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Pike, Brigid (2012) In brief. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 43, Autumn 2012, p. 34.

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In recent months a series of reviews of structures and systems supporting the operation of the voluntary and community sector in Ireland have been initiated. While no final decisions have yet been taken, findings reported to date indicate both the need for a thorough overhaul and also the complexity of the issues. 

August 2011: The Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit (CEEU) in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published a paper on rationalising multiple sources of funding for the not-for-profit sector. The authors questioned whether using a multiplicity of bodies is an efficient model for the delivery of services. The supported organisations employ a large number of people to administer the organisation itself and the funding provided. While the state is not employing any extra people, the state’s own funding methods contribute to the level of support required. They concluded:
°          The funding model whereby each agency receives part-funding from different state agencies, for different or overlapping objectives, serves neither efficiency nor effectiveness.
°          The number of state-to-agency transactions should be reduced, by rationalising both the number of bodies and the number of state interlocutors. In this context, one state body should be responsible for ‘core’ funding of each agency, and all state supports for the agency should be channelled through the one state body.
Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit (2012) CEEU cross-cutting paper no. 1: rationalising multiple sources of funding to not-for-profit sector. Dublin: CEEU, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
December 2011: The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD, established a high-level alignment steering group to review the role of local government in local and community development. In their interim report, published in December 2011, the steering group noted thatexisting arrangements for local development are administratively burdensome and do not lend themselves to joined-up, integrated service delivery, that the multiple structures set up by central government for service delivery at local level have, to a large extent, by-passed local government and undermined the democratic process at local level, and finally that there is considerable variation in approach, skills and standards of service delivery across both local authorities and local development companies. The group outlined their preferred ‘way forward’:
°          a more co-ordinated and integrated approach to local service provision, based on an enhanced role for local government in planning, decision-making, oversight and, where appropriate, delivery of local development programmes within agreed structures;
°          meaningful community engagement and involvement within this planning and decision-making framework as well as in the delivery of services;
°          a strong national oversight role to ensure consistency of standards and approaches across the country;
°          a more integrated and targeted approach to all the programmes funded and managed by all departments and agencies and delivered locally, through provision of joined-up services based on a comprehensive cross-programme and cross-government alignment; and
°          central government priorities should allow greater flexibility at local level to customise programmes and policy initiatives to local needs and priorities, while the policy making role at national level should also be informed by delivery and practice at local level.
Local government / local development alignment steering group (2011) Interim report of the local government / local development alignment steering group. Dublin: Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.
February 2012: The Minister of State in the Department of Health with responsibility for Primary Care, Róisín Shortall TD, initiated a review of drugs task forces, focusing on their role and composition, the national structures under which they operate and funding arrangements, and seeking, where appropriate, to transfer responsibility for funding task force projects to relevant statutory agencies and to overhaul the accountability and reporting arrangements of the drugs projects that continue to be supported by the task forces. To date, an interim report, issued in February 2012, setting out the views of departments and statutory agencies, the voluntary and community sectors, and the drugs task forces themselves, shows a general consensus on the need for reform.
April 2012: The European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland (EAPN Ireland) and OPEN published a case study of how the Irish government allocated grants to non-statutory organisations. Analysing the documentation held by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government with regard to the operation of a funding scheme supporting national organisations in the voluntary and community sector (2008–2010 and 2011­–2013), the author found evidence of serious deficiencies in the quality of the administration of the scheme, details of which are reflected in his recommendations, including:
°          adopt a collegial approach among departmental officials to review, assessment and appeal;
°          undertake structured, strategic consultation with voluntary and community organisations;
°          improve the knowledge base, so that assessment and appeal officials are familiar with key governmental, academic and research texts on the profile, topography and modus operandi of the voluntary and community sector;
°          introduce guidelines for assessing concepts such as ‘disadvantage’, ‘key services’, ‘coalface services’, and ‘added value’;
°          introduce mechanisms such as a technical assistance facility and/or a screening round to address the problem of poor applications;
°          use external advisers to assist in the assessment process;
°          apply the principles of administrative justice to the assessment and appeals system; and
°          reinstate ‘advocacy’ as a factor for marking up the funding applications of voluntary organisations in the next round.
June 2012: The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, confirmed that she had received a copy of a review of the Community Employment (CE) scheme. The terms of the review were to examine the income and funding of sponsoring organisations in terms of their ability to continue the programme with reduced funding from the Department of Social Protection. She stated that one of the most important outcomes of the review was the identification of ‘very serious savings that could be made in areas such as administration in respect of insurance charges, and audit and accountancy charges. In the case of a number of CE schemes, it is also clear that rental savings may be possible.’
Burton J (2012, 12 June) Parliamentary Debates Dáil Éireann (Official report: unrevised): Priority questions. Community Employment schemes. Vol. 768, No. 1, p. 3. Question(s) 109, 110. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/18184

Compiled by Brigid Pike

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