CSR briefing with OFMdFM
The meeting was part of a series concentrating on this topic and is a part of Vital Links, a project funded by PEACE III. The event was attended by over 50 members of the voluntary and community sector who listened to Tim Losty, Acting Director of Equality, Good Relations & Economic Policy, present an overview of the strategic context of the Review and the current economic situation.
Tim discussed how in the past there had been a ‘them and us’ situation in regards to the public and voluntary and community sector, but in the future both sectors will need to work together for a strategic approach to the upcoming CSR and the Northern Ireland Budget and Programme for Government priorities.
He went on to talk about opportunities to ensure the best services survive and how we need to stop the duplication of services through proper engagement. In winding up his presentation, the Acting Director stressed the importance of this pre-consultation exercise to set the scene and manage expectations.
He was joined by Colin Jack, Head of the Good Relations & Reconciliation Division, and the two department officials took questions from the floor.
One of the first questions raised the issue of the ongoing Child Poverty Strategy and the impact of the forthcoming CSR and Programme for Government processes. Colin and Tim began by saying that all Section 75 and national and international legislative priorities would be the starting point for the new Programme for Government. A comment was made about how Section 75 provides a way to tackle social inequalities and should be used as a template to drive policy. The Acting Director said that there would be no arbitrary discussion on Section 75 and that the whole process must be transparent.
NICVA Chief Executive Seamus McAleavey made the point that the voluntary and community sector is worried that Section 75 is an afterthought of the department’s decisions and is not a central part of the process. In response the Acting Director gave assurance that Section 75 is key to any process of government departments.
In regards to a discussion on efficiencies, the officials made it clear there were no sacred cows and that everything is up for consideration. Other topics discussed included efficiencies in the sector and how it needs to be more evidence-based in terms of cost value and presenting information about its work.
They also gave some insights into the work of the Executive by talking about how its decisions may be slow in some cases because the Ministers need to consult with their parties and grassroots supporters.
Over the coming weeks, NICVA has organised a series of roundtable meetings between departments and the voluntary and community sector to discuss the budget and Comprehensive Spending Review. Details here, and in our event listings.