Budget 2018: Coalition of charities call for package of measures to help charities tackle growing social exclusion and support communities

Six national networks, encompassing over 2,000 Irish charities, today called on Government to introduce a package of measures to help charities tackle growing social exclusion and support communities.

Budget 2018 Charities

The Wheel, Disability Federation of Ireland, Care Alliance Ireland, Irish Rural Link, Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups and the National Youth Council of Ireland said the measures will release substantial resources to help charities address growing social exclusion for people with disabilities, carers, young people and people living in disadvantaged rural and inner-city communities. 

The proposed measures are:

  • A VAT Compensation scheme for charities based on a report published by the Minister for Finance in 2015. Such a scheme could greatly boost charitie’s work on issues such as housing and health. Housing charities, for example, cannot reclaim the VAT they pay every year on vital initiatives like direct housing provision and support services to homeless families. Budget 2018 should introduce a scheme capped at €20m to deliver an effective 50% VAT rebate to the sector.
  • An enhanced Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) to improve supports for people from disadvantaged areas. Budget 2018 should make an allocation of an additional €5m for SICAP for the year ahead, to ensure that it can continue to play a fully effective role in community development.
  • Continuation and improvement of the Scheme to Support National Organisations (SSNO). The current scheme runs to July 2019 and supports over 70 organisations. We are recommending that this fund is increased by 20% from €16.5M to €20m for the period August 2019 to August 2022, and that this figure is built in now to indicative rolling three-year budget allocations for the years ahead.
  • A Special additional Contingency Fund of €2m for Social Enterprise, in line with the Dormant Accounts allocations in 2016/17. In addition, this figure should become an annual budget line, increased as appropriate to facilitate implementation of the government’s Policy and Implementation Road Map on Social Enterprise.
  • Streamlining regulatory and reporting requirements for charities to help reduce growing administrative costs. The networks say these costs are ballooning and are diverting resources away from crucial services.

Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy at The Wheel said: “Every day we are hearing reports about the impact of homelessness, the lack of capacity in our health service, problems with the standard of care and growing social problems in rural areas; these issues are not unrelated: Ireland’s community and voluntary sector was subjected disproportionate funding cuts of between 35% and 45% during the recession, and the cumulative impact of these cuts is being felt in every community. The proposed measures will empower those who are best placed to fight growing social exclusion,” said Mr Cooper.

James Doorley, Deputy Director of the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) added, “We will hear a lot about whether the budget is fiscally sound in the coming days and while this is important, Ireland is a society, not just an economy. We hope that the Government hear and take heed of that message and deliver increased investment in initiatives such as SICAP. The SICAP programme, which is delivered by voluntary groups at local level, addresses social exclusion and unemployment, including measures to meet the needs of young people who are not in education, employment or training. While youth unemployment has declined to 14%, it and in particular long-term youth unemployment is still far too high. By investing in SICAP and other similar programmes the Government can demonstrate that the budget is not just fiscally sound, but is also socially just,” stated James Doorley.

Allen Dunne, Deputy CEO of the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) said “Both the SSNO and the SICAP are key programmes supporting people with disabilities inclusion and equal participation. The SSNO secures the delivery of vital community-based supports and services and the SICAP supports participation through training, education, and labour market activation. These initiatives are critical for people with disabilities and increased funding would help to tackle their low labour force participation and the rising consistent poverty rate for people with disabilities, which rose from 14% to 22% in 2015”.

Donal McKenna, Chair of Care Alliance Ireland highlighted the need for increased funding for the community, voluntary and charity sector at large, saying, "In order for not-for-profit groups like ourselves to continue to make a real impact at policy level, increased investment in Budget 2018, in line with these key asks from our colleagues across the sector, is critical." 

Louise Lennon, Policy & Communications Officer at Irish Rural Link said, “Community groups that we work with continue to be underfunded for the services they provide to their local community. Services such Meals on Wheels, Rural Transport Programme continue to lack essential funding and resources to deliver services that are a lifeline to many people living in rural Ireland. Resources from the state to these organisations needs to be increased and the valuable role they play in social inclusion needs to be recognised”.

Commenting on the need to streamline regulatory and reporting requirements for charities Diarmaid Ó Corrbuí, CEO of the Carmichael for Voluntary Groups said, “Large numbers of people in Ireland are involved in the community, voluntary and charitable sector. People willingly give up their free time to work as volunteers and to serve on committees and boards. Organisations need effective and appropriate oversight but they need support and resources to help them adhere to good governance standards. The necessity and importance of complying with ever-increasing legislative and regulatory requirements makes it hard to attract and retain volunteer board and committee members. Supports and resources aimed at enhancing good governance will help organisations to maximise their impact on behalf of their service users and the wider community.”

The six organisations have offered their support to Government to help for implementing the above-mentioned measures. They have also committed to involving people and communities in this collective effort.