Voluntary sector plays vital role

Sir, – Diarmaid Ferriter ("Hospices show how State leans too heavily on volunteers", Opinion & Analysis, February 8th) notes the extent to which we rely in Ireland on massive voluntary exertions to provide essential services, and that we should reduce this excessive reliance.

Last year, an independent review group commissioned by the Department of Health to examine the role of voluntary organisations in public health and personal social-care services found that the voluntary sector provides approximately one-quarter of acute hospital services and approximately two-thirds of services to people with disabilities.

Additionally, many essential educational and child and family services are also delivered by community and voluntary organisations.

There are considerable benefits to this approach, including a sense of community ownership and the person-centred, flexible and innovative nature of the resulting services. However, the approach requires the State to sustainably fund and support organisations delivering essential services, a reality which unfortunately in many circumstances does not apply.


In the context of the general election and the forthcoming negotiations to agree on a programme for government, The Wheel, Ireland’s national association of charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises, is calling on all political parties to recognise and support the value the community and voluntary sector adds to society; support sustainable funding models; enable responsive services through streamlined compliance systems; and embrace collaborative partnership working.

If we do these things, we can put services on a sustainable footing and benefit to the maximum from the community-led approach. – Yours, etc,


Director of Public Policy,

The Wheel,

Fleet Street,

Dublin 2.