Social Inclusion


The British-Irish Council (BIC) Social Inclusion work sector was established in 1999 and has addressed a variety of topics. More recent topics have included preventative spend, particularly in the context of an ageing population, and carers policy. Reports were published as a result of both of these topics, and presented to relevant policy Ministers for discussion. More information, including links to the reports, can be found at the ‘Further Information’ section at the bottom of the page.

At the BIC Summit in June 2018 hosted by the Government of Guernsey, the Heads of Administration agreed the new topic of ‘social enterprise’ for the work sector. Social enterprises seek to make profits, but are committed to reinvesting these into a social mission, for example, delivering community services, creating employment for disadvantaged people or protecting the environment. This innovative way of doing business is increasingly being recognised as a means to address some of the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems.

Lead Administration

The Social Inclusion work sector is jointly led by the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government.

Current Focus

Officials from across the eight Member Administrations with relevant policy experience in social enterprises met for the first time in September 2018 in Edinburgh and had the opportunity to attend the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF). The work sector developed a Forward Work Plan which was approved by the Heads of Administrations at the June 2019 Summit hosted by the UK Government in Manchester.

Throughout 2019, the work sector met in a number of the BIC administrations to progress their work plan, discuss the latest developments in social enterprise policy and share best practice. During each meeting, they also attended a number of site visits and presentations to hear directly from a variety of unique social enterprises. They heard how these organisations are benefitting their communities as well as the challenges faced so they could consider how the BIC could help.

Symposium on Social Enterprise

In January 2020 the work sector hosted a Symposium in Birmingham on supporting social enterprises across the BIC administrations which saw 60 stakeholders and policy makers from all Member Administrations come together to hear presentations, discuss a wide variety of topics, and to participate in workshops. Attendees were encouraged to think about how individuals, society and professional policy makers could address policy challenges and better shape the future development of the social enterprise sector. The Symposium looked at promoting collaboration, developing ambassadors, building and sustaining the sector for the future, and raising the profile of social enterprises.

The morning sessions set out the wider context of the social enterprise sector, outlining the main high level challenges and issues that needed to be addressed, followed by a Q&A discussion before lunch. This section of the programme provided attendees with useful contextual information to better inform participation in the afternoon workshop sessions. Anonymised feedback was gathered throughout the Symposium, particularly from the workshop sessions, and discussed by the work sector shortly after the Symposium. By bringing together external stakeholders from across the eight administrations, further context and useful insights were fed to the Social Inclusion work sector to assist in their identification of high potential areas for collaboration across BIC administrations.

In addition to the Symposium attendees had the opportunity to attend a walking tour through the Digbeth area, a major localised centre for social enterprises in Birmingham. For those who were unable to attend the walking tour, a social enterprise marketplace was organised during lunch at the Symposium with around a dozen Birmingham based social enterprises for attendees to engage with.

This event was also designed to highlight how the social enterprise sector can engage with the public sector as a service provider: all venues and catering were provided by social enterprises, highlighting the ability of this sector to deliver the quality necessary for public procurement. This event brought together social enterprises, policy makers and other key stakeholders from this sector from across all 8 of the BIC Member Administrations.

The anonymised feedback from the Symposium will be presented to relevant policy Ministers for their consideration at the next Ministerial meeting of the BIC Social Inclusion work sector.

Previous topics

Preventative Spend, 2012-2014

Save to Spend: innovative approaches to preventative spend - Preventative spend is a means to identify actions which prevent problems and ease future demand on services by intervening early, thereby delivering better outcomes and value for money. This report looked at particularly in the context of an ageing population and the work sector focused on five areas:

  • How to support independence and prevention of social exclusion amongst the population.
  • How to identify effective care journeys as we age.
  • Those in need, at risk and in future need and their carers.
  • How effective care approaches can be mobilised to improve individual life journeys in the older population.
  • How we look at transitions to care and trigger points for entering social exclusion so the cycle of these triggers can be broken.

Carers Policy, 2015-2018

Carers: Supporting people who provide unpaid care in the home – the Social Inclusion work sector prepared this paper which was presented to Ministers with particular responsibility for unpaid carers at the BIC Summit in June 2016 hosted by the Scottish Government. The discussion was then taken forward by Heads of Administration. The Council noted that whilst caring can be a positive and rewarding experience, high-intensity caring in particular can result in poor carer health, both physically and mentally. The Council reflected on the benefits of preventative approaches rather than crisis-led responses, as well as greater integration of services at a local level.

The Council agreed that further action was required to support carers. Member Administrations committed to working together in order to further their knowledge and understanding of good practice in supporting carers, especially with regard to young carers and older carers; carer identification; and telecare, telehealth and assistive technology.

Caring for our Carers: Supporting unpaid carers in the British-Irish Council Administrations – This report contributed to the evidence about how carers are supported at the various stages of their caring journeys. It demonstrates service examples and case studies which describe the benefits brought to the lives of carers and those supported by them. It also gathers together examples of best practice, new policy initiatives and community engagement from the eight BIC Member Administrations. Five broad thematic areas were identified for those examples:

  • Carer Identification which helps our administrations identify carers so that they can receive the support that they need.
  • Supporting young carers in both community and school based schemes to ensure that they can develop personally, socially and educationally while also carrying out their caring role.
  • Supporting older carers and carers of older people to address the demographic shift which will see a greater number of older people in the coming years both requiring care themselves and providing care to the elderly.
  • Caring skills, self-care and technology-enabled care which gives an overview in how individuals can improve their abilities to take care of both themselves and others through training or the provision of new technologies.
  • Bereaved Carers as those who provide care often need specialised support to assist them in dealing with the loss of the cared-for person.

Reports from previous Social Inclusion topics:

The Contribution of the Third Sector to Social Inclusion, March 2012

BIC Social Inclusion Report, March 2010

BIC Social Inclusion Report Annexes, March 2010

BIC Social Inclusion Previous Themes

Communiqués from Ministerial Meetings

7th Ministerial Meeting - 23 April 2018

6th Ministerial Meeting - 11 March 2015

5th Ministerial Meeting - 7 March 2012

4th Ministerial Meeting - 26 March 2010

3rd Ministerial Meeting - 20 May 2008

2nd Ministerial Meeting - 2-3 March 2006

1st Ministerial Meeting - 15-16 July 2004