Social partnership, or social dialogue as it is increasingly called, has been a key element of the policy making process in Ireland since the development of the first social partnership agreement, The Programme for National Recovery, in 1987. The Society of St Vincent de Paul became involved in the social partnership process during the 1996 negotiations for Partnership 2000 when the Community and Voluntary pillar joined the other social partners for the first time.
The most recent social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, is a ten year agreement covering the period 2006 to 2015. Towards 2016 takes a life cycle approach to policy making, which aims to ‘address key social challenges by assessing the risks and hazards which the individual person faces and the supports available to them at each stage of the life cycle’.
23 high level goals are set out in the agreement. These high level goals aim to ensure that every person has access to an adequate income and appropriate services, and are supported to participate fully in economic, civic and social life.
Although Social Partnership has been in abeyance in recent years a process of social dialogue between Government and Community and Voluntary organisations, including the Society of St Vincent de Paul continues. This involves regular meetings with a number of government departments, including the Department of the Taoiseach, Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Department of Finance, the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs.