Funding threat to advocacy groups for immigrants

 

THERE IS a "real question" over the long-term future of immigrant advocacy in Ireland, according to a new report. This is because the two philanthropic bodies that fund much of the sector will cease providing support by 2016.

The report, published by Prospectus Consultants on behalf of the One Foundation, a philanthropic entity, found that many of the 190 migrant organisations in Ireland will face extreme funding challenges when the involvement of Atlantic Philanthropies and the One Foundation comes to an end, in 2016 and 2013 respectively. A large proportion of funding for groups working in the area comes from these sources.

Current Government policy, outlined by Minister for Integration Conor Lenihan, favours "migrant- led" or "minority-led" groups for State funding, and the report notes concern among many NGOs that they could lose out.

Mr Lenihan has also identified faith-based organisations, local authorities and political parties for State support, but most of the major national migrant organisations are outside these categories.

"Because these organisations are funded primarily by philanthropy and with various levels of Government support, sustainability is a major challenge," said Katie Burke, director of Prospectus. "Many organisations feel that current Government policy, focusing on providing funding for 'mainstreaming' services, 'migrant-led' organisations and local groups, is a critical issue . . . "

She added that NGOs had substantial experience and understanding of the issues, "and it is important that this is acknowledged and utilised".

The report, based on consultations with migrant groups, civil society groups and Government representatives, identified a number of key issues facing the sector. These included a lack of shared understanding between Government and NGOs on what "integration" means or what constitutes successful integration policy; a poor understanding by the general public of migration issues; and a lack of hard data to assist in making informed decisions on how to allocate resources, make policy and deliver services.

The report found Government and State agency representatives believe NGOs do not always represent the average voter's views, and gaining public support requires NGOs to show greater understanding of what concerns people.