Public Affairs Team Update

10 Mar 2020 Geoff Nuttall    Last updated: 10 Mar 2020

Since our last quarterly update, we've seen a Westminster Election, an election in the Republic of Ireland and the UK has left the EU. Find out what the Policy & Public Affairs team have been up to in the below updates. 

Political Update & Restoration of the Assembly

The December 2019 General Election was a decisive one which saw the Conservatives achieve a landslide majority in the House of Commons and also a shake up in the Northern Ireland representation at Westminster. A full breakdown of results and analysis can be found here. The beginning of 2020 also saw the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive after three years of stagnation. The deal that paved the way for the restoration of power-sharing, 'New Decade, New Approach', includes numerous commitments to address the ongoing challenges here in relation to our public services, particularly the health service, education, housing, justice and a commitment to grow the economy. For a more detailed breakdown of the deal, see here.

Make sure to keep up to date with what's going on in the Assembly via our weekly Assembly Insider by signing up here.

Environment Strategy Consultation

In the autumn of 2019 the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs launched a consultation into an Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland. To encourage and facilitate a sector-wide response, NICVA and the NI Environment Link held an event in early November 2019 to provide the sector with an opportunity to have their say on what this strategy should look like. The result of this collaborative discussion was the development of a 'Common Purpose' statement which sets out key actions and principles that are required to create an Environment fit for current and future generations. For more information on this and to sign up to our Common Purpose, see here.

Joint Forum Updates

The current term of the Joint Forum finishes at the end of March after a challenging three years, mostly in the absence of a functioning government in NI. During the past year, there has been a refocusing on the issue of Addressing Bureaucracy and working to try and troubleshoot some of the bureaucratic issues that impact organisations in this sector. The issue of disproportionate bureaucracy in government funding is a key issue of discussion in Joint Forum meetings. The Voluntary and Community Sector group of the Joint Forum have established a sub-group to review bureaucracy in government funding and are working alongside public sector colleagues to try and find a resolution to these issues. The final meeting of the Joint Forum for the 2017-2020 term will take place on 5 March 2020 in NICVA where members will be joined by Department for Communities Permanent Secretary Tracy Meharg.

Recruitment is now open for the new Joint Forum voluntary and community sector panel. To submit a nomination, click here.

Sustainable Development Goals Working Group

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Working Group jointly established last year by NICVA and NI Environment Link has finalised their key ask of Government, seeking to encourage the design of the future Northern Ireland Programme for Government around the SDGs. The ask is that -

The future Programme for Government for Northern Ireland be designed around the UN Sustainable Development Goals and measures progress against them. 

This would ensure that:

  • The wellbeing of our citizens is embedded into decision making in government in Northern Ireland
  • Partnership and collaboration within government and across other sectors is at the core of government delivery.
  • Offer an additional mechanism to monitor progress towards delivering Programme for Government outcomes.
  • A common language can be embedded across all sectors of civic society and internationally
  • Northern Ireland becomes a leader in meeting its commitments to the UN SDGs

More information on the SDG working group here.

Dormant Accounts

In December we hosted an event for the sector to help shape our response to the recent National Lottery Community Fund  consultation on delivery of a Dormant Accounts Fund for Northern Ireland. Under the direction of the Department of Finance, the National Lottery Community Fund has been tasked to deliver the Dormant Accounts Fund in NI. Around £16 million the funding for NI has accrued over the last 10 years and the Department of Finance has determined that this funding should benefit the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector by helping grow its resilience, increasing capacity and encouraging sustainability.

We were delighted to make a detailed response to the consultation, which contains key insight from the sector regarding how the fund might have best impact. You can read our response here.

Research Updates

Future Issues: We updated State of the Sector in January 2020 and includes the findings from the Cashless Giving Survey 2019 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Awareness Viewfinder 2019. Access full report of the findings here.

Individual Giving 2020: This survey is undertaken on an annual basis and collates information on charitable giving from members of the public in Northern Ireland. Access full report of the findings here.

Rates Consultation

In October, NICVA met with members of the Charity Retail Association to discuss concerns that the latest review and consultation by the Department of Finance of the non-domestic rates system might result in the loss of rates relief for charities.  Using updated evidence and statistics, NICVA submitted its response to the consultation in November, making clear its argument that, unlike seeking a public contribution from private businesses through the rates system, charging charities rates simply reduces the public contribution and social and environmental benefits of charities' work by reducing their available resources as well as reducing the amount of goods recycled through charity shops.  We will be watching the results of the consultation closely.    

Resilience Board

NICVA's Head of Policy & Public Affairs has joined the new Belfast Resilience Board, a cross-sectoral group supporting Belfast City Council's work to develop a Resilience Strategy to meet key current and upcoming challenges for the City and its people.  The draft strategy was launched for consultation in February (see picture below) and highlights key issues the city must respond to and prepare for including climate change and the increasing risks of flooding, mental health and use of prescription drugs and cyber resilience.  The consultation runs until 10 April 2020, for more information and to submit a response follow this link

Launch of the draft Belfast Resilience Strategy at Portview Industrial Estate

PEACE Plus

In February we hosted an event for representatives from across the VCSE sector to help shape and inform our response to the current consultation on the new EU PEACE PLUS  funding programme 2021-2027. PEACE PLUS is a new cross-border EU funding programme which will succeed both of the current  PEACE IV  and INTERREG VA Programmes.

The Special EU Programmes Body  (SEUPB) responsible for implementation of this new programme attended the event to give an overview of its proposed aims and objectives. They also heard directly from sector representatives, views on key priorities for any future EU funding and how organisations and communities can best be supported to deliver on these. You can read more about this event here

Drawing on key messages from the consultation event we are currently finalising our response which shall be available soon via our usual communication channels.

Public Affairs Forum

The next meeting of the Public Affairs Forum will take place on 11 March in the Guildhall in Derry. This session will focus on engaging with the Derry City and Strabane District Council. For more details and to register to attend the session, click here.

geoff.nuttall@nicva.org's picture
by Geoff Nuttall

Head of Policy and Public Affairs

[email protected]

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