NICVA hosts Conversation Zone at the Alliance Party Conference 2024

7 Mar 2024 Shauna O'Neill    Last updated: 7 Mar 2024

NICVA Conversation Zone with Eóin Tennyson MLA (Finance Committee) and Sian Mulholland MLA

On Saturday 2 March, NICVA returned to the Alliance Party Conference at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast to host our Conversation Zone event, a chance for members to engage with elected representatives on the issues that matter to them.

At this Conversation Zone event we hosted discussions on a number of key themes including funding, collaboration, health, and rural needs.

We were delighted to kick the Conversation Zone off with a discussion on funding and sustainability of the sector with Eóin Tennyson MLA (Finance Committee) and Sian Mulholland MLA (Communities Committee). Sector representatives took the opportunity to highlight and engage in discussion on issues including full cost recovery, alternative funding models, efficiencies that the sector can deliver, and a historic reliance on volunteers and unpaid carers to deliver services.

For our next session, we were joined by Kellie Armstrong MLA (Communities Committee) and Paula Bradshaw MLA (Chair of the Executive Office Committee) to discuss working with government – stabilisation, transformation and collaboration. The conversation included embedding a culture of collaboration within the wider civil service, diversifying funding streams, the merits of grants versus contracts and the value the sector brings in its experience of co-design and co-production.

To discuss health transformation, we sat down with Danny Donnelly MLA (Deputy Chair of the Health Committee) to consider the impact of the lack of multi-year budgets, the value of social prescribing, workforce issues, and the local knowledge and employment opportunities that voluntary and community health service providers bring.

For the final session of the day we were delighted to host newly appointed Minister for Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs Andrew Muir to talk about the role of the voluntary and community sector in rural communities. NICVA members raised a number of issues with the Minister including rural isolation and mental health, community transport as a key link to services, legislative gaps in animal welfare, and the need for investment in rural women’s groups.

Each of the party representatives acknowledged the vital role and contribution of the V&C sector in addressing some of our key issues and challenges; the need for both government and political representatives to meaningfully engage and work in partnership with the sector; and expressed their commitment and desire to actively engage with sector organisations at both a community and government level.

We wish to thank all those in the Alliance Party who assisted with the organisation of the Conversation Zone and the MLA’s who participated so enthusiastically in our sessions. We would also like to thank everyone from the sector who came along to make it such an interesting and engaging event.

A summary of the Alliance Party Conference is attached.'s picture
by Shauna O'Neill

Communications Officer

[email protected]

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