Because community and voluntary organisations are involved in delivering many social, health, community, environmental and personal-support services that are funded by government, the sector engages with, and is affected by the policies of, many government departments.
Community and voluntary organisations work with (and are often funded by) the Department of Health, the Department of Children, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Education, the Department of Employment and Social Protection, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Communications and Natural Resources, and others. Additionally, the policies of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance can have a big impact on community, voluntary and charitable sector. The Office for Government Procurement, for example, produced new Guidelines on Public Procurement which may have significant implications for publicly funded organisations, so The Wheel works to shape, educate and give feedback to agencies and departments on such policies. The Wheel maintains positive relationships with all these departments, and others, to ensure that issues identified by members are considered in policy development processes.
The Wheel is also a member of the Community and Voluntary Pillar, the mechanism established by government to facilitate engagement between the community and voluntary sector and the departments of the state. Membership of the Pillar affords The Wheel opportunities to engage constructively and deliberatively with officials from government departments and is an important mechanism for positively shaping departmental policies. The Pillar is invited to make regular submissions to government on a range of matters.
The department with primary responsibility for the community, voluntary and charitable sector is the Department of Rural and Community Development. That department’s main policy for the sector is The White Paper Supporting Voluntary Activity. The department has also developed a Framework Policy on Local and Community Development.
What Are We Working On?
The Wheel worked hard in the run up to the 2016 General Election to ensure that all the political parties were aware of the need to develop coherent and supportive policy to support the Community, voluntary and charitable sector, so we were delighted that the Programme for Partnership Government (page 131) contains these important statements:
“We want to affirm the contribution of the community and voluntary sector to building a more just and prosperous society, and its strong focus on urban and rural regeneration. Community and voluntary organisations provide the human, social and community services in all key areas of our national life. In this work they contribute to the economy as well as create value for Irish society.”
“We will increase funding levels to support the sector, and develop a multi-annual funding model that focuses on quality, effectiveness and efficiency. We will produce a coherent policy framework and develop a strategy to support the community and voluntary sector and encourage a cooperative approach between public bodies and the community and voluntary sector.”
“We will also ensure that all commissioning for human, social and community services takes place in a societal value framework (targeted at maximising the value for society)”.
Since the publication of the Programme for Partnership Government, The Wheel has been working closely with the Department of Rural and Community Development to deliver the new strategy to support the community and voluntary sector committed to in the Programme for Government. Furthermore, The Government is simultaneously producing a new policy to support social enterprise and a policy to support volunteering.
In addition to the above, The Wheel works on behalf of our members funded by state agencies such as the HSE, Tusla and Pobal, working to shape policies, such as emerging commissioning practice, that affect state-funded organisations. We have been working as a member of Tusla’s Advisory Group on Commissioning to ensure commissioning practice is in line with the recommendations of our Let's Commission for Communities Report.
Finally, we maintain very close working relationships with other agencies that significantly impact the work of the sector such as the Charities Regulator, the Standards in Public Office Commission, and the Revenue Commissioners, regularly participating in working groups when new policies are being developed or reviewed.