A dedicated fund to support both men’s and women’s sheds in rural areas has been sought by TDs.

Speaking in the Dáil this week, Sinn Féin TD Claire Kerrane said that these sheds play an “important role” in rural communities “where there may be lots of people living alone with no family close by”.

“The sheds help to tackle rural isolation for those living alone and they also play an important role in mental health,” the deputy said.

“The Department [of Rural and Community Development] should consider a co-funding arrangement with the Department of Health to guarantee funding for men’s and women’s sheds.

“Otherwise, it makes it difficult to sustain them.”

‘They might get nothing’

In 2019, the Department of Rural and Community Development established a ringfenced fund of €500,000 for sheds under the Community Enhancement Programme (CEP). This is no longer in place.

Minister of State at the department Joe O’Brien said sheds are still supported “through many funding programmes that are open to a variety of groups and organisations”.

“These include the CEP, the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme [SICAP] and the Transitional LEADER Programme,” he said.

“While the ringfenced fund is no longer in place all community groups, including women’s sheds, can apply to the programme. The 2021 CEP allocated a total of €4.5 million to community groups and it is hoped to run the programme again in future.”

However, deputy Kerrane, who is the Sinn Féin spokesperson on social protection and rural development, said the issue for sheds is that they are applying under these different funding streams “here and there”.

“They might get something but then again, they might get nothing. I would love to see a dedicated fund given the important role they play, particularly in rural communities where there may be lots of people living alone,” she said.

Labour TD Seán Sherlock added that the funding coming in from local authorities is “sometimes perceived to be ad hoc and may not be transformative in terms of what they want to do, even though they are looking for modest amounts”.

Same ‘quality of service’ for men’s and women’s sheds

Independent TD for Galway East Seán Canney said he has been contacted by a group of women in his constituency who want to set up a shed.

“They want to know where to go to get state support. Men’s sheds have been successful throughout the country and have been strongly supported by the department,” the deputy said.

“In that context, we should consider supporting women’s sheds. It is important to ensure that women’s sheds get parity of esteem and the same quality of service as men’s sheds.

“Women need to have places to meet, chat, do community work and become involved to give them a sense of belonging.”