For the Media

Posted on 30 Jul 2018

The Wheel is the leading voice for Ireland's charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Our membership of 1,700 organisations includes Ireland's best-known charities.

Our team is available to comment on any issues related to Ireland's nonprofit sector, including:

  • the role and activities of charities, community and voluntary groups and social enterprises;
  • charities regulation and Charity Law;
  • good governance, quality standards and voluntary codes for the sector;
  • transparency and accountability;
  • volunteering and active citizenship;
  • fundraising and funding for charities; and
  • the role of the voluntary sector in delivering health and social care services.

Our spokespeople are experienced media commentators. Contact us today to arrange an interview. 

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Gert

Media Contact

Gert Ackermann
Communications Manager

Mobile: 086 176 9287
Tel: 01-454 8727
Email: gert@wheel.ie


Press Releases

Read our most recent press releases below.

Today, Wednesday 1st July, marks the end of the successful COVID-19 Community Outreach (CCO) Programme, a joint initiative by The Wheel, the national association of charities, and Irish Rural Link, the national network representing the interest of rural communities and funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development.  

Since the Government’s announced the programme on the 27th March, 34 Local Community Champions across the country have worked tirelessly to link and support the work of community and voluntary organisations responding to meet the needs of those who were cocooning. The aim of the programme was to ensure no person would be left behind during the pandemic.

Over the last three months, the Community Champions helped to join the dots and link thousands of people who were cocooning into local services so their needs were fully met, linked volunteers to hundreds of community and voluntary organisations and vice versa and identified gaps in services and reported these back to their local authority forum meeting.  They also dealt with a lot of social issues, such as loneliness among those cocooning, delivery of school meals and food parcels to families in need as well as helping people celebrate their birthdays when family were unable to celebrate with them. 

Both The Wheel and Irish Rural Link are extremely grateful for the hard work and effort the Champions did in their local communities.  They provided ongoing support to 134,811 people, 14,877 community and voluntary organisations and mobilised 36,821 volunteers and made the programme the success it was.  

Deirdre Garvey, CEO of the Wheel and Seamus Boland, CEO Irish Rural Link said “We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the Champions for their tremendous work over the last few months in providing ongoing support to the people, community & voluntary organisations and volunteers in their communities and making the programme the success it was.  They showed great leadership in their communities and by working together with their local authority, agencies and with community and voluntary organisations they ensured that the needs of every person were met”. 

Speaking about the ending of the CCO Programme, the Department of Rural and Community Development said “The Department was delighted to provide funding towards the COVID-19 Community Outreach Project.  The Community Champions appointed across the country really sprang into action, helping to coordinate the local community response to the crisis. The DRCD works closely with the Community and Voluntary Sector and this project served to embed that relationship further.  We look forward to continuing to work with the sector into the future to help our communities face the challenges of recovery”.  

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on peoples’ mental health and wellbeing will be felt for some time and the necessary supports must be available in communities to support these people. 

People affected by COVID-19 will continue to receive support through the government’s Community Call initiative.  More information on your local Community Call Helpline is available here.  The helpline is available from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Sunday.

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  • Role of communities in social solidarity during pandemic can now be strengthened.

The Wheel has welcomed the retention of a Cabinet Minister with responsibility for Community and Rural Affairs in the new government as an acknowledgement of the vital role played by charities, social enterprises and community and voluntary organisations in battling Covid-19.

Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel, said that the appointment of Heather Humphreys as Minister, in conjunction with a wide range of positive measures outlined in the Programme for Government, “will greatly assist community based solidarity and endeavour to deal with the new realities of the 2020’s.”

“These include issues such as increased home working, threats to previously viable business models, new requirements for health and social care delivery, climate change requirements and changing civil society needs that will arise from these major challenges.

“The appointment of Minister Humphreys with responsibility for our sector has an added significance, in view of her previous experience as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Social enterprises, many charities and a number of community based organisations now operate partly or wholly on a commercial model and those can expect to benefit additionally from the Minister’s expertise.”

“Just as importantly, the new Programme for Government specifies a number of major priorities to support community and charity based endeavour. These include a new Anti-Poverty, Social Inclusion and Community Development Action Plan, an update of Dormant Accounts legislation to expand eligibility and a revision of charity legislation to increase trust and confidence in management and administration of charities.

“The programme also commits to build on Ireland’s first ever National Social Enterprise Policy, to fully implement the five-year strategy to support the community & voluntary sector to 2024 and to publish a strategy to support Volunteering,

“Very significantly, a unit in the Department of Taoiseach to coordinate social dialogue is proposed. This will be a vital means to ensure a holistic approach to community and charity based issues is adopted and implemented throughout all government departments.”

“The coming period will be very challenging for communities and community based organisations, as in deed it will for our entire economy and society. The Wheel looks forward to working closely with Minister Humphreys and her officials to further refine and develop policies and resources for the overall sector.

“The great spirit of solidarity and co-operation evident between the community sector and government during the worst of the pandemic should and must be strengthened and built on in the coming years.” Deirdre Garvey said.

  • The Wheel calls for new government strategy to support the work of charities in the post-lockdown environment.

The Wheel, the national association of charities, today welcomed the announcement of €10.5m in funding for charities under the COVID-19 stability fund. The scheme was devised by the Department of Rural and Community Development following a detailed submission by a group of 14 representative bodies in the broad charity, social enterprise and community & voluntary sector, facilitated by The Wheel.

Commenting on the announcement, Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel said, “We are very pleased to see these first badly-needed funds being transferred to cash-strapped charities today.  These funds will go a long way to help hard-pressed organisations to continue their essential work in the period ahead.  We are looking forward to announcements on additional tranches of funding under the scheme.  We would also like to thank Minister Michael Ring and the Department for Rural and Community Development for putting this scheme in place at a point when many charities are on the verge of collapse.”

Ireland’s charities are experiencing an estimated €500m hit to fundraised and earned income resulting from activity suspended by the COVI-19 crisis. “While the €35m Stability Fund goes some way to closing the gap, the scheme was primarily designed to support the worst-hit charities to cope with urgent cash-flow and liquidity needs.  A medium to long term strategy is now needed to support the work of charities in the post-lockdown environment”, said Deirdre Garvey.

“The Wheel will continue the positive engagement and work with the incoming government to ensure that the health and wellbeing of communities continue to be the priority in the challenging months ahead. Never has it been more important to put community first,” said Deirdre Garvey.

“The Wheel calls for new government strategy to support 
the work of charities in the post-lockdown environment”

The Wheel, the national association of charities, today welcomed the announcement of €10.5m in funding for charities under the COVID-19 stability fund. The scheme was devised by the Department of Rural and Community Development following a detailed submission by a group of 14 representative bodies in the broad charity, social enterprise and community & voluntary sector, facilitated by The Wheel.

Commenting on the announcement, Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel said, “We are very pleased to see these first badly-needed funds being transferred to cash-strapped charities today.  These funds will go a long way to help hard-pressed organisations to continue their essential work in the period ahead.  We are looking forward to announcements on additional tranches of funding under the scheme.  We would also like to thank Minister Michael Ring and the Department for Rural and Community Development for putting this scheme in place at a point when many charities are on the verge of collapse.”

Ireland’s charities are experiencing an estimated €500m hit to fundraised and earned income resulting from activity suspended by the COVI-19 crisis. “While the €35m Stability Fund goes some way to closing the gap, the scheme was primarily designed to support the worst-hit charities to cope with urgent cash-flow and liquidity needs.  A medium to long term strategy is now needed to support the work of charities in the post-lockdown environment”, said Deirdre Garvey.

“The Wheel will continue the positive engagement and work with the incoming government to ensure that the health and wellbeing of communities continue to be the priority in the challenging months ahead. Never has it been more important to put community first,” said Deirdre Garvey.
 

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Retention of Cabinet Minister for Community & Voluntary Sector vital, says The Wheel  -

The new Programme for Government offers significant potential for further development of the community and voluntary sector in coming years, especially following the economic and social consequences of COVID -19, The Wheel, Ireland’s representative body for charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises, said in an initial response today. 

Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel, said that, while detailed assessment needs to be made of the document, it acknowledges the key role of the community and voluntary sector and it contains a number of very positive commitments to support the sector, including:  

“The Wheel looks forward to the implementation of these and other initiatives and to working with the new government when it is appointed. 

“We appreciate that the delivery of the many positive commitments will be subject to finalising exact details and policy and budgetary provision. The Wheel will continue the positive engagement and work with the outgoing government that enabled delivery of new policies and support for Government initiatives during the COVID-19 emergency.

“The existence of a senior Cabinet Minister and Department for Community and Rural Development enabled much of the progress in recent years. Retention of a Senior Minister with responsibility for the community and voluntary sector is, therefore essential in the incoming government,” said Deirdre Garvey.

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Summit of 500 charities hear frontline charity services risk collapse in the coming months 

The Wheel, the national association of charities, today warned that charities’ frontline health and social services will come under unprecedented strain in the coming months as the full social and economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis materialise.

 In an address at The Wheel’s National Charity Summit, Deirdre Garvey, Chief Executive of The Wheel, told the online gathering of 500 organisations that charities are playing a key role in mitigating the impact of the pandemic, but that funding for many of their essential health and social services will run out in the coming months. 

“The Government’s €35 million COVID-19 Stability Fund was a very welcome lifeline for many frontline services,” she said. “But the collapse of fundraising income and uncertainties about statutory funding sources are stymying organisations’ ability to plan for an anticipated surge in demand for services in areas such as mental health, poverty relief, homelessness, and disability supports.”

The scope of the challenge for the sector was highlighted in a survey published by the Charities Regulator this month. Two-thirds of respondents said services were already restricted. Alarmingly, 54% say they may be unable to continue providing services for more than 6 months.

“Social enterprises and community-based organisations countrywide face similar threats to their very existence. The community sector must be brought into the core of plans to revive and rebuild our economy and society,” Deirdre Garvey said.

“There has been an extraordinary collective effort to really put people and community first in this crisis, and the community, voluntary and charity sector has played an immense role in partnership with the HSE and other state agencies,” she added, noting that the Government and leading political parties have signalled that the community, voluntary, and charity sector will continue to play a key role in the country’s social and economic revival after the COVID-19 emergency. 

In this light, The Wheel calls for commitments to meet the specific needs of our sector, including:

  1. Retention of a Cabinet-level Minister for community development;
  2. A sustainable funding model for the sector, including multi-annual funding and a working group to examine procurement policy;
  3. Streamlined compliance requirements to eliminate rampant duplication of reporting;
  4. A clear framework for collaborative working with Government to advance the "Community Call” initiative launched during the COVID-19 crisis;
  5. Implementation of Sláintecare involving relevant community-based services; and
  6. Community participation in initiatives to deliver the Climate Action Plan.

Deirdre Garvey finished by saying, “The country has put people’s health and wellbeing first in recent months. Great sacrifices have been made. Community and voluntary action has been a prime mover in our collective positive response as the needs of the economy have been de-prioritised to bring the virus under control. From this experience, great opportunities now present to shape our future so the economy sustains lives as well as profit, and nurtures the community values, as well as the community and voluntary action, that have served us so well in recent months.” 

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NOTE TO EDITORS

  • According to the Register of Charities there are over 10,000 charities registered in Ireland, and a further 20,000 community and voluntary organisations in the wider nonprofit sector. 
  • Registered charities in Ireland employ 189,000 people and have an estimated annual turnover of around €14.5bn. 
  • The Wheel (in association with Irish Rural Link) is the national coordinator of the COVID-19 Community Outreach programme, which is a vital component of the Government’s Community Call initiative rolled out in each local authority area.
     

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The Wheel, the national association of charities, community and voluntary organisations, and social enterprises, has welcomed the Government’s announcement of a €40m package of supports for the charity sector that will comprise:

  1. A targeted €35m Stability Fund, distributed as once-off cash grants, to provide immediate short-term cash flow for organisations delivering critical services that have suffered significant income loss due to COVID-19 restrictions.
  2. A €5m Government contribution to a Philanthropy Fund focused on supporting COVID-19 responses that require innovative and adaptive solutions to existing and emerging challenges.

Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel, said that the announcement “is an essential lifeline" for the charity sector.”We welcome recognition by Government of the contribution that the sector is playing countrywide in the battle against COVID-19, and the role it will continue to play as our society emerges from the devastation of the pandemic,” she added.

She noted that charities and community groups in every part of the country have strongly supported government initiatives during the current emergency and will continue to do so: “In tackling the COVID-19 crisis, charities are working alongside statutory bodies and agencies to deliver essential services to the most vulnerable in society, including older people, those with underlying medical conditions, homeless families and those requiring psychological, social and material supports."

“The unprecedented mobilization of volunteers and resources to provide these services is being made possible by the expertise and collective effort of our long-existing community, voluntary and charity sector. Surveys conducted by The Wheel over the last few weeks show the significantly increased demand for the work that our sector does in communities and within families. However, this has occurred at a time when charity fundraising and the possibility of earning income through service fees, for example , has been completely decimated,” she continued.“Many charities have seen their income collapse, and a shortfall of up to €400 million in generated income is being forecast this year. The funds announced today will go some way to protecting the vital services provided by charities, social enterprises and community & voluntary groups at a time when they are most needed, and we will continue to work with government towards supporting the medium to long term needs of the sector.”

“I would like to thank Minister Michael Ring and the Department of Rural and Community Development for their ongoing commitment to see a vibrant and sustainable community and voluntary sector in Ireland. The Wheel will continue to work closely with the Government and the Department of Rural and Community Development to further incorporate planning for our sector in ongoing and future strategies and funding mechanisms as we move beyond the peak of this crisis,” she concluded.

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There is a growing need for social supports among people who find themselves isolated because of the COVID-19 emergency measures.

This is according to the 31 Community Champions who have been deployed across Ireland as part of the Government’s Community Call initiative.

These Community Champions are working with local authorities and local community and voluntary groups to make sure that people who need help get it from trusted, experienced sources. The programme is being coordinated by The Wheel, the nation association of charities and  Irish Rural Link, the national network for community groups in disadvantaged and marginalised rural areas.

Seamus Boland, CEO of Irish Rural Link said, “While our Community Champions are still receiving requests for practical supports like food delivery, there have been more requests for social supports with people having to cocoon for longer, particularly among older people who find themselves isolated from their families and friends.”

Examples of social support provided include:

  • A Community Champion provided emotional support to a distressed man who reached out for help on the anniversary of his wife’s death
  • A Community Champion prepared cooked meals and gave emotional support to isolated older people over the Easter weekend
  • A Community Champion arranged mobile phone credit for isolated older people to help them stay in contact with their family and friends

Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel, added, “Working with community organisations, state agencies and the local authorities, the Community Champions are identifying gaps in services and supports for our most vulnerable citizens. The physical and mental wellbeing of ‘cocooned’ people is now emerging as a key concern, and the Champions are currently liaising with local services to ensure that these needs are addressed and that nobody is left behind.”

For details of the Community Champions see: www.wheel.ie/champions

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Following the announcement of new COVID-19 emergency measures on Friday evening (27 March), a new national initiative will be launched today to link and support the work of thousands of community and voluntary organisations who are responding to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in our communities, including people who are advised to ‘cocoon’.

The new initiative, COVID-19 Community Outreach (CCO) is funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development and will be coordinated by The Wheel, the national association of charities, and Irish Rural Link, the national network representing the interest of rural communities.

The aim of COVID-19 Community Outreach is to make sure that vulnerable people — such as older people, people with long-term medical conditions, and people with additional needs — have access to the highest quality information and support in the safety of their homes.

Commenting on the launch of COVID-19 Community Outreach, Seamus Boland, CEO of Irish Rural link said, “Across Ireland, thousands of community groups are mobilising to support people in their local areas. COVID-19 Community Outreach will link and support these organisations to make sure that their assistance is directed where it is most needed and that nobody is left behind.”

Deirdre Garvey CEO of The Wheel added, “We have already deployed a Community Champion in each of the 26 counties. As members of your Local Authority’s COVID-19 forum, the Community Champions will play a key role in coordinating local community supports.”

The role of the Community Campions is to:

  • Disseminate accurate information throughout their local area, with a particular emphasis on hard-to-reach and vulnerable audiences;
  • Support and further mobilise existing volunteer efforts, to ensure safe and effective non-medical services using best-practice guidelines;
  • Identify emerging gaps in community services and communicate them promptly to relevant Government sources; and
  • Liaise with Local Authorities and relevant regional services to ensure that people recovering at home or returning from hospital receive necessary social supports.

“Charities, community and voluntary organisations that are currently supporting vulnerable people in the community, or are planning to do so, are advised to contact their local Community Champion as soon as possible,” said Deirdre Garvey.

For contact details visit  www.wheel.ie/covid-19-community-outreach.

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The Wheel has welcomed the publication of the Government’s Action Plan for the Community Response to COVID-19, saying it represents an important first step in developing supports for charities and voluntary action to address the crisis.

Commenting on the launch of the Action Plan, Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel said, “In the coming weeks and months, charities and community organisations will be at the heart of the national response to the COVID-19 crisis. The measures announced today by the Minister of Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring TD, will help community and voluntary groups to recruit much-needed volunteers. The additional funding for helpline supports for older people, and helpdesk for smaller charities will also go some way to support the community response.”

“In particular, we welcome the plan's commitment on the need to 'provide a central framework within which the community response can be delivered, so that it is sustainable over the longer-term', acknowledging that ‘the sector will itself be challenged' and that ‘new flexibilities in the use, re-prioritisation and reassignment of resources' are required and that this needs to 'be factored into future review and evaluation of programme delivery targets and performance delivery agreements already in place for 2020’”, said Deirdre Garvey.               

She added that many charities and community groups are currently operating at capacity and that the collapse in income from fundraising may hamper their ability to sustain essential services for vulnerable people in the community, including older people, people with disabilities and homeless people and people who need increasing support with their mental health, during this difficult time.

“The charity sector absolutely needs to maintain or increase the level of trained and specialised staff to deliver key services in the community. We will continue to work closely with DRCD and other sections of government and relevant agencies and the broad community sector to deliver increased community support,” said Deirdre Garvey.

In particular, these next steps should include:

  • resources to enable charities dealing with key areas such as anti-poverty, serious health conditions and older people to continue to function in order to deliver on the action plan
  • supports to enable charities to accommodate hugely expanded volunteer numbers to ensure best practice and governance is applied co-ordination between DRCD, the community and voluntary sector and regulatory bodies such as Charities Regulator and Data Protection Commissioner to enhance and protect both services and the general public in the role out of the Action plan; and
  • Provision of an immediate 'resilience fund' for charities, similar to
    the £20m announced yesterday in Scotland, which has a similar-sized charity
    and community and voluntary sector to Ireland.

“We look forward to working closely with DRCD and other relevant agencies to ensure that the huge commitment, enthusiasm and determination of the general public to respond and deliver social solidarity through charitable, community and volunteering effort is fully and quickly enabled,” Deirdre Garvey said.

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Charity sector will work with government in coming days to support and clarify details of the plan which was published late yesterday.

The Wheel, Ireland’s national association of community and voluntary organisations, has welcomed the Government’s new National Action Plan in response to COVID-19. The plan, which was published late yesterday (16 March), is aimed at “adopting a nationwide cohesive approach, in close collaboration with voluntary and community organisations, such as charities, local voluntary groups, volunteers” to “contribute to the national effort in supporting those more vulnerable people in their communities”.

Commenting on the publication of the National Action Plan, Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel said: “In the document the Government very clearly acknowledge community and voluntary organisations will be at the heart of the State’s coordinated response to COVID-19. It is important, therefore that these organisations can contribute their expertise to planning and decisions making, said Ms Garvey.  

The National Action Plan outlines a number of key actions that will require the involvement of Ireland’s 29,000 charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Specifically, the plan notes the importance of:

  • promoting empathetic community engagement
  • supporting community solidarity activity
  • maintaining essential health and social services (which many community and voluntary organisations already deliver in partnership with the State)
  • expanding and protecting public and private sector workers involved in essential services (including employees of community and voluntary organisations)
  • clarifying arrangements for public service special leave
  • ensuring business continuity plans are in place for all agencies and bodies under aegis of all government departments
  • continued payment of childcare subsidies to providers for services directed to close, and
  • providing a range of liquidity and loan finance to SMEs.

Ms Garvey added, “We will be working closely with the Government to ensure that community and voluntary organisations have access to the necessary resources to implement these actions, and to enable them to continue operating existing services, retain, recruit and re-allocate key staff in response to emerging needs.

“It is important that headings in the plan such as ‘Business Continuity Planning across the Public Service’ and ‘Economy employment and business supports’ consider the sector’s requirements, as the charity sector absolutely needs to maintain or increase the level of trained and specialised staff to deliver key services.

“In addition, it is essential health and social care charities are involved in issues such as developing protocols for staff dealing with potential high risk cases,” Deirdre Garvey said. 

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Charities need urgent funds to maintain key health services and supports

The Wheel, the national association of charities is calling on members of the public and the corporate sector to donate to charities that are working on the front line to support and protect vulnerable people in our communities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel, which represents over 1,700 charities, community and voluntary organisations, and social enterprises countrywide, said that a combination of surging demand and collapse of normal fundraising income means that charities need public support right now to an unprecedented extent.

For example:

  • The Irish Cancer Society, which provides a wide range of supports to people with cancer and their families, is down a projected €4m having cancelled Daffodil Day.
  • Pieta House, which supports mental health and anti-suicide measures, are down up to €6m due to the postponement of their Darkness to Light fundraiser. 
  • Church gate collections have been suspended indefinitely, leaving many local charities and community groups without funds for services.  
  • Many other charitable organisations, such as St. Vincent DePaul, foodbanks and rural community groups will be providing support to those suffering immediate hardship and poverty from unemployment because of COVID-19.

Deirdre Garvey added, “Tens of thousands of people woke up this morning with their jobs and income at risk. Our charities and community groups will be facing unprecedented demands to support people in these distressing times. The many others who are lucky to have secure employment and income have an important opportunity to support others by donating to organisations providing services in health and disability, meals on wheels, homelessness, carer supports, poverty relief and other crucial services.”

“In the spirit of social solidarity, it is important for all of us to rise to the developing challenges by supporting our charities and community and voluntary organisations in their vital work.”

“Making donations, however big or small, to the many charities that are working to preserve health and social services, and maintain the very fabric of our society at this time, is something that should be expected of those who can afford it.”

“People whose circumstances prevent them making financial donations could contact their charity of choice and offer volunteer services or whatever other support the charity needs to continue to work effectively. It will take all of us working together to come through this.  Ireland’s national online volunteering database can be accessed by downloading the i-Vol app to your smartphone or at www.i-vol.ie.

"We are also calling on the government to put a comprehensive plan in place to support the vital work of charities through this extremely difficult time,” said Deirdre Garvey.

 #CommunityResponseIRL

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“Battle may not be won without full mobilisation of civil society”

An unprecedented spirit of social solidarity is required to overcome the threat posed by Covid-19. The risk to lives, health and society by this virus may not be overcome without the contribution of civil society organisations, Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel, Ireland’s representative body for charities and community based organisations, has stated.

She said that many individual charities are already taking intensive measures to expand their work and services. In this regard, the call this morning from Minister for Rural and Community Affairs, Michael Ring, TD, urging communities to support vulnerable neighbours is very welcome.

“It is important, however, that charity and voluntary effort against this unprecedented crisis receives necessary resourcing and other supports to enable delivery of essential material and emotional supports to families in the best possible way where state services are overwhelmed.

She said that evidence in other countries starkly indicates that, as the pandemic escalates, formal health services are struggling to cope with the immensity of demand for care.

“In Italy, for example, decisions are having to be made on prioritising of intensive care between patients.

“The unique potential in Ireland for charities and community based action, working in consort with government, to help stem the spread of disease and assist in delivering supports to the most vulnerable must, therefore, be activated as an absolute priority,” she said.

“Community and voluntary organisations and charities here already provide a quarter of acute hospital services and two-thirds of services to people with disabilities. They have the capacity, if fully included in emergency health planning and given sufficient parity of resourcing, coupled with maximum flexibility in (re)allocating existing funding where needed, to expand these services very quickly.

“At local level thousands of charity and community organisations are already working to deliver supports that formal state agencies, overstretched by demand, may shortly be wholly unable to provide.

“For example, this activity includes volunteers delivering groceries and medication locally, providing self- isolation units for people who are homeless, dedicated helplines for older people, online family carer support, phone therapy services for people in self -isolation or fearful of going out in public and a range of mental health initiatives to address the huge emotional impact that will result.

“The list of these initiatives is almost endless. And so is the potential of community based action to deliver comprehensively and effectively with sufficient acknowledgement and support.”

Deirdre Garvey said that The Wheel and other groups like Irish Rural Link and Volunteer Ireland are working with government and health authorities at every level to support the national emergency plan. These and other groups are members of the Covid-19 Advisory Group on Community Response, established by Minister Michael Ring and Chaired by the Department of Rural and Community Development

“But acknowledgement of and confirmation of sufficient resources for the sector has been slower than for other key parts of our economy. We are confident that this can be resolved, as the energy and potential in the sector to help defeat Codvid-19 must not be compromised by delay.

“The issue is not a matter of simple increased resourcing. The many limiting contracts and conditions imposed uniquely on charities in recent years must be immediately reviewed, at the highest level of HSE and government if necessary,” she said.

“In this national crisis, charities must be freed up to deploy the resources where they are needed – and not have to worry about being penalised by the various funding bodies afterwards for these reallocations”.

“In addition, just when they need it most in order to provide this back up to the public and the statutory work, many charities have seen their fundraising income fall off a cliff – so we urgently encourage the public to find any means possible to continue to donate NOW to support those causes that they would regularly support throughout the year” she added.

“Similarly, the public can help hugely by contacting their local or health condition charity and volunteer. Ireland’s national online volunteering database can be accessed by downloading the i-Vol app to your smartphone or at www.i-vol.ie.

“Charities provide essential services on behalf of the state and are now responding to entirely new needs and levels of demand that are unprecedented. The bottom line is that vulnerable people and families must not be abandoned or left to struggle alone.

“Working together we can meet this bottom line. We can prevent the devastation that Covid-19 threatens to inflict. We can win the battle to defeat this enormous threat to our families, our society and our jobs” Deirdre Garvey said.

#CommunityResponseIRL

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Reform of Ireland’s health and social care services will only succeed if the Government transforms its relationship with voluntary services providers, according to The Wheel who launched their General Election manifesto, Stronger Communities, Stronger Ireland in Dublin today at an event attended by leading voluntary health and social care providers.

Speaking at the event, The Wheel’s Director of Public Policy, Ivan Cooper, said the voluntary sector currently provides approximately one quarter of acute hospital services and approximately two thirds of services to people with disabilities. 

He added that voluntary service providers in receipt of state funding from both the HSE and Tusla, are struggling to meet an increase in demand for services combined with increasingly precarious funding arrangements and demanding compliance requirements.

“In recent years relationships between funding authorities and voluntary health and social care providers have become dominated by financial accountability, instead of focusing on ensuring high quality, responsive outcomes for communities. A new Government has the opportunity to lead in recognising and resourcing the interdependent relationship between the State and the organisations providing services in health, disability and social care on the frontline. Sustainable funding and collaboration should be at the heart of the relationship between the state and voluntary service providers,” said Mr Cooper.

In its manifesto, The Wheel call on the next Government to;

  • Recognise and support the value the community, voluntary and charity sector adds to society
  • Enable responsive services through streamlined compliance systems and to provide for the cost of compliance (and Good Governance) in funding arrangements
  • Support sustainable funding models, including the introduction of multi-annual funding and sustainable funding for or HSE Section 39 and Tusla Section 56 organisations
  • Embrace collaborative partnership working by,
    • Developing and implement a collaborative framework for partnership working
    • Implementing the recommendations of the Department of Health’s Independent Review Group.

Mr. Cooper continued, “The new government has to move from ‘risk-shifting’, contract-dominated approaches, to ‘risk sharing’, best-outcome approaches which prioritise the best interests of individuals and families in receipt of services. There are people at the core of this issue, people depending on localised community services in order to survive, and live full lives.”

“Simple policy changes such as introduction of multi annual funding models of three to five years and the implementation of the Department of Health’s report of the Independent Review Group - established to examine the role of voluntary organisations in publicly-funded health and personal social services (IRG report) - would move us towards a health service that works, and that can respond to those most in need. We all need to remember that people are at the core of this issue, people are depending on localised community services in order to survive, and live full lives.” said Mr Cooper.

The Wheel is calling on all candidates to show their support for charities, community and voluntary organisations, and social enterprises, which operates in every constituency in Ireland, by signing the Stronger Communities Stronger Ireland manifesto.

Find out how you can support the campaign.

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A mental health charity set up by the mother of a 13-year old girl who died by suicide, a support service for pregnant women experiencing homelessness, a leading hospice and a woman who has volunteered for over 40 years in her local community are among the organisations and individuals honoured this evening at the 2019 Charity Impact Awards held at the Mansion House in Dublin. 

Presented by The Wheel, the national association of charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises, the Charity Impact Awards celebrate the positive impact these organisations, and the individuals behind them, make in the lives of millions of people in Ireland and beyond.

Congratulating the winners, Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel said, “Each of the 99 organisations and individuals who were nominated for this year’s Charity Impact Awards makes a huge difference to the communities they work with, and we are delighted to honour and celebrate their achievements. The Wheel is passionate and determined to support the remarkable people and organisations who work so hard and single-mindedly to ensure that equality, fairness, opportunity and participation remain central to our national identity.”

The Winners

Shannon’s Hope Line, a mental health charity set up by Sandra Kelleher, whose 13-year old daughter Shannon died by suicide, won the Impact Award for Small Organisations. The organisation aims to educate and support young people on the importance of looking after their mental health.

The Impact Award for Medium-sized Organisations went to  Anew Support Services, a charity established in 1981 to provide women with unplanned pregnancies with an alternative option to mother and baby homes. They provide services relating to housing, parenting and maternal wellbeing for pregnant women and new mothers experiencing homelessness.

St Francis Hospice which provides specialist palliative care for the people of North Dublin City and County won the Impact Award for Large Organistions. 

The Charity Trustee of the Year Award went to Sr. Magdalen Fogarty founder of Clann Credo Community Loan Finance, Ireland’s first social finance provider.

Spraoi agus Spórt, a social enterprise which provides social, recreational and educational activities to the community of Carndonagh, Inishowen, Co. Donegal won the Social Enterprise of the Year Award.

The Community Hero Award, a lifetime achievement award honouring a volunteer who has made an extraordinary contribution to their community over the course of their  lifetime, was awarded to Patricia Keane, from Kylemore in Co. Galway. Patricia has volunteered for a myriad of causes in her local community for over 40 years. 

The Mary Redmond Award, a new national honour bestowed on a person who has made an extraordinary contribution to civil society in Ireland, was presented to Dr Bernadette Mac Mahon, D.C. for her outstanding contribution to deepening our collective understanding of the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Ireland, her pioneering work on the concept of a minimum essential standard of living, and the valuable work she has done to build community and common purpose. 

For more information on the Charity Impact Awards and the winners visit www.charityimpactawards.ie or see #CharityImpactAwards. 

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Mr Michael Ring TD, Minister for Rural and Community Development, today (Tuesday 10 December) announced the allocation of over €725,000 to 13 organisations for the provision of training and mentoring for social enterprises throughout Ireland.

This is following the announcement yesterday of a separate €1m for social enterprises, via small capital grants, with support from the Dormant Account Fund.

The money announced today, which comes from the Dormant Accounts Fund, will support the delivery of tailored training for social enterprises, which is one of the key policy commitments in the National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland.

The Wheel (Rotha) was among the recipients of the funds announced today, being awarded 49,058 Euro for the delivering of training and mentoring supports across Ireland.

Social Enterprises are businesses whose core objective is to achieve a social, societal, or environmental impact. Like other businesses, social enterprises pursue their objectives by trading in goods and services on an ongoing basis. However, surpluses generated by social enterprises are re-invested into achieving the core social objectives.

Announcing the successful applicants, Minister Ring said:

“I am delighted to be in a position today to announce the allocation of €727,000 to 13 organisations to pilot this training and mentoring initiative.

“It is estimated that over 400 individual participants from a wide variety of social enterprises will benefit from these supports over the next year. This will build their capacity in areas such as business planning, leadership, governance, financial planning and digital innovation.

“One of the key messages which my Department has consistently heard from social enterprises is that they want more access to training and mentoring to help them strengthen their business model and improve their capacity to achieve their social, environmental and economic objectives.”

“I announced a call for proposals in September from organisations that have a track record in providing these types of supports to meet the needs of social enterprises. There was a high level of interest in the call for proposals, with 46 applications received.”

In July of this year Minister Ring launched the first “National Social Enterprise Policy” for Ireland. It commits to growing and strengthening social enterprises and specifically to ‘provide tailored training for social enterprises in areas such as business planning, mentoring, leadership, governance, capacity building, financial planning and digital innovation, to help them to improve their business potential as well as leadership and governance skills.’ This funding will support the delivery of that commitment.

Social enterprises frequently work to support disadvantaged groups such as the long-term unemployed, people with disabilities, travellers, etc., or to address issues such as food poverty, social housing, or environmental matters.

The Minister continued:

“The funding I am announcing today is being provided through the Dormant Accounts Fund.

“My Department also supports social enterprises under the Dormant Accounts Fund through the Small Capital Grants Scheme which I announced on 9th December with €1 million in funding for 124 social enterprises, as well as through the Social Enterprise Development Fund established by Social Innovation Fund Ireland.

“My Department also supports social enterprises through a number of other programmes including SICAP, LEADER, and the Community Services Programme.”

Full details of the organisations receiving funding under the pilot Training and Mentoring scheme for Social Enterprises are available here on the gov.ie website.

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Most people in Ireland experience kindness in their communities, and compared to our neighbours in the UK, Irish people are more likely to take part in collective actions like volunteering, according to a report and survey published today, on International Kindness Day, by Carnegie UK Trust and The Wheel, the national association of charities.

Listen to podcast of this live event here.

The findings will be announced this evening in Dublin at the launch of the final report of the People’s Conversation, a series of public consultations that took place over the past three years.

According to the survey carried out by the Carnegie UK Trust in Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, three out of five people in Ireland strongly agree that people in their community are kind – the highest percentage of any jurisdiction in the survey. People in Ireland are also more likely to volunteer or set up community organisations, a trend supported by the findings of the People’s Conversation contained in the new report. 

The People’s Conversation project has seen hundreds of people take part in discussions about what needs to change to create a truly inclusive and participative Ireland, and has resulted in the publication of four influential reports. This final report presents a blueprint of actions to support a more inclusive Ireland with a vision for a more enabling state.

Commenting on the launch of the final report of the series, entitled Participating People, Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy at The Wheel : “This report has found that people in Ireland continue to be very much involved in their local community, participating socially, giving financial support and volunteering their time to local, national and international causes. It also found, however, that too many people in Ireland are still excluded from participating in day-to-day life because they lack the material means to do so. In addition, it identified a big deficit in both the quality and quantity of opportunities for people to engage in setting public policy priorities through our democratic structures and processes.”

Sarah Davidson, CEO of Carnegie UK Trust added, “We’re delighted to see the publication of the Participating People report. The Carnegie UK Trust knows that supporting people to participate is essential to our wellbeing. It has been encouraging to have so many people engaged in lively discussions about what meaningful participation in Ireland should and could look like.”

The Participating People report was launched in Dublin on Wednesday, 13 November with a special event focusing on the role we can all play in improving society through active citizenship and participation. We invited some of Ireland’s leading change makers to participate, including:

  • Fr. Peter McVerry, lifelong campaigner in homelessness and poverty and founder of the Peter Mc Verry Trust;
  • Salome Mbugua, Head of Operations and Strategy with AkiDwA and chair of the working group on Ireland’s Third National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security;
  • Stephen Teap, Cervical Check campaigner and member of 221Plus Patient Support Group;
  • Molly Redmond, Student Climate Strike Activist with Fridays for Future.

This esteemed panel participated in a lively conversation with Dil Wickremasinghe (who recorded the event for her popular Insight Matters podcast). The conversation explored their personal journeys, motivations from moving from passive to active participants in shaping society as well as their insights and hopes for shaping our future through empowering people.

READ THE REPORT

LISTEN TO EVENT PODCAST 

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Following the publication today of the Report into the Potential for a ‘Charity Passport’ Facility for Charity Data in Ireland prepared for the Charities Regulatory Authority by Indecon International Economic Consultants, The Wheel has called for the immediate establishment of an interdepartmental forum to co-ordinate reporting requirements by charities.

The establishment of a forum must be combined with the swift implementation of a cross Government initiative to provide necessary funding to adequately cover regulatory costs in grant allocations and contracts.  

Welcoming the key findings and recommendations in the report, Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy said “The Indecon report starkly confirms and highlights the crisis of duplication in regulatory requirements identified by The Wheel and the charity sector for many years. This is placing immense strain on the resources and morale of people in the sector seeking to deliver essential services. In a recent survey conducted with our members, 83% of participants revealed that they are required to duplicate information to more than one statutory source. Further to this 86% of participants have no dedicated member of staff within their organisation to work on reporting and compliance requirements so front line staff are required to divert time and resources into meetings these demands.”

As identified in the report “Complying with reporting requirements of funding agencies represents a cost for many charities. This should be recognised as an integral part of the provision of services on behalf of the State, and some allowance for this cost should be considered in concluding funding agreements. There is international recognition of the necessity to ensure charities have adequate resources to meet such requirements. As a result, many funders internationally provide grants to cover non-profit such costs.”

An analysis of new empirical research by Indecon of the governance costs of a sample of Irish charities showed that these were significant and ranged from €159,000 to over €1.3 million.

As stated in the report, “Responsibility for the development of such an initiative is in Indecon’s opinion an issue for central government and is much wider than the statutory remit of the Charities Regulator which regulates a subset of the wider not-for-profit sector.” The Wheel welcomes the recommendation that the Charities Regulator is considered best placed to lead efforts in implementing the report.

The Australian “Charity Passport” system, as examined by Indecon in the report, has an electronic facility to facilitate a bulk access by government agencies to the available information on various charities collected by the Australian regulator.

While this system may not be deemed suitable for implementation in an Irish context, several of the recommendations from the report can be implemented immediately;

  • Forum of Funders/Regulators’ should be established to help coordinate reporting requirements, and identify areas where information requests could be streamlined.
  • Funding agencies should consider including an allowance for the cost of reporting by charities in making funding decisions.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

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Six community groups honoured at an awards ceremony in Dublin Castle on Friday, 18 October for their efforts to further the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The winners were among 64 community and voluntary groups that took part in the Spark Change project  which was developed by The Wheel and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Over the past year, dozens of community and voluntary groups across Ireland have been working on projects to make Ireland more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. This evening, the Spark Change Awards shone a light on their inspiring stories.

The awardees’ work spans a wide range of activities linked to the SDGs,  which is a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. The SDGs are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.

Commenting on the announcement of the winners, Deirdre Garvey CEO of The Wheel said, “The Spark Change programme shows how the activities of community and voluntary organisations are directly contributing to Ireland’s commitment to achieving the SDGs by 2030. If Ireland is serious about its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, then this work should be adequately supported and resourced at every level.”

Dr Vincent Carragher from TCD added, "Communities are the experts in sustainability actions and reach the SDGs where many others fail. Its key we foster their action and it’s equally important that sustainability and the SDGs are embedded in all teaching and subjects in school, college and university"

 The Winners of the 2019 Spark Change Awards: 

  • Belturbet Zero Waste Town won the Campaigner Award for their work to minimise waste and conserve natural resources by 50% over the next five years in Belturbet, Co. Cavan. They have initiated the provision of on-street segregated litter bins, rapid charge units for electrical vehicles, public water faucets, and other measures aimed at promoting sustainability. 
  • Community Wetlands Forum (Co Westmeath) won the Connector Award for supporting the protection, management and wise use of Ireland’s wetlands for sustainable communities, by providing a network for community wetland groups to share knowledge, ideas, research, and best practice.
  • Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin won the Storyteller Award for integrating the SDGs into their giving programme and grassroots projects like the Cabbage Garden and plastic snake project. 
  • Go Greener with Grangecon (Co. Wicklow) won the Mobilzer Award for the efforts to make their local Parents’ Association more environmentally sustainable by cutting plastic waste, and promoting sustainability in their local community.
  • Family Addiction Support Network (Co. Louth) won the Includer Award for helping families in the North East to achieve a greater understanding of addiction, improving their quality of life and helping them fulfil a positive role in the recovery of their loved one thereby promoting healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages. 
  • Galway Cheshire House won the Creative Award for their Cheshire House Band project which helps people with physical and neurological conditions opportunities to develop their musical talents and to perform where others get to enjoy the fruits of their hard work and talents.

The winners were chosen from a group of 64 community and voluntary projects which took part in the Spark Change programme. Participants received support, guidance and mentorship to get their projects off the ground. In return, they provided valuable data on how the SDGs are being advanced at the grassroots. This information will contribute to important research into the link between the SDGs and community and voluntary activity. The finding of this research will be published later this year. 

The project also created a library of case studies of successful projects that can be replicated in other communities. These case studies are available at www.sparkchange.ie/success-stories 

This project is funded under the EPA Research Programme 2014-2020. The EPA Research Programme is a Government of Ireland initiative funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

BROWSE PHOTOS TAKEN ON THE NIGHT

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The Wheel has welcomed the additional €17m allocated to the Department of Rural and Community Development in Budget 2020 but warned that there are currently no specific provisions to support  the crucial work of Ireland’s 10,000 charities in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

Commenting on the release of Budget 2020, Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy at The Wheel said, “We are approaching Budget 2020 from the perspective of what will it mean for Ireland’s more vulnerable people and the supports and services that they rely on – services that are most often provided by community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises.”

He continued, “There is no increase in welfare rates to support the people who will be most impacted by a no-deal Brexit. At current inflation rates, Ireland’s most vulnerable people will be 1.3% worse off by this time next year, and rates should have increased to prevent this. Government should have focussed on the people who will be most impacted by a no-deal Brexit in the same way that they have focussed on business, tourism and agriculture. The community and voluntary sector will be responding to increased need at the coalface, and we are calling on government now, post Budget, to invest in programmes that enable the community and voluntary sector to support vulnerable people.”

Ireland’s 12,000 charities employ over 190,000 people, mobilise over 350,000 volunteers and contribute over €7bn to the cost of our health and social services every year.  Over 1,000 organisations are funded by the HSE to provide essential services in health and disability, and Tusla funds a further 700 organisations in the areas of child welfare and family support.
 
“We will be seeking to have this rectified when the details of these announcements are being implemented, either by Ministerial Regulation or amendments to the forthcoming Finance Act. We will also be seeking clarity that social enterprises will be able to access such supports.”

Mr Cooped continued, “We welcome the announcement that €1.2m will be allocated to the implementation of the Five-Year Strategy to Support the Community and Voluntary Sector. We also welcome the investment of an additional €29.4m in Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, and we will be working to ensure this funding supports our Tusla funded members in providing vital supports to children and families every day. We also welcome the additional €4.5m for training for Community Employment Scheme participants, which will greatly aid the work of many community organisations. An additional €1.5 m for important schemes in the Department of Rural and Community Development is also very welcome. Finally, we will be working to ensure that the €20m Integration Fund and a €12m Care Redesign Fund ring-fenced for Sláintecare will benefit the work of community and voluntary healthcare providers and the people they support.”

Read our full analysis of Budget 2020.

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The Wheel has called on the Minister for Finance to increase spending allocations in the coming budget for charities, community groups and social enterprises to ensure their continued viability and survival in the context of a no-deal Brexit. 

The call comes as The Wheel today convened a large gathering in Dublin from its over 1,600 members to discuss the potential consequences for their service users if, as anticipated, the Government proceeds with plans to prepare the forthcoming budget on the basis that there will be a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. Speaking at the gathering, representative of a number charities warned that the Government’s plans to curb spending in Budget 2020, coupled with rising administrative and insurance costs, and a failure to reverse funding cuts introduced during the recession, carries a substantial human cost for their service users.

Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy of The Wheel, said, “The Government should consider how allocations in Budget 2020 will affect the day to day lives of the most vulnerable in society. These are not abstract figures, confined to a spreadsheet, they are living people who required supports that are most often provided by community and voluntary organisations, and not the state.”

Eamon Teague, Director of Residential Services at the charity WALK said, “From 2009 we have received no payments for staff increments or pension payments, and since 2008 we have suffered from cumulative cuts of €3.2m to our core funding. This at a time when the mounting costs of regulatory registration and compliance and the rising costs of insurance have added almost half-a-million Euro to our expenditure base. There is such a thing as stretching something so thin that it tears.”

On the issue of rising insurance costs, Mr Cooper said that nearly half of community and voluntary groups have already reduced their  activities, and hundreds may close unless Government intervenes, “As a first step we urge Government to fund the Garda response to fraudulent claims from the reserves of the Personal Injuries Board, and prioritise the establishment of a judicial council with the power to recalibrate compensation guidelines for personal injury.”

Mr Cooper added that funds for charity’s core work could be radically increased if Government streamlined regulatory and funding-related compliance requirements and provide for the costs of compliance. The Wheel also called on the Government to introduce multi-annual (three-year) funding arrangements as the default approach to facilitate better services, enable long-term planning and assist effective staff recruitment and retention.
 
Marian Quinn, Chair of the Prevention and Early Intervention Network (PEIN) said, “The ongoing insecurity of funding creates great difficulty for organisations providing services for children in relation to a whole range of factors: high staff turnover, disrupted service delivery, resources required for repeated recruitment processes, frequent and repetitive funding applications and reporting - all divert attention, skills and precious time away from doing the work which we are funded to do."

The Wheel called on the Government to fund services and supports on a full-cost-recovery basis, taking into account the need for organisa¬tions to fund core-costs. 

Jacquie Horan, CEO of COPE Galway spoke about the needs of communities, “Our message to our government in its Budget 2020 is to recognise and support the core of our work to enable us not only to fulfil our community mandate, but to reach out further and further into our communities and to achieve so much more. We have the capacity, the will, and the support of our communities to do this. But we need our government to design a funding model that recognises the importance of funding the core functions of an organisation, in order to leverage its full potential and to offer the best possible services and supports to improve people’s lives.”

Mr Cooper concluded, “A budget that fails to look past the numbers and into the real lives of communities all over Ireland is a failure to all those who need us most. We need the Government to equip us with the mechanisms to increase efficiency and effectiveness as we are the sector at the front line of the many crisis affecting Ireland at this time. In the event of a no-deal Brexit rural and marginalised communities will be heavily impacted. The budget must ensure that organisations working in the charity, community and voluntary and social enterprise sector have sufficient funds to continue to provide crucial supports.”

READ THE WHEEL'S PRE-BUDGET SUBMISSION

Associated Media Coverage

25 September, Irish Examiner:  coverage of The Wheel's Budget 2020 campaign event - read more

25 September, Virgin Media News: coverage of The Wheel's Budget 2020 campaign event - read more

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The Wheel, the national association of charities, today welcomed a statement by Revenue on the outcome of the VAT Compensation Scheme for Charities. According to Revenue’s statement, charities made 1,100 claims, totalling almost €40m, during the first year of the scheme’s operation.

 Commenting on the announcement, Tony Ward, director of Finance at The Wheel said, “Before the introduction of the VAT Compensation Scheme for Charities, which The Wheel and other organisations long campaigned for, charities were unable to recover VAT from their costs - unlike businesses and self-employed individuals.”

 The fund for the three-year scheme is currently capped at €5m per year. Where the total amount of claims received in any year exceeds the capped amount, charities will be refunded on a pro-rata basis.  

 Tony Ward added, “It is noteworthy that, if the €40m is the final figure once Revenue has carried out all checks, each applicant’s payment will be approximately one-eighth of the amount they claimed, which may be a disappointment to those organisations who made modest claims.

 “Revenue and the Department of Finance have committed to keeping the scheme under review, and given the large number of claims this year, The Wheel is urging Government to consider increasing the cap to provide a fuller rebate to charities,” said Mr Ward.

 Revenue expects to make refunds to qualifying claimants on a pro-rata basis during October and November.

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The Wheel, the national association of charities and social enterprises, has warmly welcomed the announcement today of the government’s National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland 2019- 2022.

Ivan Cooper, Director of Policy with The Wheel - which represents 1,600 community and voluntary groups, charities and social enterprises across the country - said that the policy has the potential to deliver thousands of new jobs at community level in every region of the country. It will specifically support the development of social enterprise activity as a vital component of the community and voluntary sector in Ireland.

“As the first of three interrelated policies due from the government in 2019, the National Social Enterprise Policy represents a unique commitment by Minister Michael Ring and the Government to support and develop the community and voluntary sector. New strategies on volunteering as well as local and community development are expected later this year” said Mr. Cooper.

Ivan Cooper added that the forthcoming Budget 2020 should allocate dedicated funding to assist the sustainable development of social enterprise activity, and increased funding for the community and voluntary sector more generally. “Dormant accounts funding, which is already in place for social enterprises, should be further expanded and be accompanied by a dedicated budget line to support the Department of Rural and Community Development’s social enterprise initiative. It will also be important that the many non-financial elements in the policy - such as the provision of advice, mentoring and other supports - are fully delivered by other government departments and agencies. The Department must also ensure that all trading community and voluntary organisations can benefit from the policy” he said.

The Wheel was a founding member of the Social Enterprise Task Force (SETF) in 2009 which has worked to promote the concept of community-based job creation where profits are used for further community benefit instead of private gain.

“We look forward to working closely with the Department and the government during the implementation phase of this policy,” said Mr. Cooper.

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The Wheel, the national association of community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises, has called on to fund a new technical support service to help Irish organisations access EU programmes and funding.

Addressing the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Union Affairs on Wednesday (10 July), Deirdre Finlay, European Programmer Manager at The Wheel said, while many community and voluntary organisations participate in European programmes such as Horizon 2020, Interreg, PEACE and ERASMUS+, there is huge unrealized potential for far greater participation in European programmes.

“Participation in EU funded programmes one of the key ways in which nonprofit organisations can engage with counterparts in other EU countries. These transnational collaborations are key to building a stronger post-Brexit EU. Unfortunately, Irish civil society organisations do not participate as actively in certain programmes as our European counterparts,” said Ms Finlay.

She cited the success of the Access Europe project (2018) as solid evidence that a support service and point of EU technical expertise for Irish civil society is needed and works. “The budget for the project was €387,150 for three years. Access Europe enabled over €22.53m of funding to Irish organisations north and south over a three-year period, with 74 applications filed,” said Ms Finlay.

However, Ms Finlay added that Irish civil society groups face a number of barriers that limit participation in EU programmes. This includes the costs associated with preparing applications, the complexity of the application process and the need for match funding. “These issues will need to be addressed if we are to maximise participation – arguably a crucial national objective with Brexit

“With the departure of UK from the European Union, Ireland will be seen by other member states as a valuable source of partners and expertise in building future European partnerships across the full spectrum of economic, social and cultural life. This is because of its long experience of EU membership, its English language capability and its reputation for efficiency and innovation in the management of EU funds over the past 45 years. We call on Government to embrace this opportunity by a new technical support service to help Irish nonprofits access EU programmes and funding,” concluded Ms Finlay.

For more information, see www.wheel.ie/eu and www.europeforcitizens.ie

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The Wheel, the national association of community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises, today called for a new era of collaboration in health and social services.  Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy made the call during a presentation to the Oireachtas Committee on Health which is considering the Report of the Independent Review Group established to examine the role of voluntary organisations in health and personal social services(IRG Report).

Addressing the committee, Mr Cooper explained how issues with inadequate budgets, an increasingly demanding regulatory environment and a lack of collaboration between organisations providing and the HSE and Department of Health, can be remedied by implementing the recommendations of the recently published IRG report. 

Mr Cooper detailed how practical solutions have been outlined in detail within the IRG Report and that now it is time for action, “The IRG Report recommends a new forum for meaningful dialogue and collaborative partnership, a charter for a new relationship, and multi-annual budgeting.  These extremely positive recommendations would empower the state and the sector to build a world-class health and social care service which is responsive, innovative and person-centred.”

The Wheel believes that the Forum on the IRG report, which is now in the initial stages of planning by the Department of Health, offers a very valuable structure and tool to advance and implement recommendations in the Report that “this will be a key means to underpin trust, confidence and improved working between all stakeholders involved. The terms of reference for the Forum should be consulted widely and transparently, and finalised in conjunction with representatives of those delivering services.”

The Wheel’s 1,600 members, over 150 are funded by the HSE through provisions of the Health Act to deliver services. They are a key part of our national health and personal social service infrastructure, providing vital supports and services to individuals, families and communities across Ireland. However, Mr Cooper highlighted that “despite the longstanding role they play in providing services and supports, these organisations are facing many challenges which limit or in some cases prevent them from carrying out their vital work to full capacity”.

Mr Cooper concluded: “These recommendations are achievable, and the community and voluntary sector and The Wheel look forward to working in partnership with the Oireachtas, Government, the Department of Health, the HSE and other departments and agencies to progress quality service and ensure we have a world class health and social service system worthy of an Ireland that values those most in need of support and high-quality healthcare.”

The Wheel by Disability Federation of Ireland, Epilepsy Ireland and WALK, who presented on the lived impact of the current issues facing the community and voluntary sector, detailing the ways in which a collaborative partnership could transform Ireland’s healthcare and disability provision.

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Sector in desperate need of adequate funding arrangements, streamlining of compliance requirements; and reduction in spiralling insurance costs

The Wheel, the national association of charities, today addressed the National Economic Dialogue signalling the need for adequate resourcing to be committed to the non-profit sector in Budget 2020. Ireland’s 29,000 community, voluntary and charitable organisations are a priceless national asset. The sector involves over 51,000 volunteer directors and trustees, directly employs 190,000 people and manages income of €14.5 Bn per year.  Over half of this income (over €7Bn per anum) is raised by these organisations themselves, and represents a major subsidy to the cost of public services in Ireland.

Addressing the National Economic Dialogue, Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy at The Wheel said, “The sector is very significant in our national life - but it can make an even bigger contribution if it is supported in a few key areas regarding challenges it faces.  These challenges include ensuring adequate funding arrangements for the work; dealing with the increase in compliance requirements; and bringing down the cost of insurance.”

Speaking on the significant increase in compliance requirements, Mr Cooper continued, “we note that the state has rightly made a big investment in recent years in regulation and compliance processes, but there has been no equivalent investment in charities to support their capacity to comply. We are asking Government to review and streamline compliance and regulatory requirements and ensure that the cost of compliance is provided for in funding agreements.”

The Wheel has long advocated for the development of a coherent long-term funding strategy for the sector. We call on Government to introduce multi-annual, three to five-year funding arrangements as the default approach to facilitate better services.  Such an arrangement will enable long-term planning and effective staff recruitment and retention, and will improve services outcomes.

Mr Cooper highlighted that “The unsustainable rise in insurance costs is having a very serious effect on many organisations in the community and voluntary sector. We are calling on Government to ensure that The Judicial Council Bill results in guidelines that will ensure the modest injuries attract moderate damages and that damages should be proportionate in the context of a cap on general damages for catastrophic injuries of €450,000.”

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Three interrelated policies, which are currently being finalised by government on community development, volunteering and social enterprise, offer a once in a generation opportunity to realise the full potential of  Ireland’s 29,000 non-profit organisations and must be given priority by all concerned, Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel, said today at the organisation’s 20th Anniversary Summit in Croke Park.

Speaking at the event, Deirdre Garvey said, “The contribution of Ireland’s community, voluntary and charity sector is often overlooked and remains undervalued, despite the sector’s combined annual turnover of €14bn, which represents 4.2% of Ireland’s GDP.” 

“Over half a million volunteers, 188,000 staff and 60,000 voluntary board members commit their time annually in 29,000 non-profit organisations, around 10,000 of which are charities. Without this selfless and tireless commitment, Ireland would be a lesser place,” said Ms Garvey. She added that it is vital that the Government's three new policies be fully co-ordinated and cross-referenced to ensure that the interlinked needs of community organisations are effectively addressed. The policies are being developed under the auspices of the Department of Rural and Community Development, but Ms Garvey says it should involve a “whole of government approach”.

“The development of these new policies, for which the government deserves to be commended, offers the prospect of enabling the sector to deliver to its full capacity as we come out of recession. The sector is finally receiving appropriate and deserved attention given the important role it plays in the Irish economy and society”, said Ms Garvey

To achieve these aims, the three new policies should be followed up by a clear five-year roadmap for the community sector in the next Programme for Government. 

“This roadmap would enable government and the sector to jointly address and resolve key issues such as early action on streamlining of compliance reporting and provision for the associated costs, a reduction in the cost of insurance, certainty of adequate funding streams, public procurement procedures that enable social enterprises and the introduction of a financial reporting standard for charities to sustain public trust ,” said Ms. Garvey. 

The Summit, which will be addressed by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, marks the 20th anniversary of The Wheel, which represents almost 1,600 charities, community and voluntary organisations, and social enterprises countrywide.

The Wheel’s Summit in Croke Park was attended by over 400 delegates representing charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises. 

For more information on The Wheel’s Summit see www.wheel.ie/summit

#CharitySummit
#TheWheel20

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The Wheel calls for full implementation of IRG recommendations

9 May 2019 - The Wheel, Ireland’s national association of charities, today hosted a meeting between 40 HSE-funded charities and Catherine Day, the chair of the Independent Review Group (IRG) set up by Minister of Health, Simon Harris to review the role of voluntary providers in publicly funded health and personal social services. The meeting is being held against the backdrop of the funding crisis among charities that deliver services under contract from the state.

On Tuesday, the Rehab Group informed the HSE of its intention to terminate RehabCare’s contracts unless additional funding of €2 million per annum is urgently provided to address substantial deficits in the services it delivers to more than 3,000 vulnerable adults and children with physical, intellectual and sensory disabilities, in communities across the country. The charity says without more funding, it is not financially viable.

The IRG’s report, which was published in February, contains many positive recommendations to improve the working relationship between the sector and the state, as well as the general funding and administrative environment.  These include recommendations that the Department of Health establish a forum and create a charter to structure relationships with the sector and agree a list of essential services to be fully funded. The report also recommends that the Department of Health commit to simplifying service agreements in order to avoid duplication of reporting.

The meeting today follows on from a gathering of sixteen leading charity CEO’s hosted by The Wheel yesterday which was convened to discuss the increase in costs associated with the delivery of state contracts, which threatens the survival of many organisations.

Speaking at the meeting, Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel stressed that “many organisations in receipt of state funding, not solely from the HSE, are feeling pushed to breaking point by an increase in costs associated with regulatory compliance which results in an inevitable increase in staffing costs which have not been factored in by statutory funding bodies such as the HSE. Due to duplication in reporting requirements, many organisations in the nonprofit sector are struggling under an administrative load which diverts attention and scarce resources away from the people they are seeking to help, support and advocate for.”

The Wheel is calling for the full implementation of the recommendations of the IRG Report in response to the urgent need for streamlining of reporting requirements to reduce the staffing hours spent in form filing and equip the sector with a more efficient framework to support full compliance and foster the best possible outcomes in service provision and advocacy.

The Wheel is also calling on the Government to implement the IRG recommendations in reconsidering their current approach to funding by offering multi-annual funding, that factors in the growing costs of insurance, inflation rates and all other day-to-day costs organisations are faced with. This would allow organisations to plan strategically in the best interests of those they support while factoring in the real cost of the gold standard of compliance which the sector is keen to continue to uphold.

Without significant changes in the Government’s approach toward the charity, community and voluntary and social enterprise sector we risk reduction, or even eradication, of invaluable services across every community in Ireland.

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The Wheel, Ireland’s national association of charities, this morning called a meeting of leading charities to discuss threats to funding for the sector coupled with the impact of increasing regulatory and funding-related compliance requirements, in particular for charities engaged in state contracts. The CEOs of sixteen leading charities attended the meeting in Dublin.

The group met to voice concerns over an increase in costs associated with the delivery of state contracts, which threatens the work of many charities. Yesterday, the Rehab Group informed the HSE of its intention to terminate RehabCare’s contracts unless additional funding of €2 million per annum is urgently provided to address substantial deficits in the services it delivers to more than 3,000 vulnerable adults and children with physical, intellectual and sensory disabilities, in communities across the country. The charity says without more funding, it is not financially viable.

Speaking at the meeting, Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel stressed that “many organisations in receipt of state funding, not solely from the HSE, are feeling pushed to breaking point by an  increase in costs associated with regulatory and funding-related compliance, which results in an inevitable increase in staffing costs that have not been factored in by statutory funding bodies such as the HSE. Due to duplication in reporting requirements, many organisations in the nonprofit sector are struggling under an administrative load which diverts attention and scarce resources away from the people they are seeking to help, support and advocate for.

“The sector is struggling to retain staff who are highly trained, deliver essential services and deserve to be paid in line with their peers who are employed by the HSE. These staff are at the front line of delivering services and support for those not adequately provided for by the Government and need to be paid a living wage and afforded the respect which their work deserves,” said Ms Garvey.

The Wheel is calling for the streamlining of reporting requirements, in order to reduce the staffing hours spent in form filing and to equip the sector with a more efficient framework to support full compliance and foster the best possible outcomes in service provision and advocacy.

The Wheel is also calling on the Government to reconsider their current approach to funding by offering multi-annual funding, that factor in the growing costs of insurance, inflation rates and all other day-to-day costs organisations face. This would allow organisations to plan strategically in the best interests of those they support while factoring in the real cost of the gold standard of compliance which the sector is keen to continue to uphold. “Without significant changes in the Government’s approach toward the charity, community and voluntary and social enterprise sector, we risk reduction, or even eradication, of invaluable services across every community in Ireland,” said Ms Garvey.

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The Wheel, supported by representatives from some of Ireland’s leading charities, today launched Community Matters, a national campaign aimed at the candidates contesting the local and European elections on 24 May.

The purpose of the Community Matters campaign is to encourage all local and European elected representatives to champion and support the work of charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises.

Representatives from the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Wheelchair Society, Down Syndrome Ireland, SpunOut and Dóchas joined The Wheel’s CEO, Deirdre Garvey as they launched the campaign by unveiling a series of election posters in front of Dublin City Council’s Offices on Wood Quay.

Speaking at the launch, CEO Deirdre Garvey said, “As the local and European election campaigns launch over the coming weeks, we want to ensure the focus remains where it should be - on the people in the communities whom candidates seek to represent. The charity, community and voluntary sector is the backbone of every community across Ireland, supporting and advocating for the most vulnerable in society. We want to remind candidates of the vital work these organisations do and the richness they bring to life in Ireland. It is important for candidates to publicly commit their support for the nonprofit sector and all of the people they represent ahead of the election on 24 May.”

The Wheel is asking candidates to support Community Matters by signing a pledge at  www.wheel.ie/elections and to publicly support Community Matters by using the #valuecommunity hashtag, so the people in our communities can prioritise the candidates that prioritise them.

For more information see www.wheel.ie/elections

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Call for Charities Regulator and Department of Finance to prioritise the introduction of statutory financial reporting standards for charities

The Wheel, Irelands’ national association of charities, today welcomed a new report by Benefacts, which casts a new light on the extent and immense contribution of Ireland’s nonprofit sector. 

Amongst the many findings contained in the report, it states that Irish nonprofits currently employ 163,000 people, and that pay in the sector falls way below the norm for the rest of the economy. 

Commenting on the launch report, Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy at The Wheel said: “This report illuminates a hidden part of our economy that is often overlooked. Benefacts have collated valuable data on the immense contribution the nonprofit sector makes to Irish society and, importantly our economy. The new data will be of great value to charities, regulators, funders and the public.”

The Wheel also called on the Charities Regulator and Department of Rural and Community Development to prioritise the introduction of statutory financial reporting standards for charities:

 “Charities are currently required to submit finical information to a variety of regulators and funders, including the Charities Regulator, Company’s Office, Revenue and their statutory and private funders. However, while many charities are applying accounting standards like SORP voluntarily, there is still no mandatory standard for financial reporting. We urge the Charities Regulator and Department of Rrural and community Development to work together to expedite the legislation needed to implement a financial reporting standard for charities.

“In the meantime, all charities should comply with the Charity Regulator’s new Governance Code which recommends that charities produce unabridged (full) financial accounts and that they make these accounts publicly available. The Code will become mandatory in 2021, but we need to place financial reporting standards on a statutory footing to provide clarity and optimal transparency”, said Mr Cooper.

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Members of local community and voluntary groups are invited to attend an information event on the forthcoming Europeans elections at the Strand Hotel in Limerick on Monday 1 April. The Wheel, Ireland’s national association of community and voluntary organisations, will host the event with support from the European Parliament Liaison Office (EPLO) and the European Commission Representation in Ireland.

Attendees will hear from a cross party selection of declared candidates for the Southern Constituency, including sitting MEPs Deirdre Clune (Fine Gael) and Liadh Ni Riadh (Sinn Féin) and election hopefuls Councillor Malcolm Byrne (Fianna Fáil), Senator Grace O’Sullivan (Green Party), former Secretary General of the INTO, Sheila Nunan (Labour) and Councillor Breda Gardener (independent). 

This will be an excellent opportunity to learn about the upcoming European elections, discuss the key election issues, network and hear from declared candidates. The event will conclude with a moderated discussion and Q&A session on the importance of engaging with Europe.

This is a free event, but registration is required at www.wheel.ie/EU2019

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Charities Institute Ireland (Cii) and The Wheel have jointly welcomed the signing by the Minister for Finance of the Ministerial Order that brings the VAT Compensation Scheme for Charities into effect. The €5million scheme was announced in Budget 2018, and compensates charities for a proportion of the VAT they incur on expenditure related to independently raised income.

Charities will be able to claim for VAT paid from the 1st January 2018, and to make claims once a year for VAT paid in the previous year. 

In a joint statement welcoming the announcement, Scott Kelley, Interim Chief Executive of Cii and Deirdre Garvey, Chief Executive Officer of The Wheel said: “Irish Charities have worked closely with Department of Finance and Revenue officials on the detailed implementation of the VAT compensation scheme, and we are delighted that today the Minister has formally signed the Order which brings the scheme into effect.” 

Irish charities are major buyers of goods and services in the economy and are liable to VAT on their purchases. The new scheme will return some of that money to charities to enable them to enhance services and provides an incentive to increase their fundraising efforts. 

We expect that many charities will benefit from this new scheme, which represents a major acknowledgement by government of the role and contribution of charities to Irish society. If the total claims exceed the €5 million allocated, charities will be paid on a pro rata basis.  In time, we hope that this scheme can be expanded after the initial three-year period to which the Minister has committed, Scott Kelley and Deirdre Garvey said.

Full details of the scheme may be accessed on: www.finance.gov.ie/news/latest-news/

For further information please contact

The Wheel - John Gallagher Tel. 087 9369888


Ireland’s Top Charities Honoured at 2018 Charity Impact Awards

Mary Fitzgerald, a County Clare woman who set up ground-breaking services for victims of domestic violence, was this evening named as the winner of the 2018 Community Hero Award at The Wheel’s Charity Impact Awards in Dublin.

The Community Hero Award is a lifetime achievement award honouring a person who has made an extraordinary contribution to a good cause over the course of their lives. Mary was one of ten volunteers nominated for this prestigious award.

Mary has been volunteering for over 35 years with various causes in her native Co. Clare and as far afield as India. In the early 90s, she became aware of the plight of women and children fleeing from domestic abuse who, because of a lack of local support services, were often staying overnight in local Garda stations. She took some of these women and children into her own home and, in 1993, she established Clare Haven Services to provide refuge to families fleeing abuse in Co. Clare.  

Today Clare Haven Services is a leading provider of services for the victims of domestic abuse in Co. Clare. Mary also established Haven Horizons, a national charity that works to break the cycle of domestic abuse through international best practice and evidence-based prevention models.

Mary was presented with the honour at the Charity Impact Awards ceremony, hosted at the Mansion House in Dublin. The Wheel, the national association of charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises, established these awards to celebrate the positive impact made in our communities by Ireland’s 29,000 non-profit organisations.

Commenting on Mary's achievement, Deirdre Garvey, Chief Executive of The Wheel, said, "Though their work, people like Mary enrich and improve our communities, and the charities they support make a difference to millions of lives, both here and across the world. The aim of the Charity Impact Awards is to recognise and showcase this important contribution.”

Awards were also presented to:

One hundred and four non-profit organisations and volunteers were nominated for the Charity Impact Awards and over 19,000 people voted for their favourite nominees. The stories of all the nominees are available at www.charityimpactawards.ie.

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Community and voluntary groups are being invited to sign up to a new national initiative designed to help communities become more sustainable. Community projects that join the Spark Change Challenge by 31 January 2019 will be given access to expert advice, information resources, free training and small grants for local information events. In 2019, Ireland’s top sustainability projects will be showcased at the inaugural Spark Change Awards.

The Spark Change Challenge was developed by The Wheel, the national association of nonprofits and Trinity College Dublin to help communities become more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. Funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Research Programme, the project will illuminate how community and voluntary activity is contributing to Ireland’s commitment to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Commenting on the Spark Change Challenge, Deirdre Garvey, Chief Executive of The Wheel said, “We live on a fragile planet with finite resources and our individual actions have a global impact. To ensure that future generations have enough resources to meet their needs, we have to take steps today to make our communities more sustainable. Spark Change provides an incentive for communities to take the first step Spark Change Challenge and sharing their success stories to inspire other communities. The Spark Change website [www.sparkchange.ie] is an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to set their community on a path to a more sustainable future. Here you will find case studies, free resources and all the information you need to complete the Spark Change Challenge.” towards becoming more sustainable. We want to empower the doers in every community to spark change by signing up to the 

Dr Vincent Carragher, Research Fellow at Trinity College Dublin added, “Sustainability is often associated with the environment, but there are also economic and social sides to sustainable development. It is something everyone can work towards, whether it is picking up litter, planting a community garden, creating a sustainable employment scheme, campaigning for gender equality or promoting health and wellbeing, anyone can help to make their community, Ireland and our planet more sustainable.”

Any community and voluntary organisation, individual or group of people with a shared vision can sign-up to the Spark Change Challenge. All participating projects must be based in the Republic of Ireland.

Shane Colgan from the Environmental Protection Agency said, “The EPA’s vision is of a clean, healthy and well-protected environment supporting a sustainable society and economy.  We welcome the launch of the Spark Change initiative as a vital step along the way to helping Ireland make the necessary transition to a sustainable future.  Spark Change will work to connect great projects in local communities all across Ireland to the worldwide sustainable development goals set out by the United Nations.”

You can sign up for the challenge at www.sparkchange.ie 

 

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The Wheel, the national association of charities, welcomes the publication today of the Charities Regulator’s new Code of Governance for Charities but calls on Government to streamline and fund compliance requirements.

 Commenting on the launch of the Code of Governance for Charities, Deirdre Garvey, Chief Executive of The Wheel said, “High governance standards are key to maintain public trust and confidence in the work of Ireland’s 10,000 charities, and this new code is a welcome addition to the voluntary codes and standards that the sector has developed in recent years. It will be an important resource to help charities attain best governance practice”.

The Wheel notes that charities are facing many new compliance requirements from various agencies and that there are costs associated with meeting these requirements. Ms Garvey added, “The new Code places significant compliance and documentary requirements on all charities, additional to the many requirements that already exist. We are calling on Government to:

  • initiate a process to streamline all the various compliance requirements, and 
  • ensure that Government agencies contribute to meeting the compliance costs of the organisations they fund.

“Charities welcome and have long demanded clear regulation and oversight. However, the state and relevant agencies must facilitate charities to fulfil their compliance requirements. We cannot afford to waste valuable public resources and volunteers’ time on unnecessary form filling and duplication. It needs to be streamlined now”, said Ms Garvey.

“The Wheel will be monitoring the impact of the Code of Governance on Ireland’s 10,000 charities. The feedback we gather should be included in a review of the Code following an initial roll-out period,” said Ms Garvey.

The Wheel, Ireland’s national association of charities, welcomes the outcome of a legal challenge taken by Amnesty International Ireland against the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC). Last November, Sipo ordered Amnesty to return a donation made in August 2015 by the Open Society Foundations (OSF), a body founded by businessman George Soros, for Amnesty’s international ‘My Body, My Rights’ campaign. The order was quashed by the High court earlier today.

Commenting on today’s decision Deirdre Garvey, Chief Executive Officer of The Wheel said, “The government should now introduce clarifying amendments to the Electoral Acts of 1997 and 2001 to ensure that charities and community-based organisations can continue working to develop, improve or change government policy affecting the people on whose behalf they advocate.

“Existing legislation rightly seeks to prevent wealthy individuals and groups, particularly from outside the state, from interfering in Irish elections and referendum. Lack of clarity in the wording could, however, potentially muzzle legitimate and important voices in civil society, including community organisations, non-profits, charities and international NGOs when making representations to government,” said Ms Garvey.

She added that the vague definition of 'third-party' should be legally clarified, “A local group campaigning for better street lighting, for a neighbourhood playground or even a Tidy Towns Committee could fall within this category, simply by accepting a donation over €100.

“This vague definition of political purpose was identified by the Standards in Public Offices Commission (Sipoc) as far back as 2003, but consecutive governments failed to correct the legal anomaly.”

“The government should, therefore, bring forward the necessary amendments to clearly exempt those advocating for causes they espouse, such as the development of a specific national policy on housing or contributing to government consultations, from third-party provisions contained in the Electoral Acts,” said Ms Garvey.

The Wheel is a member of a coalition of organisations who are committed to working with Government to find a better solution. The coalition is led by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

ENDS

Three landmark reports addressing the barriers to political, social and economic participation were launched in Dublin today at a special summit hosted by The Wheel, the national association of charities, and the Carnegie UK Trust. The reports originate from The People’s Conversation, an initiative to support and encourage people to participate in shaping our future through dialogue.

The first of the reports, Money Matters, explores the extent and implications of financial exclusion in Ireland outlines recommendations for improving the current situation. The report looks at the extent of poverty in Ireland and the impact this has on people. It presents a brief analysis of income adequacy, whether people are out of work and dependent on access to social welfare supports, or in work and need decent adequate take-home pay. It also maps the employment, education and training services that are available nationally to support people into the labour market.

The second report, Powering Civil Society sets out a vision and a plan for how active citizenship can be supported by a thriving, independent community, voluntary and charity sector, and how, in turn, the active citizenship represented by civil society organisations can be supported by the establishment of a participatory public governance system.

The third report, A Two-Way Street, addresses the role of public servants in citizen participation. The report concludes that on the basis of the citizen’s jury that was piloted in Galway in recent years by the PeopleTalk initiative, we need to rethink the mediating role of the public servant in a democratic culture which is truly participative.

Commenting on the launch of the reports, Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy at The Wheel said, “Taken together, we believe the three reports present a coherent analysis of the challenges we face as a society to ensure everyone can participate and fully realise their potential as human beings. We encourage everyone to read the full reports at www.peoplesconversation.ie, disseminate them widely, and feedback views through the comments section at the website.”

“The Wheel will be working to engage with policymakers and communities, and with our partners, in bringing the necessary change about, change aimed at ensuring that all people have the means to participate, and are afforded opportunities to participate in our democracy to proactively shape our collective futures for the common good,” said Mr Cooper.

The can be accessed at www.peoplesconversation.ie

This video provides a brief overview of the three reports.

#Enabling Citizens

The Wheel, the national association for charities, today called on Government to implement measures to relieve growing pressure on Ireland’s 10,000 charities.

Addressing the National Summit for the Charity Sector at Croke Park, Deirdre Garvey, Chief Executive of The Wheel also proposed adoption of the charity sector’s people-centred approach to care services as a model for health reform in the HSE. This should form part of overall public service reform to release the potential of the voluntary sector

Ms Garvey said, “Charities are implementing a growing list of reporting requirements from multiple regulators, funders and state bodies. There is excessive duplication between the various reporting processes, and this is adding to the administrative burden on charities.”

A recent survey of 312 charities conducted by The Wheel found that 62 percent of charities say their staff are under increased pressure because of the growth in reporting requirements, while 58 percent say their administrative costs have gone up.

These costs are set to increase with as the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into force on Friday, 25 May.

“We are calling on the Charities Regulator to implement their commitment to promoting an initiative to coordinate and streamline the multiple reports charities have to file with various state bodies, including the Companies Registration Office, the Charities Regulator itself, the Lobbying Regulator and, for many charities, the HSE, TUSLA and HIQA. Charities welcome regulation and oversight, but these organisations cannot afford valuable public resources on unnecessary form-filling and duplication.”

In relation to the reform of public services, Ms Garvey said, “The recent series of crises in the HSE shows that the current accountability process involving senior officials is neither effective nor appropriate in the health and social care setting.

“On the other hand, the model of direct contact with accountability to service users provided by the community and voluntary sector makes charities both highly effective and compassionate at delivering people-centred services.

“Any reform of the HSE should draw on and adopt the people-centred approach delivered by charities.”

Ms Garvey also called for Government to implement the national strategy for the charity sector: “The current programme for government includes a commitment to develop a strategy for the community and voluntary sector. A process is already underway in the Department of Rural and Community Development, but we need this strategy progressed and implemented as a matter of urgency. Nonprofit organisations (many of which are charities) sustain 158,000 jobs, generate an annual turnover of €12.1bn, and mobilise an army of nearly half a million citizens to provide 230 million hours of unpaid work, valued at over €2bn per year. Most importantly, the sector provides essential services and supports to society in areas such as community development, health and social care provision.”

“Together these measures will help to unlock the potential of the community and voluntary sector, and help to address the many deficits in our health and social care services,” said Ms Garvey.

The National Charity Summit is Ireland’s largest annual gathering of community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises. Then the two-day event will attract representatives of over 200 organisations and attendees will hear from over 40 speakers. The event is organised by The Wheel, the largest representative body for the charity sector.

#wheel18

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Ireland's national association for charities, The Wheel today warmly welcomed a report by the Charities Regulator that lays the foundations for a new governance code for the charity sector. The Charities Regulator launched the report of its Consultative Panel on the Governance of Charitable Organisations at an event in Dublin earlier today.

Commenting on the launch of the Charities Regulator’s report, Deirdre Garvey, Chief Executive of The Wheel said: “This report is highly significant in that it acknowledges the uniqueness of charities and the distinct and specific challenges faced by the many unpaid trustees who volunteer freely of their time to govern our charities. It is another important step marking a more engaged relationship between the state and the community, voluntary and charity sector. We are delighted to see that the Regulator has committed to developing the new Governance Code for Charities in collaboration with the sector and that the regulator has also committed to promoting efforts to streamline compliance and reporting duplication facing charities” said Ms Garvey

Ms Garvey added that as a member of the Consultative Panel on the Governance of Charities, The Wheel has worked closely with the Charities Regulator to ensure the proposed governance framework takes a proportionate approach - especially towards smaller charities. 

Ireland’s nonprofit organisations (many of which are charities) sustain 158,000 jobs, generate an annual turnover of €12.1bn, and mobilises an army of nearly half a million citizens to provide 230 million hours of unpaid work – valued at over €2Bn - per year. Most importantly, the sector provides essential services and supports to society in areas such as community development, health and care provision.

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The Wheel and partners Early Years Northern Ireland are today hosting a conference on the role of civil society in Europe at Trinity College Dublin. The half-day conference celebrates the end of the Atlantic Philanthropies funded project Access Europe, which aimed to build the capacity of Irish civil society organisations to access EU funding.

The conference is partly funded by the European Parliament through the Europe’s Future project, which intends to activate community involvement in European decision-making. The event will hear the findings of the Access Europe project, stimulate engagement with key stakeholders, and spark discussion on possible future engagement in Europe, post-2020.

A number of speakers will take part in a series of talks and panels throughout the day, including Lynn Boylan MEP; Catherine Day, Former Secretary General of the European Commission; Hugh Quigley, Chairman of Access Europe; Siobhan Fitzpatrick, CEO of Early Years Northern Ireland; and Gina McIntyre, Chief Executive of the Special EU Programmes Body. Brian Harvey, social researcher and evaluator of Access Europe, presented the results of the project and a host of organisations that have been successful in EU funding shared their projects and experiences, including Youth Work Ireland, the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, and the National Women’s Council of Ireland.

Participants also have the opportunity to explore a showcase of European funding programmes available and learn about their potential from the various contact points who will be present on the day.

Speaking ahead of the event Deirdre Garvey, Chief Executive of The Wheel said: “EU funding offers a multitude of exciting possibilities for civil society organisations in Ireland. Engaging in European projects can benefit organisations of all sizes, allowing them to develop new research, ideas, programmes, and resources; collaborate with and learn from partners throughout Europe, and build an international profile. We encourage all Ireland's community and voluntary groups, charities and social enterprises to explore these wonderful opportunities.”

Those interested in learning more about civil society and the future of Europe are advised to contact The Wheel at europe@wheel.ie for further information.

ENDS

The Wheel, the national association of charities, today launched a new resource in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to help communities achieve greater sustainability. The free online Sustainable Communities toolkit provides community and voluntary organisations with practical guidance for implementing sustainability solutions within both rural and urban communities.

The toolkit covers five topics:

  1. · ecological integrity
  2. · health and wellbeing
  3. · participation and engagement
  4. · culture and heritage
  5. · economic resilience.

Each of the above-mentioned topics is covered in a separate section with a video introduction, case studies, a list of suggested actions and access to other resources and supports.

Speaking today at the launch of the Sustainable Communities toolkit at the Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun, Dublin, Johnny Sheehan, Membership and Regional Coordinator at The Wheel said: “This toolkit aims to support local communities across Ireland to awaken an awareness, deepen understanding and activate participation in sustainable development with a view to living better by using less. We seek to shine a light on what is already there, validate and recognise this work and provide some frameworks for communities using this toolkit to draw on for your own organisation and community context.”

The toolkit can be used free of charge at www.sustainabletoolkit.ie

END

Coalition 2030 Challenges Government’s First Progress Report to UN Body

Coalition 2030, an alliance of over 100 Irish civil society organisations and networks, today expressed concern that Ireland is falling behind on its commitment to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The coalition outlined its concerns in a report published as the Irish Government prepares to present its first progress report on the SDGs at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday (17 July).

In its report, Coalition 2030 acknowledges the tremendous role played by the Irish Government in getting global agreement on the SDGs and the progress it has made to date to map progress towards the goals. However, Coalition 2030 warns that there are significant gaps in the Government’s National Implementation Plan for the SDGs launched by Minister Denis Naughten in April.

Speaking in New York, Suzanne Keatinge, CEO of Dóchas, the Irish association of non-governmental development organisations said, “Much greater urgency and political leadership will be required if we are to ensure the transformative change that the SDGs envisage by 2030. The Government needs to develop a realistic costing and prioritise targets and outcomes, but also involve all stakeholders, particularly civil society, in that process. Only then will we meet the ambition of the SDGs which is to make sure that the needs of the poorest and most marginalised in society, at home and abroad, are met sustainably and for future generations.”

In its independent report, Coalition 2030 calls for greater focus on developing national policies to support the implementation of the SDGs, “Arguably the greatest threat to Ireland’s implementation of the SDGs is a pronounced lack of policy coherence.  Greater focus has to be placed on the inter linkages between the 17 Goals which makes them so transformative. This issue is particularly manifest in Ireland’s poor performance in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and failure to stem the downward spiral in Ireland’s biodiversity. As part of the National SDGs Implementation Plan, the government, in consultation with the National Economic and Social Council, should strengthen a whole-of-government approach to the SDGs,” said Michael Ewing from the Environmental Pillar, an advocacy coalition of 29 Irish environmental NGOs.

Also commenting on the report, Dr Sean Healy, CEO of Social Justice Ireland said, "Ireland's performance on the Sustainable Development Goals is particularly bad on environment and inequalities. This emphasises the need for Government to put these SDGs at the centre of policy formation across the board. Much of what Ireland is doing is damaging people, the economy or the environment. Ireland needs much more committed action to build a future consistent with the SDGs."

David Joyce from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions added that “Ireland as one of the richest countries in the world have to do better and move faster than most in meeting SDG targets. Ireland has the potential to be the best performer on every single goal, showing that it is possible to combine economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The report being delivered to the UN this week shows we have a long way to go in terms of leaving nobody behind. “

Valerie Duffy, Development Education Coordinator at National Youth Council of Ireland said, “To achieve the SDGs we also need education for transformative change. We need education that enables all people to participate meaningfully, to critically engage in sustainable development, and to imagine and create new futures. This is a central part of SDG 12, which is under review at this year’s High Level Political Forum. Goal 12 requires Member States to mainstream Global Citizenship Education and Education for Sustainable Development.”

Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy at The Wheel, the national association of charities said, “Dialogue with stakeholders is absolutely essential and we need everybody working together all the way from the State down to the grassroots movements if we are to achieve these goals."

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals, which reflect the totally intertwined economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.  All UN member states committed to using them to frame their national agendas and political policies to reach the targets by 2030.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are therefore an essential framework to guide the future direction of Irish domestic and foreign policy, as well as the development of a healthy and sustainable society and economy in Ireland.

Coalition 2030’s report is available at www.ireland2030.org/report-2018/

#Agenda2030

ENDS

Retention of Cabinet Minister for Community & Voluntary Sector vital, says The Wheel  -

The new Programme for Government offers significant potential for further development of the community and voluntary sector in coming years, especially following the economic and social consequences of COVID -19, The Wheel, Ireland’s representative body for charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises, said in an initial response today. 

Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel, said that, while detailed assessment needs to be made of the document, it acknowledges the key role of the community and voluntary sector and it contains a number of very positive commitments to support the sector, including:  

The Wheel looks forward to the implementation of these and other initiatives and to working with the new government when it is appointed. 

We appreciate that the delivery of the many positive commitments will be subject to finalising exact details and policy and budgetary provision. The Wheel will continue the positive engagement and work with the outgoing government that enabled delivery of new policies and support for Government initiatives during the COVID-19 emergency.

“The existence of a senior Cabinet Minister and Department for Community and Rural Development enabled much of the progress in recent years. Retention of a Senior Minister with responsibility for the community and voluntary sector is, therefore essential in the incoming government,” said Deirdre Garvey.

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