Sport Ireland has announced the launch of a new ‘Sport 4 Empowerment’ programme, which aims to promote social inclusion and empower individuals through sport and physical activity.

It was launched at the Sport Ireland Campus yesterday by the Minister of State for Sport and Physical Education, Thomas Byrne TD.

The initiative is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union and is made possible by the €11 million grant awarded to Sport Ireland from the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) programme.

The ‘Sport 4 Empowerment’ (S4E) programme will develop innovative social inclusion programmes through the use of sport and physical activity, with a specific focus on individuals at risk of social exclusion and poverty.

Sport Ireland’s network of Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs) will play a key role in the programme and are deeply involved in the design and delivery of local initiatives that will meet the specific needs of the target groups.

The programme will see the phased employment of newly created ESF+ Social Innovation in Sport Officer positions within LSPs, a crucial resource to enable the funding be put to good use without taking away from other equally important activities.

In 2023, seven LSPs will receive funding for these positions. Laois, Limerick and Clare have all recruited the new position with Kildare, Donegal, Roscommon and Carlow expected to recruit in the coming weeks.

In 2024 Roscommon, Cavan, Cork, Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Sligo, South Dublin, Tipperary, and Waterford, will receive funding for the new positions.

Then in 2025, the remaining 11 LSPs in Dublin City, Dublin Fingal, Galway, Kerry, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Longford, Mayo, Westmeath, Wexford, and Wicklow will receive their funding for the new positions.

The ‘Sport 4 Empowerment’ programme will pilot and implement a variety of targeted and innovative initiatives aimed at enhancing the wellbeing, education, and economic prospects of the participants.

The programme will support individuals at risk of social exclusion and poverty including the following groups ethnic minorities, youth at risk, persons with disabilities, and persons from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“This joint investment by the Irish Government and the European Union will build upon the significant funding that has already been allocated towards promoting social inclusion and empowering individuals through sport,” said Minister Thomas Byrne.

“As a Government, we are striving to make sport more accessible for all and I am pleased that this funding will focus on particular target groups including ethnic minorities, youth at risk, persons with disabilities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

“Sport has always been a catalyst for social inclusion and I’m delighted my Department of Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science is directly involved in this project,” added Minister Simon Harris.

“It’s great to see this initiative come through and I have no doubt it will present vulnerable people from disadvantaged groups with huge opportunities.”

“We were thrilled to secure this funding from the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) which will help us to bring the benefits of sport and physical activity to more people,” concluded Sport Ireland CEO Dr Una May.

“Our vision is for an active Ireland where everyone can enjoy the lifelong benefits of sport and physical activity.”

“The ‘Sport 4 Empowerment’ (S4E) programme aligns with our ongoing work to develop a sport sector that celebrates diversity, promotes inclusion, and is pro-active in providing opportunities for lifelong participation for everyone. We are grateful for the support of the network of Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs) in the delivery of this programme.”