Time to re­new fo­cus on vol­un­tary sec­tor

The Irish Times - - Comment & Letters -

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.

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