Voluntary and Community Sector Should not be Subject to Unfair Cuts

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 25 November 2010

Reference: SD 02/10/11

The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Social Development co-hosted a special evidence-gathering event today with the Voluntary and Community Sector. The event was arranged to give interested groups and organisations the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns with Committee members on the possible impact of budget cuts on the sector.

Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Assembly Social Development Committee Simon Hamilton MLA, opened a debate on the impact of the Westminster cuts on voluntary and community groups in Northern Ireland saying: “The Voluntary and Community Sector makes an invaluable contribution to society in Northern Ireland. They provide value-for-money services and support which the wider public sector is unable to match. Although we all expect budgets to be much tighter in future, it would be wrong if the Voluntary and Community Sector bore a disproportionate share of Westminster budget cuts.”
He continued: “I often think that the Voluntary and Community Sector should be renamed the Anti-Poverty Sector. The work it does in tackling poverty in our deprived urban and rural areas or amongst vulnerable groups like the elderly or those suffering mental illness often goes without praise or acknowledgement. The sector secures funding, trains volunteers and helps communities to provide essential advice and other services for themselves. It is therefore vital that the Assembly listens carefully to this important sector before any significant changes are made.”

Organisations and groups took the opportunity to highlight concerns about cuts to key anti-poverty programmes such as the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy and services such as the Supporting People Programme which helps vulnerable and disabled people to live normal lives in their own homes. Representatives of the sector felt strongly that Departments should not be allowed to reduce budgets for voluntary and community groups in the face of substantial public spending cutbacks.

Mr Hamilton concluded with the warning: “We should not forget that in addition to resource and capital budget reductions, Westminster has also signaled substantial cutbacks in welfare and social security payments. These cuts will hit Northern Ireland the hardest and will affect all sorts of people experiencing various degrees of poverty. The voluntary and community sector could hardly be more necessary, more vital than it is during these times.”

The event was organised by the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) and included representatives of over 50 voluntary and community organisations from all over Northern Ireland.

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