The Need for a National Plan

 We need a national plan to support community and voluntary activity!

 There remain major gaps to be filled to create an environment that is truly supportive and enabling of community and voluntary activity.

We need a coherent policy framework and a national development strategy for the community and voluntary sector.

The economic and social crisis we are experiencing makes it more important than ever that community and voluntary organisations are supported in their vital work to protect vulnerable people from the worse effects of the recession and of Budget 2012.

The extensive roles being performed by the Community and Voluntary Sector demand increasing levels of professionalism and accountability from community and voluntary organisations, while charities are coming under increasing pressure to demonstrate robust governance. 

We outline here what needs to be done to provide a supportive and enabling environment for community and voluntary activity. This supportive and enabling environment is necessary if the Sector is to create the vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities of place and interest that will underpin an equal and just Ireland.

  • We need a coherent policy framework and a national development strategy for the community and voluntary sector. Our charities and community and voluntary organisations work constantly to improve their effectiveness in supporting the communities we serve – but this work is hampered by the fragmented nature of government policy towards the sector. We need Government to take the lead and provide a coherent policy framework - including a national development strategy - for the sector. We also need to make sure that spaces for dialogue are available for discussions on sector-development issues between the sector and the State.
  • Government should work with our sector to deliver a nationwide support-infrastructure so that our community and voluntary organisations receive the services and supports we need.
  • We need a new framework for partnership working between the sector and the state, one that deepens the existing social partnership approach. Many charities and community and voluntary organisations work in partnership with Government bodies to provide essential services and supports for our people. Partnership working is complex and demanding, requiring strong shared understandings by both voluntary and statutory partners if beneficial outcomes are to be maximised for the people and communities we serve. We need a new framework for partnership working that sets out:
    • the principles that would inform the partnership-engagement when community and voluntary organisations work with statutory agencies
    • a mechanism to develop, drive implementation, and monitor/review a new agreement
    • a new statutory funding regime that makes provision for:
    • multi-annual funding that is index-linked to national agreements.
    • funding that is provided on a full-cost-recovery basis and
    • funding that includes automatic training and pension budgets for staff.
  • We need to simultaneously develop a strategy to diversify funding for the sector. Over 60% of funding for our community and voluntary organisations comes from the state – the sector needs to develop a strategy to diversify this funding mix to avoid becoming over-dependent on statutory support.
  • Government should involve our communities in designing our public services. Our community and voluntary organisations provide good locations for government to involve people in designing more responsive public services.
  • We need to make sure that the Charities Act 2009 - when eventually commenced - provides supportive regulation for the community and voluntary sector, and that charities are resourced appropriately to respond to the challenges regulation will pose.
  • The right of charities to engage in advocacy activity must be protected.
  • Government should encourage volunteering and support voluntary trustees in their work by developing a national policy on volunteering.
  • Government should incentivise private-giving through extending tax relief on donations
  • Government should introduce a VAT refund scheme for charities so that charities can spend all the money they get from donors on beneficiaries.