Community and voluntary sector in crisis

 

A chara, – The Rehab Group’s recent announcement that it may have to terminate contracts for care services with the HSE brings into sharp focus the issue of funding and financial difficulties across the wider community and voluntary sector, and specifically Section 39 organisations that are contracted to provide health and social care services through the HSE, on behalf of the State (“Rehab threat to withdraw services averted pending further talks”, News, May 7th).

Many Section 39 organisations are in severe financial difficulty, to the point of existential crisis, following years of cumulative operating deficits that have eroded financial reserves.

These deficits have arisen due to additional costs of compliance and regulation, spiralling insurance costs, ageing infrastructure, and general inflationary cost increases as the economy continues to grow, and when there has been no equivalent increase in State funding for services provided.

The recently published Department of Health Commissioned Report of the Independent Review Group (IRG), established to examine the role of voluntary organisations in publicly funded health and personal social services, recommended that government departments undertake a review of the financial position of voluntary organisations and put forward proposals for resolving deficits identified, as well as a move to multiannual budgets to facilitate strategic service planning and reform of services.

The report also recommended a review and simplification of the HSE service arrangements and grant-aid agreements process and the establishment of a forum to facilitate regular dialogue between the relevant State representatives and the voluntary sector to ensure their full involvement in future policy and strategic developments. The report highlighted that while one-third of all disability services are provided directly by the HSE, two-thirds are provided by voluntary organisations.

The Not for Profit Association (NFPA) calls on Government to implement urgently the recommendations of the IRG report and to make a long-term commitment to strategic development of, and investment in, social-care service provision by the voluntary sector. Failure to do so will result in other Section 39 organisations being forced to terminate services and face closure.

The biggest losers in this scenario will be the many thousands of people all across the country that rely on voluntary organisations to provide those vital services that support and enable people to have choice and independence in how they live their lives.

The NFPA is the representative association for independent, national, not for profit organisations that are engaged, on a contractual basis, in the provision of health and/or social care services on behalf of the State. The NFPA’s membership includes some of the State’s largest social care and disability service providers, such as the Rehab Group, the Irish Wheelchair Association, Enable Ireland, the Central Remedial Clinic, Cheshire Ireland, the National Council for the Blind Ireland, and Chime – the National Charity for Deafness and Hearing Loss. – Yours, etc,

ROSEMARY KEOGH,

(Chairwoman,

Not for Profit Association,

Chief Executive Officer,

Irish Wheelchair

Association,

Clontarf,

Dublin 3.