211 young people and adults from marginalised communities access education   in the first year of Rethink Ireland ‘Engage & Educate’ Fund 

by Gazette Reporter
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Four non-profit organisations – Care After Prison, Cultúr Migrant Centre, Galway Traveller Movement and Youth Horizons – have delivered transformative educational programmes under the Engage & Educate Fund in 2022, 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. Educational participation and attainment have increased in Ireland in recent decades and are relatively strong compared to other countries. 

However, recent research has shown differences in participation and attainment among learner groups, with certain groups particularly underserved by the current system in Ireland including: socio-economically disadvantaged learners, learners with special educational needs, learners with socioemotional/behaviour difficulties, migrant learners, Roma and Travellers.  

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 & non-formal education levels. 

Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Rethink Ireland said: “We believe that a whole-of-government and whole-of-community approach is required to tackle persistent inequalities in educational outcomes in Ireland. Our aim is for an Ireland where everyone can learn and reach their potential irrespective of their background, gender, disability, or anything else that can hold us back. We want to see Ireland as a learning society for everyone.” 

Will Carmody, Managing Partner, Mason Hayes & Curran LLP, commented: “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 up 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.” 

One Year On: In Conversation with Engage & Educate Fund Awardee Organisations 

Care After Prison  

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 funding under the Engage & Educate Fund, a €1.2 million three-year fund created by Rethink Ireland in partnership with Mason Hayes and Curran LLP and the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund. The Fund supports innovative projects that empower young people and adults through education, enabling people from marginalised communities to access game-changing education programmes.  

“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.” – Caitríona Nic Góráin, Acting Chair, Care After Prison.  

The reintegration project team has a staff of 9 members, many of whom have lived experience of being incarcerated, that support individuals with securing pathways to education and employment. The programme also involves the contribution of Community Support Workers, that provide guidance to users on the other barriers faced, including access to and remaining in education and employment, mentoring, peer-to-peer assistance, and support with housing and family.   

Speaking on the importance of tackling the challenges faced by individuals post-incarceration, Caitríona Nic Góráin, Acting Chair, Care After Prison said: “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.”  

“We need to continue to find ways to support people whose journey to education is an uphill one. Social Enterprise funding does this, and without Rethink Ireland’s support, programmes like this would simply not be possible.”  

Featured image: Will Carmody, Managing Partner, Mason Hayes & Curran LLP; Jason Campbell & Patrick Skelly, Care After Prison and Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Rethink Ireland. Picture Jason Clarke

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