Charity sector and public funds

 

Sir, – Jacky Jones (“Ireland’s big problems will not be solved by charity alone”, Health + Family, November 27th) poses valid questions about the role of charities in delivering health services, but she undervalues the charity sector’s contribution.

Charities do not pretend that their efforts alone will solve the “big problems” of society, but their specialist knowledge and commitment greatly compliments the efforts of the State.

Some charities are indeed contracted by the State to deliver essential services, especially in the areas of health and social care. Such charities deliver specialised and targeted support with a level of compassion and understanding that is difficult to achieve through a centralised health system.

Earlier this year, Minister for Health Simon Harris announced a review of the role of voluntary organisations in health provision. The aim is to preserve the best features of the current model, while ensuring enhanced collaboration with statutory and voluntary partners. The HSE and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, have launched similar initiatives. The Wheel and its 1,300 members welcome and look forward to participating in these and similar initiatives.

Jacky Jones states, “civil society organisations seldom work in partnership with each other or with statutory agencies”. Not so. Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, for example, works closely with the Dublin Homeless Network, a formal partnership of 14 organisations addressing homelessness. This network was formed precisely to avoid the risk of competition and duplication alleged in the article.

Charities fund-raise over €700 million a year towards the cost of services. Over half of the €10 billion turnover of Ireland’s nonprofit sector is generated by the sector itself. We need to acknowledge the massive contribution these organisations make to subsidising the cost of public services in Ireland and the resultant benefits to the State.

Ireland has fewer non-profit organisations per capita than many other countries. Yet they involve over half a million people every year, the vast majority giving their time on a voluntary basis. The value of this work (after annualising the hours and applying the national minimum wage) amounts to over €2 billion annually. –Yours, etc,

DEIRDRE GARVEY

Chief Executive Officer,

The Wheel,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – A very welcome article by Dr Jacky Jones on charities and the amount of taxpayers’ money given as grants – €3.7 billion – to a number of them. There are far too many registered charities – 8,849 – in our small nation and a number of them duplicate or triplicate the many public services in health and social care.

There are many kind, compassionate and generous people who tirelessly work as volunteers and fund raisers for a number of charities. There are also people who do not realise that many charities, especially in the health sector, receive vast sums in HSE grants.

It is so important for members of the public to know the facts about charities and whether all funds – taxpayers’ money and charitable donations – received are properly itemised and accounted for.

From my experience as a volunteer, over a long period of time, with a couple of charities, I agree with the questions raised by Dr Jones. Should essential services be delivered by civil society organisations? Are the outcomes of services delivered by the charities as good as those delivered by the state?

Has the time arrived for an amalgamation of charities that deliver similar charitable services? – Yours, etc,

MARY TOOMEY,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin.