The CEO of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland has called on government departments to support the Community and Voluntary sector by making funding more accessible, streamlined and sustainable.
Speaking at the launch in Belfast of the Community Foundation’s new strategy for 2023-26, Róisín Wood CEO said: “The Community and Voluntary sector has suffered an incredibly rocky financial year.
“We have seen the ending of the European Social Fund, the failure of the Shared Prosperity Fund to match the loss of funding to the sector, and on top of that successive government departments cutting funding for vital community led initiatives, programmes and organisations.
“The current trend is that the sector continues to lurch from crisis to crisis in terms of sustainable funding streams. It is imperative that we change for the better the way the Community and Voluntary sector is funded.
“The Community Foundation have consulted widely, not just for the building of our new strategy but in our everyday work as an independent funder. What we are hearing most loudly is that current funding mechanisms urgently need to change.
“For instance, every separate fund applied for, either within one government department or even between departments, requires a new vouching process, a new set of questions, a new monitoring process. The time spent on this work takes a hugely disproportionate time from organisations working to deliver much needed services.
“To compound this there is an ongoing skills drain for the sector due to job insecurity, low wages and the inability to plan long term due to funding. Workers with families, mortgages or other commitments, who want to do this work, are being prohibited from doing so due to the uncertainty.
“The Community Foundation are calling for a greater level of collaboration to deliver for the needs of the community and voluntary sector.
“We must examine the learning from COVID when financial support was provided much quicker for essential services and we also must highlight how this sector in particular, helps government reach successive Programme for Government commitments.
“Failure to do so is a false economy. The lack of investment today into the sector will only cost much more, further down the line. When key community services that improve people’s health and mental wellbeing, skills and employability and financial position within our society are removed we are only kicking a much bigger problem down the line in terms of an ever shrinking budget from Stormont.”
The Strategy document can be found here: https://communityfoundationni.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Community-Foundation-Strategy-2023-26-1.pdf