Human Rights: Community Benefit From Public Procurement

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Publications: Community Benefits

When the State spends money on a large project such as a new school, hospital or road network, or when it buys a service such as maintenance of parks or cleaning of government offices, it does so under EU procurement guidelines.

These guidelines allow for the inclusion in contracts of community benefit clauses (CBCs) that can be used to build a variety of economic, social or environmental conditions into the delivery of the public works or service. For example, a community benefit clause could require a contractor to source a certain portion of their workforce or use local suppliers for some components, or that they use practices that mitigate any temporary environmental impact in the local area.

The inclusion of such clauses becomes a matter of human rights because States are required under treaties such as the Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights to address social exclusion through the maximum use of available resources. In Ireland this puts an onus on our Government to be as creative as possible in the ways it uses its resources to address social exclusion issues such as unemployment or low income.

Community benefit from public procurement is one such opportunity, and CAN has been working with communities to ensure that such opportunities are taken.

The New Children’s Hospital

The new Children’s Hospital is to be located beside St James’s Hospital, and we have worked with communities in the Dublin 8 area and with the New Children’s Hospital authorities to establish a Community Benefit Oversight Group, which is responsible for delivering a comprehensive benefit in procurement programme in the building and operation of the New Children’s Hospital.

For the first time in Ireland, contractors bidding for work on the site will be scored on their plans to implement social clauses, including targets for training and recruitment of disadvantaged groups on the site. 

See: New Children’s Hospital Community Benefit Programme.

Dolphin House and St Teresa’s Gardens

Not far from the new Children’s Hospital are the two regeneration communities of Dolphin House and St Teresa’s Gardens, and here we have worked with Dublin City Council to achieve the inclusion of pilot community benefit clauses in the contracts for the large-scale building projects on those two sites.

Wider discussion of Community Benefit clauses

We have also sought to spread the word more widely about the advantages of using community benefit clauses. 

  • We organised and facilitated a dialogue of interested parties to tease out the potential of community benefit in Ireland. Participants included local authorities, the Office of Government Procurement, the Scottish Government, the Construction Federation of Ireland, the Irish Social Enterprise Network, Business in the Community, legal firms, academics, and representatives from other projects which were already using community benefit clauses using social clauses (the New Children’s Hospital, devolved schools, the Grangegorman Development project and the regeneration areas). 
  • We published A Primer on the use of Social Clauses in Ireland by Deirdre Halloran of the Department of Law in NUI Galway.


As part of our Community Benefits work, CAN has led two webinars exploring the use of social clauses in public procurement.  These clauses have proven a successful way to reach groups far from the labour market in large public projects like the New Children’s Hospital. The first webinar SOCIAL CLAUSES, THE WHAT THE WHY AND THE HOW features Peter Dorman from CAN in conversation with renowned social clauses expert Richard MacFarlane. See the webinar here:

The second webinar SOCIAL CLAUSES AND HUMAN RIGHTS is a conversation with Deirdre Halloran, author of CAN research Social Clauses in Public Procurement – The Irish Experience and Jacqueline Healy of Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on social clauses as an instrument of protecting respecting and fulfilling human rights. See the webinar here:

n our third online event, SOCIAL CLAUSES THE IRISH EXPERIENCE, Ossian Smyth, Minister with responsibility for Public Procurement, launched the landmark research Social Clauses in Public Procurement – The Irish experience. The conference, attended by over 60 people, heard about the research by its author Dr Deirdre Halloran, and from members of the CAN Community Benefit Forum, leaders of social clause projects in Grangegorman, the New Children’s Hospital, National Development Finance Agency bundles and the Dublin 8 Regenerations. See the conference here:

Here is the research: Social Clauses in Public Procurement: The Irish Experience by Deirdre Halloran of the Department of Law in NUI Galway.

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Publications: Human Rights