State urged to lessen ‘administrative burden’ on charities

Conference hears of ‘excessive duplication’ with ‘unnecessary form-filling’

Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel, and environmental campaigner Duncan Stewart at the charity summit. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel, and environmental campaigner Duncan Stewart at the charity summit. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

 

Charities are struggling to meet the growing demands of State regulators, which is adding to the “administrative burden” they face, a conference held in Dublin has heard.

Deirdre Garvey, chief executive of The Wheel, the country’s largest representative body for the charity sector, told its two-day conference in Croke Park that the Government should reduce pressures on the almost 10,000 charities operating in the State.

“There is excessive duplication between the various reporting processes, and this is adding to the administrative burden on charities,” she said.

The Wheel says there are 9,931 registered charities in Ireland with an annual turnover of €12.1 billion which sustain 158,000 jobs.

In her opening remarks, Ms Garvey said the organisation surveyed 312 charities and that 62 per cent responded to say there was increased pressure on staff due to reporting requirements. Some 60 per cent said that administrative costs had risen as a result.

She called on the Charities Regulator to streamline the multiple reports charities have to file with various State bodies such as the Companies Registration Office, the regulator itself, the lobbying regulator, the Health Service Executive and Tusla, the child and family agency.

“Charities welcome regulation and oversight but these organisations cannot afford valuable public resources on unnecessary form-filling and duplication,” said Ms Garvey.

Accountability

She said that the “recent series of crises” in the health service showed that accountability involving senior officials was “neither effective nor appropriate in the health and social care setting”.

“On the other hand,” she continued, “the model of direct contact with accountability to service users provided by the community and voluntary sector makes charities both highly effective and compassionate at delivering people-centred services.”

Any reform of the HSE should copy the approach delivered by charities, she said.

Bairbre Nic Aongusa, an assistant secretary at the Department of Rural and Community Development, which oversees the charity sector, said its mission was to promote and support “vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities throughout Ireland”.

Ms Nic Aongusa questioned whether a rural-urban divide really existed, as opposed to a division between advantaged and disadvantaged communities.

There would always be tensions between the government as the funder and the voluntary sector as the recipient, she suggested.

In a reference to some sections of the media asking during the recent severe weather what the Government was doing for the homeless, she said civil society groups working on homelessness got 90 per cent of their funds from the State.

Ms Nic Aongusa said it would be good if the sector acknowledged the Government’s role in funding charities. She said she did not like a “them and us” relationship and that there needed to be trust and a common focus on purposes and values.