Two years ago, North West Taxi Proprietors, based in the Creggan area of Derry/Londonderry, received £500,000 of money raised by National Lottery players to support their Community Support Initiative (CSI). CSI helps to combat unemployment in the local area and supports people to retrain and get back into work. We chatted to Eamon O’Donnell, the project manager.
“We know that unemployment is a big issue in the north-west and self-employment and starting social economy enterprises may be one possible way for some people to create a better life for themselves and their families,” said Eamon.
“We’re working closely with people in the community who are telling us that they need some support to create their own opportunities to gain employment and training. Some people may have an idea for starting up their own business for example but are not sure how to turn it into reality. And some young people we’ve spoken to have an IT qualification but don’t know how to turn that into a career and need some support to do that.”
Eamonn explained that the five-year project was developed following feedback from local people who wanted to retrain or even make their idea of setting up a business a reality – the training and activities the project will deliver have been identified by people who live in Creggan and other areas of the city.
“We’ve also been told that it’s important to set up a Back to Work scheme offering self-employment support, including training, marketing and administrative support. We’ll offer face to face support and are also exploring ways of offering support remotely through online video conversations,” Eamonn said.
CSI is run by a management committee including local people who are unemployed, self-employed, or in work. This committee is helping to shape the five year project over the course of its run, ensuring that it offers support and information that remains relevant to the people it seeks to help.
CSI runs a number of programmes within the initiative itself. For example, it runs an advice centre that advises people on issues around employment and welfare. They also run an advocacy service that gives voice to people’s concerns when they themselves are unable to speak. CSI advocates are able to navigate the sometimes complicated bureaucratic processes involved in getting back to work, and can use that knowledge to help others to improve their own situations.
This work isn’t limited to finding people work in the taxi industry. CSI also has a number of social economy enterprises which help the project sustain itself by generating income. These social enterprises also give volunteers the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in areas like plumbing, electrical, gardening and window cleaning.
At the heart of the project though is a dedication to the local community and a commitment to working together with local people to improve their situations. Eamon explained, ““We are right in the heart of the community and want this project to be a one stop shop for self-employment and social economy enterprises, which will help, support and sustain local employment and develop local services.”
For more information about North West Regional Taxis and the Community Support Initiative, check out their websites below:
North West Taxi Proprietors: https://www.nwtp.org/
Community Support Initiative: https://www.csi-support.org/