What is the Joint Forum?
It provides a mechanism to facilitate open discussion of key issues which shape the relationship between the two sectors, to influence and examine the impact of public policy and to support opportunities for greater co-operation and joined up activity to better serve the people of Northern Ireland. The Forum meets three times a year. NICVA provides the secretariat for the Voluntary and Community Sector Group and the Voluntary and Community Division in the Department for Communities provides the secretariat for the Public Sector Group. The membership lists are available here. The Joint Forum is based on the Concordat, an agreement between government and the voluntary and community sector that lays out the shared principles of the working relationship.
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 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.
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