Shifting the Focus of the Local and European Elections Back to What Matters

Posted on
30 Apr 2019
by
Sarah Monaghan is Campaigns Manager at The Wheel, Ireland’s national association of charities

The Wheel, Ireland’s association of charities, recently launched its Community Matters campaign. We are calling on candidates running for both local government and the European Parliament to sign a pledge to champion the value of our community and voluntary sector. Candidates who sign the pledge will commit to using their voices to represent this valuable national asset. 

Over the coming weeks it will be easy to get lost in party politics and tactics when the focus should really be on the needs of people in Ireland and their communities. The 30,000+ nonprofit organisations working across Ireland are the backbone of community. These organisations help, support and advocate on behalf of each of us.

The nonprofit sector regularly fills the gaps in care and support that remain overlooked and under-resourced by the state. Without the charity, voluntary and community sector’s commitment to filling these gaps — which should not exist to begin with — families and individuals across Ireland who avail of these services would be left struggling. 

Not only do charities, social enterprises, and voluntary and community organisations provide support for those who need it, they also reflect the vibrancy which lies at the heart of community life. Ireland enjoys high rates of volunteering and engagement in community activities, with organisations such as volunteer centres, football clubs and community crèches playing an important social role in all of our lives.

While we all experience the value of the sector on a daily basis, there are a number of factors threatening the survival and sustainability of nonprofit organisations. In the Community Matters pledge, we are asking candidates to firstly ensure that they are aware of the value of the sector in the same way we are: not in the abstract, but in the lived daily experiences of those whose votes they will be canvassing for on 24 May. 

We aim to highlight the areas in which candidates can address and use their representative voice to advocate for practical solutions to the challenges faced by the sector. Currently, organisations large and small are struggling under a short-sighted funding model which prevents them from planning strategically for the long term. Within our local election pledge we are asking candidates to support multi-annual funding, awarded in three and five-year allocations. 

We are also advocating for Irish organisations to be able to apply for EU grants without being restricted by the requirement for providing matching funds or partnering with another member state. These requirements make it difficult for many organisations to carry out their essential work, so we are asking all EU candidates to sign our pledge and advocate for a national support service to assist with application requirements. These practical changes would allow organisations to invest their resources most effectively for the people they support. 

While the increase in regulation and compliance within the sector has been welcomed across the board, it has also put a strain on organisations. There has been a significant increase in reporting requirements, and many organisations must report in duplicate to various different funding and regulatory bodies. Despite this, there has been no increase in financial and staffing resources to assist organisations in meeting these demands. The result has been a diversion in staff and volunteer time and energy towards paperwork and away from those they support. 

This is not in the spirit of community and a better balance must be sought. We are asking candidates to sign our pledge in support of streamlining regulation so that organisations at the core of every community can use the majority of their time to support people. 

Candidates can sign the pledge at www.wheel.ie/elections and publicly support Community Matters by using the hashtag #valuecommunity, so that the people in your community can prioritise the candidates that prioritise them.

#valuecommunity