Policy and Public Affairs Team Quarterly Update (Apr-Jun 21)
In the last quarter NICVA’s Policy and Public Affairs Team’s work has included supporting the sector through the major challenges arising from the loss of EU funding post-Brexit; briefing the Assembly Communities Committee on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector; and providing the opportunity to question the Department of Health on its major consultation on introducing a legal Duty of Candour on all staff delivering health and social care services, including sector staff.
Supporting the sector through the loss of EU funding post-Brexit and the introduction of new UK replacement funds
As the impacts of leaving the EU become clearer, the Team has been working to support sector organisations in the NICVA ESF Users Group continue their work helping thousands of people to overcome barriers to social inclusion and employment, once the EU European Social Fund programme comes to an end. The group met once again on 3rd June and shared concerns about future funding, while NICVA has engaged continually with the lead Department of Economy to raise these concerns, including following the announcement that the Department’s normal match-funding may not now be available.
At the same time, details emerged of the first phase of the UK Government’s long-awaited UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) intended to replace EU funding. Initially this will be through the one-year ‘Community Renewal Fund’ (CRF) for pilot projects, and followed by the full UKSPF in 2022. Despite the very short notice between the launch of the CRF and the application deadline of 18th June, the Team managed to secure an information and q&a session for the sector with a representative from the UK Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in charge of the fund, on the 17th May and to support organisations to find answers to their questions via this contact.
Promoting the Voice of the Sector and Civil Society
We have been working with our sister Councils in Scotland, England and Wales to campaign for full sector involvement in the new UK Civil Society Forum (UKCSF) to be established as part of the UK/EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement. On the 23 April, the four Councils jointly organised a UK-wide roundtable on civil society engagement and the UKCSF involving sector, trade union and other representatives, at which Team Head Geoff Nuttall presented from an NI perspective. On the back of widespread support for a model of UK Civil Society Forum that includes strong sector representation through the sector Councils, the four Councils wrote collectively to Lord Frost, UK Minister in charge of establishing the Forum, pressing for adoption of this model.
Supporting the Sector to Respond to the Dept of Health’s Legal Duty on Candour Consultation
On the 20th May, we organised a Duty of Candour Consultation Information Session with the PHA and the Chair of the Department’s Duty of Candour Workstream, Quintin Oliver. This proposes the introduction of new legal requirements for staff delivering health and social care services (including from our sector) for candour and openness. Quintin explained the background to the consultation and highlighted emerging issues from other consultation sessions. A full recording of the session can be found on the NICVA website here.
Briefing the Assembly on the Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the Sector and Those it Serves
On 10th June, Team Head Geoff Nuttall presented to the Assembly Communities Committee on the impact which the Covid-19 pandemic has been having on sector organisations, services, staff, volunteers and finances. This provided an opportunity to highlight the results of the seven NICVA sector/member Covid impact surveys the Team has organised during the pandemic to date, and reflect the key impacts, concerns and needs of the sector now. (Watch it here from 1:34:53)
This month, we are following up with a further NICVA Members survey to gather the latest information on the impacts the sector has felt during the financial year 2020/21. Your responses to this would really be appreciated as these will help us make the case for the sector support needs now and in the post-Covid future.
Supporting the Joint Government/Voluntary Sector Forum
On 23 June, the first full meeting of 2021 was held of the Joint Government/Voluntary Sector Forum. The Forum, comprising 15 representatives from across the sector, and representatives from all NI central government departments and local government, discussed its new draft work programme which is expected to include workstreams on: tackling bureaucracy in government funding; social value in procurement and government expenditure appraisal processes; and post Covid recovery and renewal. Once the workplan is finalised, the Forum will begin working on these issues through a series of joint sector/government task and finish groups and will hold its next full meeting in September.
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