NICVA responds to DSD Concordat consultation

14 Mar 2011     Last updated: 8 Oct 2014

Friday 3 March 2011 saw the closing date for responses to the Department for Social Development's consultation on proposals for the Joint Government/Voluntary and Community Sector Forum

What is the Concordat?

The Concordat is an agreement between Government and the voluntary and community sector that lays out the shared vision of working together as social partners to build a participative, peaceful, equitable and inclusive community in Northern Ireland.

It outlines a twelve point framework that will shape how both parties interact with each other alongside the shared values and principles of the Concordat including:

  • Accountability
  • Active Citizenship
  • Community
  • Democracy
  • Equality and Good Relations
  • Partnership
  • Pluralism
  • Social Justice

Download NICVA's response to the DSD Concordat consultation


The 1998 Compact between Government and the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland set out the key values and principles that underpin and define the partnership between Government, its Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies (referred to collectively as the ‘Government’), and the voluntary and community sector.

The Compact was based upon the mutual recognition of the roles and responsibilities of each partner and its aims are to encourage closer working relationships and build on the voluntary and community sector’s experience in areas of mutual interest.

The Joint Government Voluntary and Community Sector Forum (Joint Forum) was then established in October 1998 for regular dialogue between the voluntary and community sector and Government departments and to enable the Compact to be fully and properly implemented. The voluntary and community sector members on the Joint Forum represent a wide range of organisations, small and large, urban and rural, geographic and thematic.

However, the Compact was a policy of the newly elected direct-rule Labour Government, and whilst it was endorsed by the NI Executive in 2000 the current Executive government does not have, or exercise, any ownership of it.

During an Assembly debate in November 2008 the then Minister for Social Development, Margaret Ritchie MLA, recommended revisiting and strengthening relationship arrangements between Government and the voluntary and community sector and this was also supported by the NI Assembly’s Social Development Committee.

Current situation

The consultation period on the draft Concordat has just closed and the Voluntary and Community Unit within DSD is currently collating and analysing all responses received from the voluntary and community sector.

DSD Voluntary and Community Unit advised that following the consultation analysis, it is anticipated that a final version of the Concordat will be signed jointly by the NI Executive and the Joint Government/Voluntary and Community Sector Forum by late March 2011 with a formal launch shortly thereafter.

NICVA's concerns

The issue of non compliance needs to be addressed. Is the Concordat enforceable? What is the response if the Concordat is ignored by Government or the sector?

In order for the Concordat to be fully and properly implemented, there needs to be buy in from not only central government but also by public bodies and key planning and delivery agencies, including those from health, social care, education, housing, and local government, and this will be key to its success.

The draft Concordat also needs to set out a rationale and vision for the Northern Ireland Executive’s engagement with the voluntary and community sector. This should include consideration of some fundamental questions about the voluntary and community sector:

  • What does Government want and expect from the sector?
  • What is the sector’s role in service provision?
  • What other roles in communities and in democratic processes does the sector play?
  • How does Government intend to support the sector in these various roles?
  • What structures would need to be in place to do this?


For further information on the concordat or any of the issues raised in this article please contact Patricia Stewart, Policy Officer, on 028 9087 7777 or email [email protected]

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