27 Oct 2021 Kathy Maguire    Last updated: 28 Mar 2022

Catch up on the most recent news and developments happening via the Government and Voluntary & Community Sector Joint Forum.

The Joint Forum (JF) is made up of representatives from Government (known as the Public Sector Group) and the Voluntary and Community Sector (known as the Voluntary and Community Sector Panel).

The Forum’s membership comprises 15 community and voluntary sector representatives from across the sector, and a variety of senior public sector representatives from across all NI central government departments and local government.

Recent Joint Forum Meeting 13/10/21

The Joint Forum held its second full joint forum meeting of this new term on 13th October 2021.

Chaired by Sharron Russell, Department for Communities, Public Sector Joint Forum Co Chair, representatives across the VCS and public sector had a busy agenda to consider.

Issues under discussion included the ongoing review of the Joint Forums operation and structures and Geoff Nuttall, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, NICVA gave an update on the proposed programme of engagement with the VCS regarding  key themes and proposals under NICVAs  “Manifesto for Change”.

The Forum was also introduced to Department for Communities (DfC) Sean Kennedy and Sarah Houston, recent Interchange appointments to DfC’S Voluntary and Community Division (VCD) team who shall be lending support to the work of the Joint Forum going forward.

There was also a topical presentation and input from Joan McCafferty (Civil Contingencies Group NI) on Building Resilience Together: The Role of the Voluntary and Community sector in the NI Civil Contingencies Framework. Joan provided an update to members and led discussion on the work that DfC, NICVA, Local Government, Red Cross and Volunteer Now are progressing to consider learning from the pandemic with regard to contingencies planning and looking at how this learning can be incorporated into Northern Ireland’s Civil Contingencies Framework. Going forward it is proposed to use the Joint Forum and it's membership, as one of several stakeholder groups to consider proposals for new structures to improve the coordination of non-statutory VCS organisations and individual volunteers in planning, response and recovery activity relating to emergencies.

Joanna Gray (DfC) gave the forum an update and led discussion on latest developments regarding DfCs’ COVID Recovery Funding programme , including future delivery , taking  feedback etc from JF members regarding the proposals. Funding shall focus on 7 key areas - Culture, Language, Arts, Heritage, Sport, Social Enterprise and Charities.

Joint Forum Sub Groups

In line with the Joint Forums workplan for this new term, a number of thematic Sub Groups have been established. These groups made up of representatives from across the VCS and public sector  will drive and take forward priority issues of interest identified via the Joint Forums Workplan.

A cross sectoral subgroup looking at Communication and Engagement has been established and held its first meeting place on the 21st OctoberThe Joint Forum's work-plan for this new term has prioritised action on communication and engagement recognising that this will be the ‘lynchpin’ to driving progress across all the other Action Areas identified. This Sub group will identify how the Joint Forum can improve its communication both within and across both sectors, by agreeing a clear plan  and mechanism of engagement. They will also aim to inform and influence how our sector and government communicate with each other more broadly, including across some key areas of government policy and strategy development. The group will also explore how the VCSE sector can most effectively feed into and inform the NI Governments Covid Recovery and Renewal Agenda and also how further engagement on NICVAs Manifesto for Change can best be taken forward across both Government and the sector.

A further subgroup tasked with looking at the Funding Relationship between Government and the Voluntary Sector has  been established and its membership confirmed, with it's  first meeting to be held on the 5th November. As part of its agenda in the first instance , this group is anticipated to pick up and progress issues identified via an earlier Joint Forum work piece on ‘Addressing Bureaucracy in Government Funding’. They shall also be exploring areas of  best practice and learning on funding during the COVID-19 pandemic; inputting on DfC's  proposed funding reform project and feeding into NI Government developments on Maximising social value outcomes through the expenditure appraisal process & Procurement processes.   

Key to taking the work of both of these subgroups forward will be clearly identifying the critical pieces of work to be addressed and ensuring that the right people are engaged to drive progress forward, so at the outset the sub groups will likely identify some key cross departmental/sectoral representatives who shall be co-opted in to participate in their work– those with real experience in and interest on the issues. We shall keep you updated on key developments and progress regarding the work of both subgroups.

Update on Membership of the JF Voluntary and Community Sector Panel (VCS Panel).

During this period, we also saw to changes in voluntary and community sector representation to the Forum, with three new members to the forums Voluntary and Community Sector Panel (VCS Panel) welcomed and inducted.

These new representatives are:

  • Paula Powell - British Red Cross (*appointed August’ 21, replacing Joanne Dougan, CDHN)
  • Gareth Eannetta - NIACRO (*appointed August ‘21, replacing Ellen Finlay, CiNI)
  • Anna Clarke – Prospect Awards (*appointed September ‘21, replacing May Mc Avoy, Superstars Club)

We also saw the appointment of a new Deputy Chair of the VCS Panel - Denise Hayward, Volunteer Now. Denise is replacing Ellen Finlay, formerly of CiNI, who sadly had to step down from the Joint Forum & her role as Deputy Chair of the VCS panel due to a change of appointment. The Chair and Members of the VCS Panel are keen to extend their thanks and appreciation to those VCS representatives who stepped down in their roles during this period and also to warmly welcome our newly appointed representatives to the Panel.

VCS representatives met collectively on the 8th October via the Voluntary and Community Sector Panel to plan and update in advance of the full Joint Forum held later in October. In addition throughout this period Joint Forum Co Chair and Chair of the VCS Panel, Anne- Marie McClure has been holding 1-1 meetings with each of the voluntary and community sector representatives of the forum  to support and encourage them in their representative roles.

Upcoming Activities

On the 8th November Joint Forum members will meet with Welsh government and voluntary sector colleagues to explore lessons and learning from Wales in regard to Government and Voluntary & Community Sector Partnership-Working including delivery of the Welsh Third Sector Scheme. The Third Sector Scheme is a statutory piece of legislation setting out how Welsh Government, its delivery agencies and the voluntary sector will work together and communicate with one another. We look forward to updating you on this session.

The next full meeting of the Joint Forum is due to be held in January 2022, with a busy programme of work being progressed in the interim by its members and secretariat.

For more information on the Joint Forum including the full list of current Voluntary and Community Sector representatives, please visit here.

If you  have any questions or queries about the Joint Forum  please get in touch with the NICVA Secretariat via [email protected]'s picture
by Kathy Maguire

Policy Development Officer

[email protected]

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