Black Thursday for Voluntary and Community Sector

27 Mar 2015 Seamus McAleavey    Last updated: 22 May 2015

Thursday 26 March 2015 was a bad day for the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland.  

Last week saw savage cuts to the arts sector. Yesterday the DOE announced swingeing disproportionate cuts to environment organisations and DEL announced its new round of ESF funding that  saw many organisations lose all their funding. 

The Department of Education had already pulled the total Early Years Fund and DoJ has been drastically cutting support to voluntary organisations working to prevent recidivism and further crime by ex- offenders.

It is plain these cuts are grossly disproportionate to the fiscal pressure Departments are under.  It’s also clear that budget holders are cutting everything they regard as peripheral to themselves and protecting their core work.

NICVA has engaged with Departments; we understood the financial pressures arising from Northern Ireland’s budget settlement and we pleaded for voluntary and community organisations delivering services to be judged on their merits and their value for money.  It seems there is little point in behaving reasonably with the unreasonable.

Early Years work is a clear example. Northern Ireland has shockingly poor outcomes for disadvantaged children in our mainstream education system. Twenty-five percent leave school functionally illiterate and innumerate. All the research evidence says the best place to invest to make a difference is in early years development. But the Fund was money for the voluntary and community groups so it was an easy option to stop; forget about the value of the work. A loss of local services in 153 communities in the most disadvantaged parts of Northern Ireland, a loss of 2,500 early childhood places and a loss of 177 jobs.

Northern Ireland needs to be smarter in how it deals with its tough financial position. It needs to reform its service delivery, focus more on prevention rather than expensive cures and target resources at the point that will maximise the return in terms of positive outcome.

Carry on like this and we will have poorer public services, a disconnected workforce, a disgruntled public a poorer society.

NICVA is currently gathering information on cuts. If you have hard facts to report tell us and share right now what the impact will be using #cutswatchni