Time to renew focus on voluntary sector

 

Sir, – The letter by six leading providers of health and social services (December 6th) correctly highlights the intense frustration of not-for-profit organisations resulting from the impact of the recession, increased public demand for services and the unsupported cost of new regulatory compliance standards.

Our society runs a real risk that charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises will experience a haemorrhaging, both of staff, who almost universally provide their labour at below the going rate, and volunteers, trustees and supporters who find their time is increasingly absorbed with unnecessary duplication, administration and form filling.

Most of these issues exist as a result of the outfall of the recent disastrous recession and the, often panic-driven, attempts of State funding bodies to cut spending at any cost. Necessary regulation was introduced with a serious imbalance of heavily staffed regulatory bodies not being matched by necessary supports to assist grossly under-resourced and understaffed charities.

Future policy must involve a review of how our sector is treated. The introduction of multiyear funding, pay restoration similar to that occurring in the public service and streamlining of ever-expanding regulatory bureaucracy are among the first requirements.

The current Government is showing a clear commitment to acknowledging the vital role played by charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprise in our society. The introduction of a charity VAT compensation scheme from 2019 and development of three detailed new policies on social enterprise, the community and voluntary sector and volunteering are stand-out examples.

The Wheel, Ireland’s national association of charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises, believes a new and further dialogue with Government is now necessary on the specifics of addressing the many financial, regulatory and service provision issues affecting our sector as the country moves past recession and towards a full-employment economy.

The Wheel will continue to work positively with the Government to identify and agree on real solutions to what are very real problems, not just for charities but also for the many thousands of individuals and families that rely on these organisations’ work. – Yours, etc,

DEIRDRE GARVEY,

Chief Executive,

The Wheel,

Fleet Street,

Dublin 2.