NICVA Policy & Public Affairs Team Update Jul-Sep 22

Read here how NICVA's Policy and Public Affairs Team is working to support and represent the voluntary and community sector during these difficult times

A New Face in NICVA’s Policy and Public Affairs TeamWe are delighted to welcome a new face to NICVA’s Policy and Public Affairs Team, Eva Henderson.  Eva joined us in July and has hit the ground running helping the sector respond to the big challenges facing organisations and their service users at this time, from the impact of the cost of living crisis to making sure the sector’s voice is heard in the shaping of new post-Brexit funding from UK Government’s Department for Levelling Up (DLUHC).

Gathering Data and Views on the Impacts of the Cost of Living and What Support is Needed

Over the summer, the PPA Team’s Research Officer, Dr Helena Mc Elhinney, has been researching how the cost of living crisis is impacting on sector organisations and their service users through a NICVA member’s survey issued in July.  The results of survey are summarised here Cost of Living Crisis - Survey Summary | NICVA and have provided the PPA Team and NICVA with valuable evidence to help us represent sector concerns.  The Team also supported the organisation by NICVA of a Cost of Living Roundtable Discussion with sector representatives. A further meeting took place in September involving the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) giving sector representatives an opportunity to speak directly with NIO officials about the impacts of the cost of living crisis and proposed solutions. The results of these discussions are being used to inform a NICVA policy briefing paper summarising the key issues being raised and making proposals for measures which government could take to address them.

Supporting the Sector in the Transition from EU funding to new Post-Brexit UK Government Programmes

The PPA Team has also continued to help sector organisations negotiate the changing funding landscape post-Brexit as EU funding programmes such as the European Social Fund (ESF) come to an end and new UK Government funding programmes such as the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) and Levelling Up Funds, and the new cross-border EU PeacePlus programme come onstream.  This included liaising with the Northern Ireland-based Office of the UK Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to support their organisation of two online consultation event on the UKSPF on the 19th August for sector representatives.  We have continued to support sector organisations in their lobby to both UK and NI Government Department on the urgent need for replacement funds for supported employment programmes for those furthest from the labour market, including via our ESF User Group forum. We have also continued to provide up to date information for the sector on the development of the UK Government Levelling Up Funds, including via timely articles on the NICVA site.

You can view some of our most recent articles below:

Latest on the UK Shared Prosperity NI Programme - Update from Dept for Levelling Up | NICVA

UK Shared Prosperity Fund - Latest from DLUHC | NICVA

UK Government Levelling Up Fund Round 2 | NICVA

NICVA Joins Post-Brexit UK-EU Co-operation Advisory Bodies on Future UK-EU Co-operation Arrangements

In September, NICVA received confirmation that PPA Team Head Geoff Nuttall has been appointed to sit on two advisory bodies established to inform future UK-EU co-operation arrangements post-Brexit.  These two bodies – namely the UK-EU Trade & Co-operation Agreement (TCA) UK Domestic Advisory Group or ‘UK DAG’ and the TCA ‘UK Civil Society Forum’ – bring together civil society representatives from different sectors from across the UK to reflect the experiences of those they represent and inform how UK-EU co-operation agreements can best be implemented for mutual benefit. Immediately after being appointed, on the 4th October, NICVA attended a joint hybrid meeting of UK DAG and EU DAG (its EU equivalent) held in Brussels and online.  These discussions resulted in the agreement of a joint statement by both DAGs, committing to continued positive UK-EU collaboration in the future and for challenges such as those around the implementation of the NI protocol to be resolved through constructive dialogue.


NICVA joins joint EU-UK call for constructive dialogue to resolve issues including NI protocol | NICVA


Supporting the Sector to Shape the Future NI Anti-Poverty Strategy

PPA Team Policy and Public Affairs Officer, Kathy Maguire, has been working closely to support sector representatives appointed to the Dept for Communities ‘Anti-Poverty Strategy Co-Design Group’ to continue to engage with the Communities Minister and Department, as well as other NI Departments, to encourage progress in the development and implementation of measures to address poverty both in the immediate and long-term. In recent months members of the Design Group have been working to finalise a comprehensive position paper, detailing their key priorities and recommendations for the Anti- Poverty Strategy. This paper has been shared with the Communities Minister and other Northern Ireland Executive Ministers, with aim of wider dissemination, to other key stakeholders in the coming period. Group members hope their paper will add impetus to the progress of the Strategy’s development and provide ‘further direction of travel’, for consideration, ultimately, by a new Northern Ireland Executive.

Supporting the work of the Joint Government and Voluntary Sector Forum 

During this period, the PPA Team continued to support the work of the Joint Government and Voluntary Sector Forum (Joint Forum) and its Voluntary and Community Sector panel (VCS Panel).  

This included coordinating and hosting the first in person full Joint Forum meeting of this current term on Tuesday 27th September at which the Communities Minister was in attendance to discuss a range of issues including the continued role and contribution of the Forum, Fair Funding principles and the ongoing Cost of Living emergency. A broad range of representatives across the VCS and public sector attended and other key agenda items included engagement by The Executive Office (TEO) on the ongoing TBUC review and discussion on the development of the Dormant Assets Fund with the Department of Finance.  

We also hosted two meetings of the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS Panel) during this quarter. At its most recent meeting on the 6th September, as part of their agenda, the Panel discussed the impacts of the cost-of-living emergency not only on the individuals and communities they serve but directly on our sector’s organisations. In response the panel agreed a Position Statement setting out its calls to Government in regard to the emergency. You can read more about this statement and their recent panel meeting here. 

During this period, we also coordinated a recruitment round for new Voluntary and Community Sector nominations to the Joint Forum, in order to fill a number of recent vacancies on the VCS Panel and to create a reserve list of voluntary and community sector candidates, should further vacancies arise over this current Joint Forum Term. You can read more here. 

We also continue to coordinate and support the work of a cross sectoral Task and Finish group of the Forum examining the Funding Relationship between Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector. During this quarter, we facilitated a number of meetings of this group and supported a Mapping exercise across its joint membership to capture key messages with regard to current Public sector/Government funding models as they apply to the Voluntary and Community sector. Analysis of this mapping exercise is currently underway by the Team and the messaging from this exercise, along with a wider stocktake of key contemporary issues and facilitated Group discussion and presentations will help inform creation of a set Fair Funding recommendations by the Group to address key issues in relation to government funding practices and approaches to the VCSE sector. 

The next full Joint Forum meeting is scheduled for January 2023 13 April 2022, and in the interim the team will continue to directly support its membership in the ongoing delivery of the Joint Forums agreed workplan. 

In House Lobbying and Campaigning Training

In August, Team members delivered our first in person training event since the impact of the Covid pandemic. The team delivered two introductory sessions on Lobbying and Campaigning to youth representatives and staff of Northern Ireland Youth Forum. The sessions provided attendees with a context on how policy is produced in Northern Ireland, and information and insight on how to effectively plan and implement a lobbying and campaigning strategy.


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