Cold comfort for adult learners and young people as organisations close their doors

In recent days the voluntary and community sector has experienced the shocking loss of two high profile organisations.

 

With over 40 years of leading the way in adult education the closure of EGSA was keenly felt by staff, users and the sector as a whole. The imminent closure of peace and reconciliation charity the Spirit of Enniskillen has made the headlines.  Beneficiaries, supporters and educationalists have expressed their sorrow at the loss of such an important and inspirational organisation that has touched the lives of thousands of young people since its formation in the wake of the Enniskillen bombing.

EGSA and the Spirit of Enniskillen faced different types of financial pressures. One was the victim of a move to towards contract culture and withdrawing of public services back ‘in house’. The other suffered at the hands of the world wide financial crisis.

Yet, organisations across the sector are acting responsibly to ensure they are best placed to weather the current financial storms. NICVA for example, has been leading the way in taking a proactive and realistic approach to dealing with the pressures created by the pensions situation.  When it became apparent that the Pensions Trust pension was in difficulties, NICVA and the Northern Ireland based organisations in the Pensions Trust scheme acted swiftly to close the scheme to new members in order to protect people currently receiving their pension and those saving for their retirement.

With those people and the financial security of our organisations in mind, we engaged expert advice and acted together to renegotiate the terms of the amount of debt we are all left to pay.  This means that most organisations, including NICVA, are now in a secure position with manageable repayments.

NICVA and our members in the voluntary and community sector were acutely aware that the twin pressures of shrinking public spending and the global financial crisis would impact on the sector.  The sad closures of  EGSA and the Spirit of Enniskillen are a sharp reminder that our sector is not immune.  Despite the best efforts of the management and staff of both organisations they could not do enough to continue their work.

Una McKernan, NICVA's Deputy Chief Executive, said, “There is little doubt this should act as a wake up call to organisations that they need to pay sharp attention to their current finances and their financial planning. NICVA is keen to assist any organistions in any way we can.

"But that warning is cold comfort to the experienced and dedicated staff and volunteers in EGSA and The Spirit of Enniskillen. And it's no comfort at all to the real losers in all of this – the adult learners and the young people who will miss out on the life-changing experiences both organisations offered.“

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