NICVA’s Policy and Public Affairs Update March 2021

26 Mar 2021 Dr. Helena Mc Elhinney    Last updated: 30 Mar 2021

NICVA Policy and Public Affairs team image

The article below details the latest policy and research activities of NICVA's Policy and Public Affairs team.

Since the New Year  NICVA’s Policy and Public Affairs team has been working to help the sector negotiate the challenges of Brexit; respond to a flurry of short notice government consultations on the coming year’s budget and the new Programme for Government Outcomes Framework; researching the latest trends in giving to charity in NI and on the public benefits of the sector’s work; and delivering training in lobbying and campaigning, drawing lessons from lobbying under lockdown.

Helping the Sector Deal with the Challenges of Brexit

The Policy and Public Affairs Team is continuing to support the sector to deal with the challenges posed by Brexit now that the Brexit transition period has ended.  Following our event in December with the Department for the Economy and UK Trader Support Service on the new rules for sector organisations buying or selling goods moving between GB and NI, Team Head, Geoff Nuttall, took part in a Charity Digital podcast looking at the wide-ranging post-Brexit challenges faced by charities across the UK.  These range from managing new rules on accessing data to dealing with the loss of access to important EU funding, exchange and volunteering programmes that have supported the sector’s work for many decades.  Listen to the podcast here.

Telling Government What Success Looks Like

On 12th February, we hosted members of the Executive Office Programme for Government team for an information webinar on current consultation on the Programme for Government Outcomes Framework.  The framework will decide how successful delivery of the next Programme for Government will be measured.  Read more and listen to the event recording here.

Helping the Sector Shape New Post-Brexit Funding

The Team has been working closely with the NICVA ESF Users Group comprising sector organisations that receive EU European Social Fund (ESF) money to support people to overcome barriers to social inclusion and secure skills and employment. In the last quarter we convened two meetings between the group and the officials in the Departments of Economy and Communities who are leading on developing NI programmes to replace ESF post-Brexit. Together with the NI Union of Supported Employment, we also secured 10 sector places to attend an intensive two-day ‘Insight Lab’ workshop on the 24th and 25th February with a range of Government departments to help co-design the new replacement programme for ESF. We also supported the members in developing a Briefing Paper outlining their key issues and priorities for this discussion. We will continue to work with the sector and relevant Departments over the remainder of the year to help shape and inform development of the programme.

Consulting on NICVA’s Manifesto for Change - Resetting the Sector/Government Relationship

On the 2nd, 4th and 9th March, we held three consultation webinars to consult the sector on NICVA’s Draft Manifesto for Change document, setting out a range of priority issues and actions to improve and enhance the working relationship between the sector and government.  The Manifesto for Change identify three ‘Keys’ to unlocking the full potential of the sector: Improving government understanding of the sector and its role and contribution to PfG outcomes; removing barriers to effective collaboration and co-delivery of outcomes by the sector and government (e.g., funding bureaucracy; legal compliance issues); and valuing the voice of the sector to challenge and inform public policy and debates.  Following the events, an updated version of the Manifesto will be produced and used as the basis for future discussions with government and how we jointly take forward the actions proposed in it.   

One Planet NICVA – The Road to Net Zero

As part of NICVA’s ongoing efforts to make our operations environmentally sustainable, we have engaged Action Renewables to undertake an energy audit of the NICVA Headquarters to identify options for energy efficiency and generation on-site, as part of our journey towards becoming a net zero emissions organisation. 

Lobbying and Campaigning Training

On the 23rd March, the Team delivered our first ever online training course on lobbying and campaigning.  The course which was attended by a broad range of voluntary and community sector representatives, provided an introduction to the structures and decision making processes of government at Local Council, Northern Ireland, and UK levels, and explored how to develop a lobbying campaign including tips for lobbying under lockdown.

The Joint Government and Voluntary Sector Forum

During this period, we continued to support the re-establishment of the Joint Government and Voluntary Sector Forum (‘Joint Forum’) in this new 2020-23 term.  This including hosting 2 meetings of the VCS Panel to finalise their priorities for action over the new term and meetings with both the Government and Community & Voluntary Sector Joint Chairs to help support relationship building and agree a plan of action for the Forum moving forward.

SIB Workshop – 24th March

On the 24th March, hosted by DfC, consultants from the Strategic Investment Board held a workshop with the current voluntary and community sector panel members and a range of public sector representatives on the government/voluntary sector Joint Forum to take stock of the Forum and decide its future direction.

Membership of Key Coalitions and Working Groups

We have continued in our support and membership of a range of key working groups, coalitions, and alliances whose work during this period continues to feel more vital and relevant than ever.

This has included active membership of the:

  • NI Coalition on Carers
  • Cliff Edge Coalition NI
  • Equality Coalition Working Group
  • NIUSE Policy Sub-Group
  • Brexit Working Group hosted by the Human Rights Consortium
  • UK Brexit Civil Society Alliance
  • Bill of Right’s Working Group hosted by the Human Rights Consortium
  • Women’s Policy Group

During this period, the Bill of Right’s Working group met with Naomi Long MLA in her capacity as Alliance Party Leader and also with the Junior Ministers Declan Kearney and Gordon Lyons to discuss a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, the Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights consultation process and how we can create a rights-based society for all in Northern Ireland.

Representing the Sector on Government and Public Sector Working Groups

During this period, we continued to represent the sectors interests via our membership of a range of key Government and Public Sector Advisory Groups including the Integrated Care Partnerships Third Sector Steering Group, and the Anti-poverty Strategy Co-design Group, hosted by DfC.

Research for Society

Future Issues 2020

As part of NICVA’s State of the Sector, the Future Issues 2020 chapter was recently updated and includes the findings from two of our most recent Covid-19 Impact Surveys undertaken in August and November 2020. These surveys measured the impact of Covid-19 on VCSE sector member organisations, adaptions of services and activities in response to the pandemic, expectations for the future and capacity building, skills development, and future innovations. Further results from these surveys and five preceding surveys can be accessed here https://tinyurl.com/8r4ry8uc

Individual Giving Survey 2021

In December 2020, NICVA commissioned an external company to undertake an annual charitable giving survey. Each year NICVA gathers information on charitable giving from members of the public in Northern Ireland through the Individual Giving Survey 2021. This survey measured patterns of charitable giving, intention to donate to charity, the impact of Covid-19 on charitable giving and methods of donations used. Further results from this survey are available here https://tinyurl.com/yd7yn6s6 and the associated press release can be accessed here Giving to charities drops amid Covid pandemic | NICVA.

Public Benefit Survey 2021

In February 2021, NICVA undertook research into the benefits provided to society by the work of voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations in NI. This survey focused on the provision and beneficiaries of various types of benefits to NI society including health,  economy, poverty, community, environment, sports, arts and culture, education, housing and homelessness, transport and travel, solutions and rights and inclusion. The full results of this survey will be published on our website in April 2021.

Information Sharing

The Policy and Public Affairs team are continuing to inform the sector and provide information on policy updates.

As well as updating the sector on current consultations or changes to policy, the Team are continuing to disseminate campaign information and updates on behalf of our members too, including the RSPB Green Recovery Fund Campaign and Women’s Aid petition launch for ‘Violence Against Women and Girls’ strategy in Northern Ireland.

Organised events

What would a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland look like? An information webinar

On Tuesday 12th January, NICVA invited the Human Rights Consortium to provide an information seminar on the current Assembly Committee consultation, as well as give context to a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

Providing attendees with context to the idea of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, Helen Flynn, Human Rights Officer with the Consortium, demonstrated how a call for similar legislation has been continuously requested from as far back as 1964, and provided a detailed session on the current consultation. Further information including a recording of the webinar can be found here

Events Attended

  • T:BUC Engagement Forum
  • Belfast City Deal Engagement Event
  • Development of a Mutual Bank Advisory for NI event
  • Engagement Event on the development of the Regional Social Prescribing Board

Consultation Responses

  • Draft Budget
  • PfG Draft Outcomes Framework
  • Department of Health – High Level Screening Budget 2021/22
  • Department for Communities Draft Budget EQIA Assessment

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