Community Services Programme (CSP)

Extension to the Community Services Programme (CSP) Support Fund (April 2021) 

Mr Joe O Brien TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities has announced additional funding of €3.2m for the Community Services Programme (CSP) 2021 Support Fund, in line with the extension of other Government wage support schemes up to end of June 2021. This brings the total amount allocated under the CSP Support Fund in 2020 and 2021, to €7.95 million. 

This includes extension of the previous wage supports for FTEs and Manager PRSI increases to June 2021. Separately, additional funding is being made available to help those organisations most in need to meet their ongoing operational costs such as insurance, light and heat and audit fees.  



The Community Services Programme (CSP) supports community companies and co-operatives to deliver local social, economic and environmental services that tackle disadvantage by providing a co-funding contribution towards the cost of employing a manager and full-time equivalent (FTE) positions.

The CSP is based on a social enterprise model, whereby community companies and co-operatives are expected to generate a traded income from the delivery of services, which in turn can co-fund the cost of employment, and cover other overheads associated with the delivery of services.

Funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development and administered by Pobal, the CSP supports approximately 400 community companies and co-operatives at any given time.

CSP funded services are found in disadvantaged communities where public and private sector services are lacking, for example, due to geographical or social isolation, or because of demand deficits (i.e. where demand is not being met by existing services).

The objectives of the programme are to,

  • Promote social enterprise as an approach to alleviating disadvantage and addressing local social, economic and environmental needs which are not being met through public or private funding or other resources.
  • Create sustainable jobs for those most distant from the labour market, in particular for those who are long term unemployed and from specific target groups.
  • Promote sustainable social and economic development.
  • Enable service providers to lever additional public investment to improve facilities and services
  • Strengthen local ownership through participation in decision making.
  • Support social innovation and encourage sharing of learning and expertise between participating service providers.

The CSP funding model is expressed as a fixed annual co-funding contribution towards the costs of employing a manager and/or a specified number of full time equivalent positions (FTEs). The co-funding contribution towards employing each Full-Time Equivalent position (“FTEs”) is €19,033 per annum. Where the CSP contributes to the cost of employing a manager, this amounts to €32,000 co-funding per annum.

CSP funded community companies and co-operatives fall under one of the following categories within the programme. Those who:

  • Operate community halls and facilities (CSP Strand 1)
  • Provide services to local, regional and national geographical communities or communities of interest, especially to disadvantaged communities (CSP Strand 2)
  • Operate social enterprises that provide employment for specific disadvantaged groups namely Travellers, people with disabilities, ex-prisoners and recovering drug mis-users (CSP Strand 3)


Additional information concerning the CSP can be found in the CSP Operating Manual

CSP funded service providers can access all other guidance material on the CSP portal by using your login details.


CSP Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between the Community Services Programme (CSP) and employment activation programmes/schemes?

There are clear differences between the CSP and active labour market programmes run by the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection such as Community Employment, Tús, Gateway and the Rural Social Scheme. Such programmes provide additional income to jobseekers in exchange for working a set number of hours, usually 19.5 hours per week, in a community based organisation or setting. The objectives of such programmes are to provide individuals with work experience or placements in local community settings, in most cases for a defined period of time. The focus in the main is on the individual to assist re-entry to the labour market.

On the contrary, the CSP provides a co-funding contribution to service providers to employ a manager and/or Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) to help deliver the objectives of the community service. The focus here is on service delivery to disadvantaged communities and target groups. Employees are recruited from the labour market subject to the service provider meeting certain programme requirements. As such, the CSP enables the creation of paid employment positions and is not a welfare payment, or an add-on to a welfare payment. This approach sets the programme apart from other public funding sources and reflects the social enterprise ethos of the programme.

What are the main characteristics of organisations funded under CSP?

The vast majority of CSP service providers contain the following key characteristics,

  • The organisation and business is started by a group of individuals within a community setting
  • It adopts a social enterprise approach to addressing social issues and creating positive social change and social inclusion
  • Any surpluses are re-invested for the purpose of that business or in the community rather than being driven to provide profit for owners or shareholders
  • It is an independent organisation accountable to a defined set of members and the wider community
  • It is democratic in its membership and decision making; the governance structures generally represent their key stakeholders (community representatives, members of target groups, general community interests and specialist areas of knowledge/skills)
  • It is participatory in nature, involving those who will be impacted by the activity or services or goods being provided
  • It strives to create sustainable jobs for disadvantaged target groups such as Travellers, long-term unemployed or people with disabilities
  • It holds its assets and wealth for the benefit of community, usually in the form of reserves
  • It encourage workers to learn and update their skills
  • It encourages a high level of co-operation with other social enterprises, statutory bodies and other regional/national organisations

Exceptions to the above include a small number of Local Development Companies and Statutory Agencies who have contracts under the programme, but who must adopt a social enterprise model for the CSP supported service.

How long is a typical grant agreement (contract) for under CSP?

A typical grant agreement or contract under the CSP is for a period of three years. However, this can vary for different reasons and sometimes service providers may receive a 1-year or 2-year contract. The grant agreement specifies the purpose of the grant, the service description, contracted performance output indicator targets and grant amount and delivery period. It also specifies general conditions, and contract specific conditions that are applicable.

Are service providers supported under CSP eligible to re-apply for funding at the end of their contractual period?

A call to prepare a new Business Plan is usually issued in the final year of a three year grant agreement. Once your Business Plan is appraised by Pobal, recommendations are forwarded to the Department of Rural & Community Development for final decision. A service provider will then either continue in the programme with the same funding allocation, with a reduced allocation, or with an increased allocation. A small number of service providers exit the CSP annually either voluntarily or as a result of the re-contracting process, or for other reasons.

How is ‘social enterprise’ defined under CSP?

For the purposes of the CSP, social enterprises can be defined as “an enterprise that trades for social/societal purpose, where at least part of its income is earned from its trading activity, is separate from government and where the surplus is primarily re-invested in the social objective” (Forfas: Social Enterprise in Ireland, Sectoral Opportunities and Policy Issues. (July 2013)

There are many different types of social enterprises that generate a traded income through:

  • Delivery of specific services with a social dividend (e.g. meals on wheels, care for older people, home improvements, transport, environmental services, visitation services, childcare provision, community media)
  • Local economic development (e.g. tourism facilities or products, sports facilities, heritage and arts facilities)
  • Creating employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups (e.g. focus on training and integration of unemployed, people with disabilities, Travellers, ex-prisoners and other target groups
  • Deficient Demand Social Enterprises: where the demand for particular goods and services within a community is not matched by the resources to pay for these, due to disadvantage or low density of population
  • And sometimes a mix of two or more of the above
What is expected of CSP service providers in relation to traded income?

CSP service providers are required to generate traded income from a variety of sources including sales, fees (often with a sliding scale or pricing policy according to need and ability to pay), contracts, room rental and/or the organisation of events.

In order to assist sustainability, all CSP service providers should strive for a situation where at least 30% of annual turnover is from traded income, and where the CSP grant is not more than 50% of your annual turnover. While this may not be achievable in the short-term for some service providers, it is something to focus on in the medium to long term and business plans should be orientated towards the achievement of these benchmarks in terms of sustainability. Service providers who have a CSP funded manager in place should build towards the achievement of these targets by trying to ensure in the first instance that at least the equivalent of a CSP manager contribution (€32,000) comes from traded income.

Is sub-contracting allowed under CSP?

Sub-contracting in the context of CSP is where service delivery is carried out by an organisation other than the contract holder. As a general rule, sub-contracting is not allowed. However, from 1 January 2016, sub-contracting may occur on an exceptional basis where it is agreed with Pobal in advance to be the most effective way to maximise the resources available.

Do Pobal specify the terms and conditions of employment of CSP staff?

No. It is a matter for your board as the employer of staff to set out the terms and conditions of employment and to provide CSP funded staff with employment contracts. Pobal has a contract for service delivery with the company and the company should have employment contracts with staff.

How many hours each week are Managers and FTEs required to work?

It is a matter for each employer to specify in an employment contract the number of hours to be worked by their staff. However, in order to draw down the full CSP co-funding contribution, both Managers and FTEs are required to work a minimum of 39 hours per week. This is exclusive of lunch breaks, but inclusive of short tea/coffee breaks. From 1 July 2016, where Managers are contracted for less than the required minimum hours, and where this is deemed acceptable to Pobal, the CSP co-funding contribution will be reduced on a pro rata basis.

Please note that People with Disabilities (PWD) are exempt from any requirement to work 39 hours per week under the CSP, and hours can be agreed as deemed appropriate.

Does Pobal prescribe the rate of payment to CSP funded staff?

Neither the Department and by extension Pobal set the wage rate; this is entirely a matter for the employer. The CSP contribution is provided on a co-funding basis and employers are expected to provide additional funds from their own resources to meet the full cost of employment. Employers are expected to pay a reasonable and adequate rate of pay to staff in line with local market rates. For FTE positions, employers should strive towards achieving the payment of a ‘living wage’ which is viewed as a rate €11.70 per hour where feasible. Service providers are obliged under employment law to pay the minimum wage.

What are the CSP Programme rules on employing CSP funded FTEs from certain specified categories?

Strand 1 and 2 services

At least 70% of the CSP‐supported FTEs (i.e. 70% of contracted hours per week) must be drawn from the following categories:

  • Person in receipt of Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB), Jobseeker’s Assistance (JA), one parent family payment (OPF) or the Jobseeker Transitional Payment
  • Persons in receipt of disability allowance (DA), invalidity pension, blind person’s pension or other disability benefit
  • Travellers in receipt of Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Assistance or one parent family benefit
  • Stabilised and recovering drug mis‐users
  • People employed from Tús, Gateway, Community Employment (CE) and Job Initiatives (JI) schemes are deemed eligible but cannot simultaneously hold a CSP and Tús/Gateway/CE/JI/RSS position. Former RSS workers who were previously CE participants are also eligible
  • People with convictions who are in contact with the Probation Service

Strand 3 services

At least 70% of the CSP‐supported FTEs (i.e. 70% of contracted hours per week) must be drawn from the following categories:

  • Persons in receipt of disability allowance (DA), invalidity pension, blind person’s pension or other disability benefit.
  • Travellers in receipt of Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Assistance or one parent family benefit.
  • Stabilised and recovering drug mis‐users.
  • People with convictions who are in contact with the Probation Service
  • People who are homeless (only relevant to new entrants in 2018)
  • Immigrants (only relevant to new entrants in 2018)
  • The Department may add additional priority categories from time to time

Programme Contact Details

Pobal Support

T. 01 511 7222