The Wheel responds to Irish Times article by Jacky Jones ("Why are so many of our health services provided by charities?", 28 November)

Irish timesThe Wheel has responded to an article by Jackie Jones entitled "Why are so many of our health services provided by charities?", published in the November issue of the Irish Times Health + Family supplement. The Wheel's response was published in both the print and online editions of The Irish Times on Wednesday, 29 November. 

In the article, Dr Jones asks valid questions about the role of charities in providing health and services but fails to acknowledge their contribution.

Our response is reproduced below: 

Sir, -

Jacky Jones ("Ireland's big problems will not be solved by charity alone", 27 November) poses valid questions about the role of charities in delivering health services, but she undervalues the charity sector’s contribution in almost every sector of Irish society.

Charities do not pretend that their efforts alone will solve the ‘big problems’ of society, but their specialist knowledge and commitment greatly compliments the efforts of the State.

Some charities are indeed contracted by the State to deliver essential services - especially in the areas of health and social care. Such charities deliver specialised and targeted support with a level of compassion and understanding that is difficult to achieve through a centralised health system.

Earlier this year, Health Minister Simon Harris announced a review of the role of voluntary organisations in health provision. The aim is to preserve the best features of the current model, while ensuring enhanced collaboration with statutory and voluntary partners. The HSE and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, have launched similar initiatives to match services to need acknowledging the respective roles of statutory and voluntary organisations. The Wheel and its 1,300 members welcome and look forward to participating in these and similar initiatives.

In her article, Jacky Jones states "civil society organisations seldom work in partnership with each other or with statutory agencies”. This is simply not true. Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, for example, works closely with the Dublin Homeless Network, a formal partnership of 14 organisations addressing homelessness. This network was formed precisely to avoid the risk of competition and duplication alleged in the article.

Charities fundraise over €700 million a year towards the cost of services. Over half of the €10 billion turnover of Ireland's nonprofit sector is generated by the sector itself. We need to acknowledge the massive contribution these organisations make to subsidising the cost of public services in Ireland and the resultant benefits to the State.

Ireland has fewer nonprofit organisations per-capita than many other countries. Yet, they involve over half a million people every year, the vast majority giving their time on a voluntary basis. The value of this work (after annualising the hours and applying the national minimum wage) amounts to over €2 billion annually. We need to celebrate this great national asset of community commitment, not seek to undermine it. –Yours, etc, 

DEIRDRE GARVEY

Chief Executive Officer,

The Wheel

Dublin 2