A new social business project which will provide employment for people who want to reclaim their lives from the clutches of addiction and past criminality, has been set up in Wexford.
EPIC (Enhancing Progress Inspiring Change), was launched in Newbay House by a representative of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection last Friday afternoon.
'It can be difficult for those who have had problems with drugs or alcohol to get a foot up the ladder into employment because of their past history', said Wexford Local Development chairman Michael Wall at the launch.
The enterprise will be run by the Cornmarket Project of WLD and will provide employment for eight former prisoners and substance misusers. President Michael D Higgins is due to visit the Cornmarket service in November.
EPIC will operate as a stand-alone business with any profits made re-invested back into the enterprise, and will make a range of printed promotional materials such as t-shirts, mugs, folders, pens and conference material, with a sample of the selection on display during the launch.
An e-commerce website is in development and will eventually offer the goods for sale online.
Mr. Wall said the business will help support the work of the Cornmarket Project in tackling substance misuse and criminality, thereby helping to create safer communities throughout County Wexford.
The enterprise was officially launched by Michael Ormonde, Assistant Principal Officer from the South East Region of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
Mr. Ormonde said the department is pleased to provide ongoing support to the Cornmarket Project through community employment schemes which offer training and employment to former substance misusers and those with criminal convictions.
The new social enterprise will help create progression pathways from community employment into main stream work for suitable participants.
Siobhan Cafferty from the national social enterprise secton of the Probation Service said initiatives like EPIC play an important role in preventing re-offending.
'We know from the research that not having a job greatly increases the chances of a person falling back into criminality'', she said. 'By breaking he cycle of re-offending, life improves for those caught up in criminality and their families while the negative impact of crime in our communities is reduced'.
Wexford Local Development CEO Brian Kehoe said the social enterprise model offers great scope in helping to directly involve communities in tackling disadvantage and social exclusion and WLD is developing a strategy to bring this model to other areas of its work.
The launch ceremony concluded with a performance by the 10-2-2 choir of the Cornmarket Project which is made up of those who use the service as well as volunteers and staff.
The name derives from the efforts of the project to recruit 10 employers in County Wexford to give employment to two former clients of the project which Cornmarket will then support for two years.