The Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP) is the Government’s primary social inclusion programme.  It provides funding to tackle poverty and social exclusion at a local level through local engagement and partnerships between disadvantaged individuals, community organisations and public sector agencies.  One of the benefits of the programme is that it can be tailored to local need, as demonstrated in the case study below.

North East and West Kerry Development (NEWKD) is a local development company and the programme implementer for SICAP across an area comprising all of North Kerry, the Corca Dhuibhne Peninsula and rural East Kerry.  Within this region are a number of areas with higher rates of disability than the national average.  The aim is to empower those with disabilities, who are one of the target groups of SICAP, and support them to fully integrate into the community.

NEWKD commenced work with Kerry Social Farming, under SICAP, in 2016.  Kerry Social Farming is a locally-led, community-based, shared service that provides farming and social inclusion opportunities in rural areas to people with intellectual disabilities and acquired brain injury all within their local communities.  It forges links between farmers and participants, and benefits not only the farmers and participants but also their respective families.

Smaller rural farmers can experience isolation and social farming provides them with opportunities to meet people and have social interaction.  Participating farms are upgraded where necessary, to ensure the safety of participants and benefitting farmers into the future.  The farms remain as working farms while offering participants opportunities to learn farm skills, life skills, to connect with the rural community and build relationships.  The participants have differing capacities and require a range of diverse supports, which is provided by qualified job coaches.

SICAP provides support through two resources, funding and staff.  The funding, for farm modifications, complements funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.  NEWKD also allocates a portion of a SICAP funded staff time to the development of social farming in the area.

Initially it proved challenging to link in with local farmers, but by August 2018, there were six social farms operating in the NEWKD area, with participants drawn from St. John of Gods amongst other organisations.  The participants are supported by qualified job coaches for the first 4-6 weeks and this support is gradually withdrawn as the individuals gain confidence and independence.

Host farmers, participants and guardians have all been extremely positive about the Social Farming model.  There is a strong desire to continue with the programme and to help expand it where possible to involve more participants and host farmers.

Social farming in Kerry