26/06/2003

Forum to provide voice for social economy issues

Organisations involved in the social economy in Northern Ireland must have a voice and a platform to help shape future economic policy.

That was the message from Enterprise Minister, Ian Pearson who was addressing the first meeting of the newly formed Social Economy Forum.

The Forum, held at NICVA’s premises in Duncairn Gardens in Belfast, is one of the main emerging structures being put in place to strengthen and grow the social economy sector in Northern Ireland.

Mr Pearson said: “The first meeting of the Social Economy Forum and the establishment of the Social Economy Network demonstrate how Government intends to work in close partnership with the social economy.

"The Social Economy Agency was asked by Government to facilitate the establishment of an inclusive Network to represent and act on behalf of the social economy sector in Northern Ireland.

“The Network is represented on the Social Economy Forum along side officials from the Government’s Cross – Departmental Steering Group. This partnership has been formed to deliver a more integrated and co-ordinated response to the needs of the sector.”

The first meeting covered a range of issues of strategic importance to the social economy sector including legal structures, a scoping and mapping study of the sector and access to business support and finance.

It is hoped that this will lead to a shared programme of work to build awareness of the sector, increase its business strength and contribute to identification and development of appropriate Government policy responses.

Speaking on behalf of the Social Economy Network, Anne Molloy, Network Co-ordinator said: “We had an excellent first meeting. The representatives from the Network in attendance presented a range of proposals to Mr Robinson and officials and listened to the Government’s outline plan for a more strategic cross-departmental approach.

"We look forward to working with DETI and the other Departments and organisations involved in social economic development and we too would encourage those with an interest in the development and growth of this sector to join the Network.”

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) is leading the Government’s drive to develop a more integrated and strategic cross-departmental approach on the social economy with the establishment of the Network a key part of this.

(MB)

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