have received both warmth and empathy from staff, which has had significant positive impact on their self-confidence.’

From the Job Skills Workshop in Wexford, 24 per cent of those who participated last year progressed into employment.

‘In facilitating the Job skills workshop, which helps people with CV and interview skills, I would be very aware that moving into employment is a long-term process particularly for those who are long-term unemployed,’ Fran stated.

‘I think we in WLD have the flexibility to meet people where they’re at, and to provide support and practical training to help them into employment or self-employment regardless of how long it takes. We’re in it for the long term.’

Adding that SICAP has adjusted accordingly to people’s needs during Covid-19, Fran continued: ‘I am aware that since Covid-19 people have many other needs besides training needs, and SICAP is flexible enough to be responsive to those needs.

‘For example, we have organised confidence building workshops and workplace English courses to respond at short notice to identified needs, and this flexibility is the value of such a programme.

‘We are keen to get the message out that no matter how things may have changed over the past few months, we are here, available on the phone or face to face, and ready to sit down with you to work out where to go next.

‘Building resilience is key to facing the future and that is the main focus of the relationships we develop with our clients.’