Unprecedented Social Solidarity Needed to Defeat COVID-19, Say The Wheel

Posted on 15 Mar 2020

“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.