Funding and policy issues both on agenda for meeting with DHSSPS Minister Poots

NICVA Executive Committee members Liz Cuddy, Extern; Marie Cavanagh, Gingerbread; Eddie Magowan, NI Hospice and NICVA Chair Bob Stronge held a briefing meeting with Edwin Poots, Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Speaking after the meeting NICVA Chief Executive Seamus McAleavey said

“we had a useful and constructive meeting with the Minister across an important range of issues. He has shown a clear commitment to work with us to solve some of the practical problems faced by voluntary and community organisations delivering frontline services and also developing an on-going engagement with the sector on policy issues”.

During the discussion on funding the Minister said that he was supportive of the role voluntary and community organisations can play in delivering public services, especially services for older people and mental health services. He went on to say that while voluntary and community organisations often provide value for money they can also deliver the best outcomes for services users and there are wider social benefits when communities come together to deliver services for people in need.

The NICVA delegation explained how voluntary and community organisations can often face unfair barriers and inconsistent guidance when it comes to competing in the procurement process. Insecurity of contracts and lack of access to operating and development capital were given as examples of issues currently faced by voluntary and community organisations and the Minister agreed to write to David Cameron to ask for an update on the development of the Big Society Bank in Northern Ireland.

The meeting heard that recommendations from the on-going review of core funding for voluntary and community organisations would be with the Minister by early September. The ending of the Children’s Fund and its impact on services was also discussed and the Minister acknowledged the quality of the services provided, saying that he hoped that new funding available from the Social Investment Fund would be able to support some of this work.

NICVA Chair Bob Stronge said that voluntary and community organisations wanted to work strategically with the Department to help meet common goals around delivering quality services and tackling health inequalities, and asked the Minister to lead an on-going conversation with the sector on these issues. He stressed that, in the absence of such dialogue, there is a real danger that voluntary and community organisations will be badly damaged by funding cuts in the short and medium term. The Minister said that he would ensure the door to senior officials will remain open and suggested that another meeting be convened in six months.

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