An Update on The Wheel's Work
Over the past few months, we have been working alongside our 1,900+ members and other partners in the sector to make sure you, your organisation, and the wider sector are supported, championed, and valued. We’ve had some notable successes on this front, and I’m delighted to share these with you below.
1. Developing the Sector’s Training and Support Infrastructure
Making sure that you and your colleagues have access to the training and support you need remains one of our top priorities.
Last Thursday (23 March), Minister of State for Charities, Joe O’Brien TD, launched a major new report into developing training and support infrastructure in Ireland’s nonprofit sector.
The Consultation Report on the Support Needs of the Nonprofit Sector identifies areas for investment in training and supports and makes specific recommendations for the nonprofit sector and Government. It was produced by Sheila Cahill Consulting, co-commissioned by The Wheel and Carmichael, and co-funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development.
The report highlights the range and scale of challenges facing nonprofit organisations in Ireland today, from small community groups to larger national bodies and everything in between. The study looks at the supports available currently to these organisations, locally, regionally and nationally, while also identifying areas for development to help organisations meet the challenges they face.
This report builds upon another study carried out in 2020 by Indecon on behalf of The Wheel. That research established, for the first time, the levels of training and upskilling undertaken by people in the nonprofit sector – both paid and unpaid. The findings of the Indecon study are available in this report.
The research outlined above is part of a much larger body of work to ensure that you and your organisations have access to the skills you need to progress your work in the years to come.
2. Working to boost the VAT Compensation Scheme
We are currently in meetings with the Department of Finance and Revenue on the three-year review of the VAT Compensation Scheme for charities that fundraise independently. This allows direct input by the sector on future planning.
The highly successful scheme is up for renewal at the next Budget. We are working with Charities Institute Ireland (CII) on this issue, and will be seeking a very substantial increase in the current €5m rebates, given claims of almost €40m last year.
Charities should submit their 2020 claims to Revenue as early as possible and include retention of the scheme in their pre-Budget submissions.
3. Advocating for Charity Shops
Charity shops closed during lockdown lost out badly due to anomalies in qualification rules for government financial supports, notably the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS).
We have urged the Departments of Finance, Rural and Community Development, and Trade and Employment to address charity shops’ exclusion, working with the Irish Charity Shops Association and CII.
Following these contacts, the recently announced Small Business Assistance Scheme (SBAS), to be operated through local authorities, is expected to allow charity shops to benefit. It also allows backdated claims for the first quarter of 2021.
4. Building Public Confidence and Support
We are developing an exciting new public-awareness campaign for our sector. This campaign, developed in collaboration with a steering group of leaders from across the sector, will work to improve understanding and appreciation of the value our work adds to the lives of people and communities in Ireland and abroad.
The campaign is at the foundational stages of research and development, but we will be inviting our members to shape its future direction. So be on the lookout for an invite very soon.
On a related note, it is very encouraging to see that, according to the latest Irish Charity Engagement Monitor (ICEM), public trust in charities rose from 57% to 64% between May and December last year. This is the highest level of trust in years and a welcome acknowledgement of the key role our sector is playing during the pandemic.
5. Promoting All-Island Cooperation
Last Thursday (25 March), we joined our sister organisation the Northern Island Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) in calling for greater collaboration between civil-society organisations across the island.
We made the call during the third event in the Shared Island Dialogue series, which was launched by Taoiseach Micheál Martin as part of the Shared Island initiative to foster constructive and inclusive civic dialogue on the future of the island underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement.
The theme of the event was ‘Civil society – a catalyst for connection and understanding on a shared island’. It was the third in the series and also included a contribution from Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD.
I was joined on a panel by NICVA’s CEO, Seamus McAleavey, to discuss how civil-society orgnanisations hold the key to cross-island cooperation. In this short video, I discuss how The Wheel and NICVA are deepening our collaboration.
6. Bringing Down the Cost of Insurance
Earlier this month the Judicial Council adopted new guidelines for personal injury claims that aim to reduce the size of awards for minor injuries by around 50%.
We support the Alliance's call to reduce the size of these awards by around 80% to bring them into line with international norms.
7. Supporting Rural Ireland
On Monday we welcomed the Government’s Rural Development Policy (2021-2025), Our Rural Future, which included a number of commitments to community development, funding, and support for our sector.
The community and voluntary sector is a key stakeholder in our rural communities, the sustainability of the sector is key to the future of rural island.
As a member of the consortium behind Ireland's National Rural Network (NRN), we are also continuing the rollout of information and support to rural stakeholders under the current Rural Development Programme (RDP).
8. Building European Connections
In November 2020, we launched Access Europe, a new support and capacity-building programme to help Irish civil society organisations access EU funding. The three-year project is being funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The programme is growing from strength to strength, and earlier this month we entered into a partnership with Sport Ireland to give organisations promoting sports, physical activity, health and well-being will access to the information and support they need to take part in EU funded programmes like Erasmus+ Sport.
If you wish to learn more about Access Europe and how EU funding could benefit your organisation, join here.
9. Supporting the Volunteering Strategy
In our latest member survey, our members told us that retaining volunteers is a big challenge in the current circumstances.
As a member of the national advisory group which helped to co-produce the Government’s National Volunteering Strategy (2021 - 2025) we are working behind the scenes to make sure that this key strategy is kept high on the Government’s agenda.
10. Championing our Community and Voluntary Community
With these, we aim to give greater visibility to The Wheel's incredible community of members. Whether you're working with the smallest volunteer group or the largest international charity, you’re part of an ever-growing network of people making the world a better place for us all — and we want to make our collective efforts as visible as possible
11. Join us for Summit 2021
Finally, it is my pleasure to invite you to attend our annual Summit on 19 and 20 May.
The two-day event will bring together the people and organisations who will be setting the agenda for the nonprofit sector in this new era. To support you, we have scrapped the registration fee in 2021, and you and your colleagues are free to attend any of the six sessions.
Register here to secure your place now.