Deputies

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Future of funding for national voluntary organizations

The Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey, responded to concerns expressed by Pat Rabbitte (Lab, Dublin SW) and Dan Neville (FG, Limerick W) about the funding of national voluntary organizations, from which 64 had received funding of €5m, with €878,000 to support social partnership  (Dail Eireann, Debates, 3rd November 2010, 895 – 6).  The minister told them that he had completed a review of the scheme under which they were funded and he would consider various options.  Jack Wall (Lab, Kildare S) spoke of his grave concern and told of how he had received representations from various voluntary and community organizations as they approached the budget.

The minister told the Dail that he had met, directly or indirectly, the vast majority of the groups funded under the previous three-year scheme.  They had examined the scheme, finding that it was a good programme that had achieved many of its objectives.  Things had now changed economically, but he envisaged a broadly similar approach being taken in the next round.  In the meantime, several organizations had approached him to discuss greater cooperation and new thinking was emerging on how things might be done, some, but not all, being driven by scarcity of resources.   Many groups realized that the ground could be crowded by different groups trying to do the same thing.  There were 24,000 different voluntary groups in the country, its great strength, but a weakness was that its efforts were diluted.   He could not do it this side of the budget, but as soon as he could he would ‘re-engage in a scheme along similar lines.  I can give a commitment to promote the scheme for three years, but will only be able to outline funding for the first year’.

Frank Feighan (FG, Roscommon – Leitrim S) questioned a figure for €3.4m for the scheme next year, a reduction of €1.6m on the previous €5m, but the minister told him that no decision had yet been made about future funding and no organization had been told what was available.  There would be some reduction at a time of scarce resources, but he was determined that the limited resources would be directed at those most disadvantaged and marginalized.  He was anxious that frontline services be protected to the greatest possible extent.

Jack Wall hoped that after the budget the minister would meet the national organizations at the earliest opportunity to debate the approach to the budget – that conversation must take place as soon as possible.  Pat Carey said that he hoped to be able to indicate the principles of the scheme to the sector in advance of the budget.  He would have to advertise it, he said and it was possible that the timescale was too short, so interim funding might be needed for a month or two in 2011 while the new scheme was being put together, but ‘I am minded to maintain the essentials’ of the current scheme.  Had the government any proposals for voluntary initiatives in 2011?  Frank Feighan asked.  The minister told him that such funding was extremely modest, in the order of €50,000: discussion was taking place among the voluntary groups coordinating the year of volunteering, but this was more directed toward raising awareness of the need for volunteering in the sector.
> See also: Dail Eireann, Debates, 19th October 2010, 310; Dail Eireann, Debates, 3rd November 2010, 990-1.