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Investment in Community and Voluntary Sector must be a priority in Budget 2021

Community and Voluntary Sector

The cuts to funding for the Community and Voluntary sector made during the last recession have yet to be restored. Covid-19 has again highlighted the importance of communities. This support must now be formally recognised with investment in programmes that support community engagement; deal with deficit demand; tackle social exclusion; and sustain communities. In addition,  increased administrative and regulatory duties imposed upon this sector mean that resources that would otherwise be dedicated to frontline and core services are diverted to administration. This must be streamlined with recognition given to the size and capacity of the range of organisations within the sector.

Public Participation Networks (PPNs)

The PPNs are the primary mechanism for Local Authority engagement with communities. While this is an important step in fostering a more democratic local government structure, there is some way to go to build real participation and partnership in local government decision-making. Investment in community engagement is needed to support capacity building and the establishment of local dialogue forums to support participation in the development of the Local Economic and Community Plans, and the Local Authority budgets.

Social Enterprises and Deficit Demand

There is a diverse range of organisations within the social enterprise arena, ranging from those responding to ‘deficit demand’, particularly in under-represented and disadvantaged areas, to social entrepreneurs whose business model is most closely aligned to the commercial sector. The National Social Enterprise Strategy, published last year, must be adequately resourced and resources allocated to take account of the diverse range of services provided.

Community Development Programmes

The importance of community has been highlighted in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis. This importance must now be formally recognised through an increase in funding to support community development, especially in rural areas and areas of high disadvantage.  Government must increase funding allocations to LEADER (the funding programme to support the social and economic development of areas) and SICAP (the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme) to support the development of local communities.