DSD Minister reports back on Spectrum Centre event
A letter accompanying the report, sent to those who attended the Spectrum Centre event, reflected that
"The nature and quality of the inputs clearly demonstrate the capacity and the willingness of the voluntary and community sector to help sustain communities through these challenging times."
On 27 October Social Development Minister Alex Attwood met with over 100 people from the voluntary and community sector at the Spectrum Centre in Belfast to discuss the future of the sector in the face of looming budget cuts.
Alex Attwood spoke of wanting a full engagement with the sector and described it as a cornerstone that has kept Northern Ireland as stable as possible in past difficulties.
After the meeting, Mr Attwood summed things up by saying:
“Two common threads emerged from our dialogue this morning – first, a powerful concern about our shared interest in protecting the vulnerable, a concern all the more necessary given the ferocity of the benefit cuts last week and second, our shared interest in seeing that the sector is sustainable over the next decade”.
“In organising this event I wanted a full engagement with voluntary organisations and community groups in the North at this critical time. I acknowledge the work they do especially as hundreds and thousands of people benefit from their work”.
"The sector has been a cornerstone that kept Northern Ireland as stable as possible in past difficulties. Going forward, there should be a growing of the state/voluntary relationship, not one just in the form of occasional meetings but to form a social partnership model and structures.”
NICVA Chief Executive Seamus McAleavey welcomed the Minister’s comments:
“We in NICVA have supported the idea of Social Partnership for a long time and it is a particularly useful mechanism at this time of recession to get an agreed way forward between the NI Executive and stakeholders in the trades unions, private sector and the voluntary and community sector”.
"Speaking about the funding cuts themselves, the Minister said that voluntary and community organisations must not be easy targets for funding cuts. I have asked a number of colleagues to be vigilant about the risk.
"I have also called on the sector to seek out efficiencies though sharing services, collaboration and mergers. Some organisations have taken steps in this direction. We should scope out ways to develop this work and work to secure and sustain the sector.”
The event was organised by the Minister himself and had very positive feedback from participants. The Minster stayed for the whole morning and concluded the event by responding to many of the issues raised in the discussions. One person remarked afterwards that “there might be a lot of doom and gloom around but at least he’s doing something about it”.