Caring sectors demand revised funding

Community and voluntary sector organisations supporting some of the most disadvantaged in society are facing a difficulty in maintaining services without an immediate improvement in funding mechanisms.

Almost 1,900 organisations, such as the Peter McVerry Trust and Enable Ireland, have been supported by section 39 funding from the HSE to provide care services to people who are homeless, older people in care, people with disabilities, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those dealing with drug and addiction issues.

Impact trade union, which represents thousands of workers in the community and voluntary sector, say existing funding structures for such sectors lack credibility and are out of date.

It wants State funding for the organisations to be restored to ensure sustainability of services. The union also demands the terms and conditions of staff in section 39 agencies should be on comparable terms with public service counterparts.

Impact commissioned Chris McInerney of the University of Limerick to research the area. He produced a report entitled ‘Caring: At what cost? — rebuilding and refinancing the community and voluntary sector’.

The union’s organiser in the sector, Joe O’Connor, said: “What has emerged from this research is that these funding structures are no longer fit for purpose.

“We need a revised funding model in order to ensure agencies in the community and voluntary sector can continue to meet modern service delivery demands in a sustainable way.”

Tony Martin, chairman of Impact’s health and welfare division, said the capacity of the sector to play a strong and progressive role in service delivery had been severely tested in recent years.

“Sustained cutbacks have been accompanied by an increased demand to deliver,” he said. “Employees are increasingly expected to do more with less and for less. This presents challenges both in terms of service delivery as well as the retention of experienced and committed staff.”

The report makes recommendations including:

  • Levels of funding for organisations funded under section 39 should be gradually restored to ensure sustainable delivery of services and to retain staff;
  • Restoration of pay and conditions for staff in section 39 organisations should be without additional productivity demands;
  • Staff in section 39-funded organisations should progress onto terms comparable with the public service.

Meanwhile, the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) has said that, as much of the home care industry for the elderly is unregulated and rapidly expanding, migrant women, who are over-represented in the sector, are underpaid, overworked, and subject to harassment and discrimination.

It has called for Hiqa’s powers of inspection to include the home care sector. It wants to establish national standards for employment of all home care workers and a register of professional home care workers to foster high standards of professional conduct and competence.

The MRCI further seeks the creation of legal channels of migration for non-EU/EEA home care workers; the introduction of an employment permit for the home care sector; and a regularisation scheme for undocumented home care workers which would regularise their immigration status and formalise their employment.


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