Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has announced over €5 million in funding to support educationally disadvantaged learners in accessing and participating in community education.
This funding is issued under the Reach Fund to ETBs. It is designed to support and engage with disadvantaged learners who have the highest level of need.
It can be used to assist learners with transport or education costs, funding on access to technology and devices, expanding community access to Wi‐Fi and broadband resources.
Minister Harris said, “the success of the Reach Fund over the past three years has been so important. Originally introduced in 2020 to support the most disadvantaged learners throughout the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was critical in reconnecting with the most disadvantaged learners around the country.”
“It continues to support community education partners make sure that these learners are not left behind. As we launch the Year of Skills, it is vital every adult has the necessary literacy, numeracy and digital literacy to engage in society and realise their potential. The Reach Fund has achieved so much, and I am excited to see what important and valuable projects it supports this year.”
Around the country, the projects supported by the Reach Fund helped to support online learning, connect communities and providing social supports to the most vulnerable groups. These priority cohorts include:
- Long-term unemployed people
- Young people
- People with disabilities
- Members of the Traveller and Roma communities
- Migrants and refugees
- Women wishing to return to the labour market
- Lone parents
Tanya Jones, Director of Further Education and Training, Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), commented, “since its launch in 2020 Reach Fund continues to support the participation of disadvantaged learners in education. ETBI welcomes the continuation of the Reach Fund which is administered by the national network of Education and Training Boards, and I encourage all community education providers to engage with their local ETB to access this fund to further support the complex needs of a diverse range of learners across our communities.”
Also commenting on the announcement, the CEO of SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority, Andrew Brownlee said, “the Reach Fund is a unique funding stream that targets those who are often hardest to engage by providing much-needed funding at a local level to directly address the barriers facing the most disadvantaged learners in Ireland. Since 2020, over 1,600 individual projects have been funded through Reach and we are pleased to be able to offer this fund again in 2023. Last year, we saw a welcome increase in learners from this priority cohort and it is beyond doubt that the projects and programmes funding under Reach have contributed to this increase. It is testament to the great work done around Ireland by ETBs and community partners to tackle adult literacy issues and re-engage learners with education.“
Since early 2023, Education and Training Boards have been engaging with Community Education providers in their respective regions on 2023 funding with many having issued calls for proposals which are now being reviewed. Funding allocations for these proposals will be agreed by the end of June.