North Tipperary LEADER Partnership succeeded in attracting €8 million in funding to the county and assisted over 6,500 individuals and 210 communities and community groups in 2014. Alongside these figures, the impacts of this strong performance are to be found in the personal stories of ordinary Tipperary people who benefit from NTLP’s programmes and services.
These include rural entrepreneurs in receipt of LEADER grants, unemployed persons supported into jobs or self-employment, women who are assisted to overcome domestic violence and local communities benefitting from the input of TÚS or Rural Social Scheme staff.
NTLP Chairperson, Jim Finn, emphasises that while the attraction of funding is vital, it is what it enables the company to do that is most important commenting that “Although the organisation has grown in size and in budget, its success is really rooted in its close connections to local communities and to those groups and individuals who find themselves vulnerable in the economic current climate”.
NTLP CEO says that “While it is important to have the capacity to attract funding, the key is to be close to where it can be spent most effectively. A real strength of service delivery through community and voluntary organisations such as NTLP is that people readily engage with us and our services.”
Originally set up to run two core programmes in rural development and social inclusion, NTLP has used its position in the local community to attract a wide range of other funding and services into the North Tipperary area. In 2014, this resulted in €8 million leveraged funding from nine government departments and agencies which is being spent on a variety of social service, local development, transport and community infrastructure initiatives. In addition to its two original core programmes, NTLP delivers and manages 17 services and programmes which operate throughout the county.
The value added by the two core programmes within NTLP is that they fund staff and infrastructure, allowing the Company to manage and deliver a range of additional services and programmes very cost effectively. NTLP has also attracted the provision of two Youth Services, three Traveller Projects, a Community Childcare and the Domestic Violence Support Service for the Tipperary North County area. The Company also manages and delivers Family Support Services and an Afterschools Service. Its Rural Transport Programme facilitated isolated rural dwellers to make 27,000 journeys for vital social, retail and healthcare purposes.
The Company piloted a Community Energy Initiative in the Drombane/Upperchurch area which begun with a social inclusion grant and staff assistance and leveraged over €250,000 in funding into the local community in its first year. This initiative expanded to include 4 communities in 2014 leveraging in excess of €1 million in funding back into North Tipperary.
According to Jim Finn “We originally started this project on a pilot basis and its success has now been recognised and rewarded by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland who are providing funding to include new areas such as Lorrha, Rathcabbin, Rearcross and Kilcommon.” As well as improving the lives of local homeowners, the Community Energy project is generating local employment in rural areas where there has been little employment particularly for trades-people and construction workers.
This twin boost for communities and the local economy is also a feature of the three labour market programmes operated by NTLP. Through the Community Employment Programme, Rural Social Scheme and TÚS, the company is employing 276 local people and making their skills and services available to over 200 communities and groups right throughout the county. The company also operates a range of other employment supports through its Jobs Club and Local Community Development Programme and over 1,500 persons benefitted from these programmes last year.
LEADER funding is usually the most high profile aspect of the company’s funding around the county. An often overlooked feature of these projects is that, in addition to the €3.8 million that NTLP invested in 2014, an additional €900,000 was provided in matching funding from project promoters. This may be sourced directly from the entrepreneur but is most cases, it is loaned by financial institutions who would not have provided it were it not for the initial investment by NTLP.
Whilst reflecting on the company’s performance in bringing these additional investments worth €8 million to the county last year, Michael Murray is keen to focus on how this has allowed the company to work with those on the margins of modern society.
“While the larger budget programmes gain the most profile, it is by leveraging these additional monies that we can work with disadvantaged youth, those experiencing domestic violence and those with low job prospects. It is a great strength of the company and its staff that it can include the whole range of local development and social inclusion within its remit.”
In reflecting on the achievements of 2015, Jim Finn is also concerned with the future, commenting that “Whatever the outcome of proposals to restructure local development funding, it is essential that the key players and processes that delivered an additional €8m to the North Tipperary area in 2014 be kept intact.”