New Year Member Update

Posted on
14 Jan 2020
by Ivan cooper, Director of Public Policy for The Wheel

With many members in the midst of planning work programmes for 2020, I thought it might be useful to share a few perspectives on expectations for the year ahead for the community and voluntary sector.

With a general election anticipated imminently, we are certainly in for an interesting start to 2020, with the agenda for the first part of the next decade to be decided over the next few months. Taken together with the new relationships with Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and the EU post-Brexit, the world that community and voluntary organisations work in is changing rapidly. 

Ask any member of The Wheel what the three things that government could do to enable them to focus on their work and you’ll likely hear:

  • “ensure adequate funding please (either through direct funding or incentivising donors) so we can meet ever increasing need and recruit and retain staff”;
  • “reduce and streamline compliance requirements and general bureaucracy” and
  • “support (and fund!) good governance”.

While these challenges will remain pressing issues in 2020, I think there are positive signs that genuine progress can be made in how voluntary organisations are valued, funded, supported and governed in 2020. Why am I optimistic?

Recent developments of special relevance to The Wheel and our members

Government published three very significant strategies in 2019, two of them by the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD – the lead department for the sector) and one by the Department of Health (DoH). Taken together with work underway to advance Tusla’s Commissioning Strategy, these new strategies will positively shape the evolution of the community and voluntary sector in Ireland in the years ahead. The three documents are:

  1. The Five Year Strategy to Support the Community and Voluntary Sector (DRCD)
  2. The National Social Enterprise Policy (DRCD)
  3. The Report of the Independent Review Group (IRG Report) on the role of Voluntary Organisations in Health and social Services (DoH)

If all of the actions/recommendations contained in each of the reports were to be fully implemented then it would be fair to say that the landscape for the CV sector in Ireland would be transformed in a very positive way in that all funded organisations would benefit from:

  • Multi annual funding
  • Full-cost-of-service funding with contributions to core costs and the costs of compliance
  • Streamlined and reduced reporting and regulatory compliance requirements
  • Freedom to advocate enshrined in guidelines and processes.

The challenge of course will be to ensure that these objectives are realised, that coherence is achieved in implementing the strategies, and that meaningful progress is made towards realising them in a reasonable period of time. 

Implementation groups have now been established to advance these strategies by the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) and the Department of Health (DoH), and I am pleased to say that The Wheel has secured representation on all three groups. The strategies overlap to a certain degree in their recommendations/objectives because they ultimately deal with the same thing: the needs of community and voluntary organisations.

The two strategies produced by DRCD will be joined in the New Year by a third - the Strategy on Volunteering - which will complete the Department’s suite of strategies to support the community and voluntary sector, social enterprises and volunteering. The Wheel is an active contributor on the sub-group developing this new volunteering strategy too. It too will have its own Implementation Group when published in the New Year and we will be seeking representation on that too.

So, there are now many forums in which the issues that our members need addressed have been acknowledged and will be progressed, and we have heartily welcomed the strategies and processes to date. Taken together, we are viewing them as the Government having delivered on the current Programme for Government commitment (which we secured with the Governing coalition following the last election) to “develop a strategy to support the community and voluntary sector.”

All of our work to advance these strategies and policies will be supported by our engagement with members through our various Member Networks:

For more information on any of our member networks, please contact

General Election 2020: with the General Election now having been called for 8 February, it will be VITAL that the next government, when elected, re-commits to implementing the painstakingly crafted, and long awaited, strategies above. To this end we have been busy in recent months planning a comprehensive campaign to encourage and support members to engage in the context of General Election 2020. Collectively we must ensure that all the political parties are aware of the challenges facing the community and voluntary sector - and that they all have policies to support the sector to realise our full potential. 

We look forward to working with you further on this very soon.


Ivan Cooper
Director of Public Policy