Minister Harris must begin radical overhaul of relationship between the State and not-for-profit organisations if sector is to survive, says Rehab Group

Rehab has today welcomed the recommendations of the Independent Review Group, established to examine the role of voluntary organisations in public health services. The Review Group has called for the introduction of a Charter to develop a transparent and collaborative relationship between the State and the voluntary health sector.

In developing a stronger relationship between the voluntary sector and the State, the IRG also recommends the introduction of three-year, multi-annual budgets for voluntary organisations and calls for levels of bureaucracy surrounding HSE compliance to be addressed.

The Independent Review Group’s recommendations mirror many of those made in the 2018 ‘Who Cares?’ report commissioned by Rehab and supported by eight of the largest Section 39 organisations. Section 39 organisations are grant-aided by the HSE to provide services mainly in the health and social services arena. The organisations, who provide services to 20,000 people, and employ a total of 8,000 staff, say the combined cost of meeting regulation in 2017 amounted to between half a million and 1.5 million for each of the organisations, and yet no additional funding to meet this need was provided.

who cares report

Rehab-commissioned report Who Cares? 2018
The IRG report stated the HSE used the annual negotiations on service level agreements “to impose conditions that have eroded the autonomy of voluntary organisations, irrespective of the scale of state funding to an organisation” which echoed the findings of Rehab’s ‘Who Cares?’ report.

Mo Flynn CEO of Rehab Group said: The recognition by the Independent Review Group of the urgent need to develop a national process for engagement between the voluntary health sector and the State is greatly valued by the sector.  Fragmented dialogue with organisations like Rehab has made national, strategic engagement very challenging, particularly for organisations with national reach. The publication of this report provides an important opportunity to radically overhaul the relationship between the State and voluntary sector providers. However, we are concerned the report doesn’t go far enough in addressing the funding the deficit costs associated with service delivery and compliance, considering the adverse effects of the ongoing funding crisis in the sector.

“The contribution of not-for-profits to our economy and the gap they fill in a lacking State provision is vastly underestimated. All we are looking for is a seat at the table so we can work in partnership and amplify the social impact of our organisations and do the very best for the people we serve. Ultimately, it is the people the sector serves, our most vulnerable members of society, who are suffering in a climate besieged by staff attrition, underfunding and the cost of overly bureaucratic regulation,” she added.

Ms Flynn urged Minister Harris, the Department of Health and the HSE to work in partnership with the Sector as soon as possible to create a Charter to build a renewed trust and respect between the State and the voluntary health sector to maintain this essential relationship, as well as the essential services that organisations like Rehab provide for the benefit of citizens throughout Ireland.