in publicly funded provision
in enterprise and small business
within Northern Ireland
This summary outlines the findings and conclusions from a study into how public expenditure in enterprise and small business development is accessed and used by the two principal communities and others within Northern Ireland. The origins of the study lay in the mutual interest of LEDU in reviewing its operations particularly from the perspective of progressing its 'Targeting Social Needs' objective and of the Central Community Relations Unit (CCRU), concerned with reviewing uptake of public resources by the differing communities in Northern Ireland.
The study was designed and carried out by an independent consultancy organisation, the Institute for Enterprise Strategies (IES). The aim of the study may be simply put as to establish the proportions of LEDU funding, direct and through the LEA network, going to the Protestant, Catholic and other communities.
No information was readily available on any individual's religion. In all cases therefore it was necessary for others; the consultants and LEA personnel, to perceive the likely community background of an individual from that information which was available. This introduces a degree of inaccuracy and uncertainty into the findings. The work then fell into two parts; that dealing with LEDU and the LEAs.
The LEDU analysis was based on a detailed examination of a sample of 545 cases, 412 approved and 133 rejected or otherwise not proceeded with. The cases were selected from all cases from 1990 to end March 1993. The principal criteria used for ascribing a perceived religion was school attended - using the DED Classification of Schools for Monitoring Purposes - though others were used as available, such as referee statements and so forth. (Names, either forename or surname, were not used). Findings at the regional level, particularly for a minority within a region, should be interpreted with caution as the regional samples are obviously only a fraction of the size of the overall sample.
Analysing the LEAs required their co-operation as generally there is little information recorded on their clients other than name and address. The manager in each case was then asked, with the help of their development officer as appropriate, to provide summary figures and totals. In no case was information asked for or given that would associate a particular individual with a perceived religion. Similarly in the LEDU analysis no indication of religion was in any way linked to an individual's file.
Information was sought on the major services of the LEAs; the tenants, the training funded by LEDU (Enterprise Training and Target Programmes), and the seed fund (if any) funded by the IFI and others. Information was sought on all the current tenants, otherwise the information sought related to 1992.
Two LEAS declined to participate in the study, a third answered
'not known' to all questions relating to perceived religion. Most
LEAs expressed reservations as to the value of the study, their
ability to help, or claimed that they were too busy, required
payment or some combination of the above. A small number however
displayed enthusiasm for the concept of being adjudged fair.
Three tables are presented below. Each records the proportions
of those perceived as Catholic, Protestant, and so forth, for
the sample, by Regional Office. The first table below details
the split by perceived religion for all the 412 Approved cases.
The defining characteristic of an LEA is its location. With the possible exception of ARC, which does not offer workspace, LEAs are found to be very reflective of the immediate locality and this applies across all the LEA's services. Indeed regardless of the fairness of the management and the steps taken to attract cross-community interest it remains the case that many areas in Northern Ireland are highly polarised and even that minority which is present in the immediate area may be instinctively inclined to travel to adjacent areas where they feel more comfortable. Clearly perception is more important than reality, though 'reality' then quickly reflects perception.
The LEA analysis must then take place at a higher level of aggregation
than the individual agencies. The following table, which notes
the absence of the nonparticipating agencies, presents the findings
by LEDU Region and all Northern Ireland.
Overall the figures suggest that application to, and benefit from,
LEDU is in line with what we might expect from Census figures
- see following table - relating to the economically active population.
LEDU's operations should therefore be seen as fair.
A number of points must be made. Firstly 8.6% of the assistance provided could not be ascribed due to insufficient information. Obviously some proportion of the recipients of this would be Catholic. This may be further aggravated by two factors; that some schools in the area have a small though significant Catholic intake yet are classified for monitoring purposes as Protestant, leading to some misclassification, and, possibly, that minorities are everywhere less likely to reveal details that identify them as such. Offsetting this adjustment it must be noted that 15.9% in the Census in this area gave 'None' or no response to the religion question and a proportion of these will be Catholic. The second major doubt concerns the reliability of the sample given its size -64 (60 with details of assistance paid). Further work, to determine if this state persisted with a new and larger sample, would be necessary before any operational changes should be considered.
There is an overall bias in existing LEA provision in favour of Catholics. This is most marked in Belfast.
This reflects however a historical pattern of development with
rural areas and Catholic West Belfast being much quicker to develop
community based economic development groupings. Current expansion
of the LEA network under the Local Enterprise Programme - pending
additions include East Belfast, Castlereagh and Newtownabbey,
with Ballymena's development falling after the survey work - will
reduce and possibly eliminate imbalance.
DED is currently reviewing the introduction of monitoring of access to and usage by community background across all its services and those of its agencies. Clearly LEDU developments must await the outcomes of these deliberations.
However most LEDU provision straddles that which might be considered individual and that pertaining to a company. For the IDB and company development side of the Training and Employment Agency existing FEC information on client companies religious composition may typically be referenced thereby avoiding the need for additional requests for information. Other DED related provision is at the level of the individual, either employment, direct or placement, or training. In these cases monitoring mechanisms are already used, based around slips to record the individuals' notional affiliations.
FEC information on employees' religion is however unlikely to go below a floor of five employees, (current requirements relate to firms employing more than 11), so that even in the future the vast majority of LEDU assistance cases, and majority of funding, cannot be determined without a specific LEDU mechanism. It should be noted that the dropping of the request for information on Schooling in the recent revision of the application form is in line with monitoring best practice, where such information is separated from the case file. Its removal does however mean that it would be impossible to repeat the approach used in this study again for the future.
If monitoring is to be introduced therefore some form of separate slip system would seem the most appropriate mechanism.
There is the question of the dissemination of the results. LEDU Regional Managers are aware that the study took place and given the sensitivity of the study internal communication of the overall findings would be both desirable and beneficial.
Wider dissemination, if desired, could include publication of an agreed paper in a research journal or more straightforward press release.
That 'completion' of the network is key in addressing fairness is noted above.
At the level of the individual LEA, and recognising their independence, and indeed opportunity to access other non LEDU resources, some public, some European and some private, little direct action is possible (or necessary). However a 'best practice' guidance manual explaining the issues and how to deal with them may be valuable. Publication of the individual LEA results or even the overall totals would seem of little value.
Any move towards devolving existing LEDU functions to a select number of LEAS would need to take full account of perceived accessibility by all communities.
It should be noted that the study has been concerned with the operation of LEDU and the LEAS. It has not addressed the questions of whether or not there are different attitudes to enterprise, different views of LEDU and the LEA network and so forth. Example questions that remain unanswered include: attitudes to self-employment - are both religions equally driven by same factors, eg unemployment?, is there a difference in success by religion?