Policy and Public Affairs Quarterly Update (January – March 2022)

25 Mar 2022 Kathy Maguire    Last updated: 4 Apr 2022

ppa update

Catch up on what NICVA's Policy and Public Affairs team have been up to in the last quarter to highlight and support the work and key interests of the sector:

Giving the Sector the Chance to Quiz the Parties Standing for 2022 Election

Throughout December and January, the NICVA Policy and Public Affairs Team held five question and answer events with the five main political parties to give sector organisations the chance to quiz key Party spokespeople on the policies they will be standing for election on in May 2022.  Then on March 15 the Team organised a NICVA hustings event to give sector organisations the chance to put their questions to all five main parties at once.  The Assembly Election is due to take place on 5 May.

election 22 1

#AE2022: Highlighting VCSE Sector Calls and Manifestos in advance of the NI Assembly Election 2022

In addition to providing guidance and signposting VCSE organisations to information they should be aware of ahead of the NI Assembly Election with regards to Hustings and regulated campaigning, the PPA team have been engaging with VCSE Sector Organisations in order to produce an online resource of sector manifestos.

From general asks such as funding to more specified requests, the voluntary and community sector want to make their voices heard. It is hoped that the online resource will help increase understanding of the work and priorities across organisations.

NICVA/The Wheel ‘Shared Island’ Shared Practices Project Holds First Themed Stakeholder Discussions on All-Island Collaboration

Following its December launch, the new joint NICVA/The Wheel ‘iCommunity’ project to promote all-island sector collaboration to tackle key shared challenges, held its first events during February and March, allowing sector organisations to come together online for initial discussions on the five collaboration themes of: Rural connectivity and sustainability, Developing the Island Economy/Social Enterprise, Delivering a sustainable, de-carbonized and biodiverse island, Digital connectivity and inclusion, and Covid recovery. These initial discussions will be taken forward and developed into future collaboration proposals at in-person workshops held at NICVA and in Dublin during April, May and June.  Visit the NICVA website for more details and look out for upcoming events and ways to get involved.

NICVA ESF Users Forum Meet Ministers on Post Brexit Funding Crisis

On the 1 February, NICVA led a delegation from the ESF (European Social Fund) Users Forum to meet Finance Minister Conor Murphy.  The meeting was the latest initiative in series of lobbying actions taken by NICVA and sector organisations over recent months to highlight the urgent issue of the shortfall in available match funding from NI Government sources to match over £20M of EU European Social Fund support for vital sector projects helping thousands of people into training and employment. 

Following intensive lobbying of the Department for the Economy (DfE) and its Minister Gordons Lyons, DfE eventually moved to fill most of the remaining match funding gap for sector services under threat.  NICVA’s PPA Team is continuing to work with the ESF Users to identify solutions for projects unable to proceed including working to influence future potential funding streams from both NI government departments and forthcoming UK funding schemes such as the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and Levelling Up funds.  NICVA PPA team is also working with sister Councils in GB and UK partners to lobby UK Government Ministers and Departments to ensure these new programmes meet the needs of people in Northern Ireland previously supported through EU funding.

NICVA Supports Sector Representatives to Present Anti-Poverty Strategy Views to Communities Minister

The PPA team has continued to directly support the sector in its efforts to inform and influence the ongoing development of the NI Anti-Poverty Strategy, via direct support to membership of the Anti-Poverty Strategy Design Group.

During January and February, NICVA’s PPA team co-ordinated a series of online workshops to enable sector organisations to work with others to prepare a detailed submission to the Communities Minister detailing the Groups key recommendations for a NI Anti-Poverty Strategy.  The Minister agreed to receive the submission following a meeting held with her in December at which concerns had been raised by group members, about the extent to which views and evidence from sector organisations in the strategy design process to date had been taken on board.  The PPA team supported the Group in the development of 67-page submission containing detailed proposals for inclusion in the future strategy which was presented by Group members to the Communities Minister at a meeting on the 2 March.

The PPA Team is currently supporting Design Group members in their preparations for a Cross Ministerial Meeting hosted by the Communities Minister on the 5 April ,where group representatives  shall present their key recommendations from this report to Ministers and Senior officials from across Government and where they will stress the critical importance of  clear cross Ministerial direction regarding, given the ongoing political uncertainty to ensure the strategies ongoing development is not further impeded.

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 hosting the third full Joint Forum meeting of this current term on Tuesday 22 February at which a broad range of representatives across the VCS and public sector where in attendance and had a busy agenda to consider.

We also hosted two meetings of the Voluntary and Community Sector Panel during this quarter  and alongside JF panel representatives and our DfC colleagues as Joint Secretariat to the Forum , participated in a range of wider meetings and workshop sessions, linked to the Forums  ongoing development and workplan.

As per our last PPA update, in line with the Joint Forums work plan for this term, a number of thematic Task and Finish Groups have been established.

The PPA Team are coordinating and chairing a cross sectoral task and finish group examining the Funding Relationship between Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector. During this quarter,  this Task and Finish Group met to agree and finalise their Terms of Reference and a work plan which will guide their key activities and outputs over the coming months.  They have recently agreed a range of preparatory tasks which will help inform creation of a set Fair Funding Principles to address key issues in relation to government funding practices and approaches to the VCSE sector, this includes reviewing best practice both locally and nationally.

During this period, we also coordinated an engagement session for VCS Panel Members with colleagues from the Health and Social Care Board and the Co-Chair of the Regional Social Prescribing Development Board, to discuss effective voluntary and community sector engagement in the ongoing work of the SP Development Board.

The next full Joint Forum meeting is to be held on 13 April 2022, where representatives will come together for a full day in- person workshop to agree and finalise a future development path for the Joint Forum as we prepare for a new political mandate. 

You can read more about key activities happening via the Joint Forum in our most  recent JF communiqué.

Membership of Key Working Groups and Coalitions

Throughout this quarter the PPA Team continued to represent and support the work and interests of the sector via membership of a range of key local and national key working groups, coalitions, and alliances, including:

  • The Civil Society Alliance
  • The Equality Coalition
  • ICP Third Sector Steering Group hosted by the regional Health and Social Care Board
  • ICP Third Sector Forum
  • Network for Democratic Innovation
  • Brexit & Human Rights Working Group

Providing Timely Information and Resources

During this quarter we continued to respond to information requests from across the sector and beyond, provided up to date information and guidance on subjects relevant to the sector via timely articles published on the NICVA website and responded to relevant Consultations including the Reform of the Human Rights Act.

Highlighting the Value of the Sector

A thriving voluntary, community and social enterprise sector is an essential component of a successful society. Without it many of the services we have come to rely on simply would not exist. On the 22 March NICVA launched the new ‘Value of the Sector’ resource with an online event that included case studies and discussion from Mary Hinds, Marie Curie Trustee and Chair of the Marie Curie Northern Ireland Advisory Board, Jackie Fauteux, Education Officer at Young at Art, and Siobhán Harding, Women's Support Network and Member of Cliff Edge Coalition.

Visit Value of the Sector - Resource launch to read a short overview of the discussions and watch recordings of the case studies.

Workforce and Volunteers Survey 2022

The Workforce and Volunteers Survey 2022 was disseminated in October 2021 and reissued in January 2022 to all NICVA member organisations. The survey focused on profiling the VCSE Sector workforce and included recruitment and retention issues, employee enhancements, payscales and pensions and funding.  Findings will be released on the NICVA website in due course.

Individual Giving 2022

The Individual Giving Survey 2022 was commissioned by NICVA in December 2021 and distributed in January 2022. This survey allowed NICVA to gather data from members of the public in Northern Ireland to map their patterns of donating to charity. Changes in these patterns and methods of giving were also measured. Findings will be released on the NICVA website in due course.

Future Issues 2022

In 2020 and 2021, a series of eight surveys were issued by NICVA to help understand the impact of Covid-19 on VCSE sector organisations in Northern Ireland and the future implications of the pandemic on their work. Future Issues 2022 focused on the key findings from three of NICVA’s most recent surveys undertaken in August 2020, November 2020, and June 2021.  The impact of Covid-19 on VCSE Sector organisations, future capacity needs, future innovation needs, and future skills and training needs were presented in this section update. Findings will be released on the NICVA website in due course.

kathy.maguire@nicva.org's picture
by Kathy Maguire

Policy Development Officer

[email protected]

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