It is estimated that income raised by the community and voluntary sector through fundraising will be down by between €400m and €500m by the end of the year if the current situation prevails, according to the Director of Public Policy at The Wheel, Ireland's association of community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises.

Ivan Cooper was speaking during a live-streamed National Charity Summit, hosted by The Wheel, attended virtually by up to 500 organisations and charities.

Deirdre Garvey, Chief Executive of The Wheel, said: "The Government's €40 million Covid-19 stability package was a very welcome lifeline for many frontline services ... but the collapse of fundraising income and uncertainties about statutory funding sources are stymying organisations’ ability to plan for an anticipated surge in demand for services in areas such as mental health, poverty relief, homelessness, and disability supports."

The Wheel is calling for the following supports:

  • Retention of a Cabinet-level Minister for Community Development
  • A sustainable funding model for the sector, including multi-annual funding and a working group to examine procurement policy
  • Streamlined compliance requirements to eliminate rampant duplication of reporting
  • A clear framework for collaborative working with the Government to advance the "Community Call" initiative launched during the Covid-19 crisis
  • Implementation of Sláintecare involving relevant community-based services
  • Community participation in initiatives to deliver the Climate Action Plan

Interviewed by Ms Garvey during the summit, Kevin McCarthy, Secretary General at the Department of Rural and Community Development, said the pandemic had generated a "wider societal re-evaluation of our values" and he "would be amazed if we don't see it feeding into ... a new programme for government.

"We have a key role as a department in making sure that that works," Mr McCarthy said.

He said things had been achieved by departments working together during the pandemic that may not have been thought possible before, and there were lessons that could be learned from this.

Mr McCarthy said there was a "collective societal challenge" going forward to ensure that "we don't leave anyone behind."

One of the panellists, Barnardos CEO Suzanne Connolly, called on the Government to " put money behind your verbal mouthing of how great the sector."

Ms Connolly said that she sometimes struggled with feeling that the sector "constantly had to justify the need for [its] existence."

She said that in terms of fundraising those within the sector were competing with one another.

"I do worry that the public become may get really a bit sick of being asked for money all the time," Ms Connolly said, "and I get heightened anxiety then when there is any negative press in relation to our sector."

She said that Barnardos operated with State and fundraised money on a 50/50 basis.

Ms Connolly said she agreed with the need for charities to be accountable and that Barnardos had the resources to meet the compliance and audit obligations.

However, she raised concerns about the capacity of smaller organisations to meet these obligations and suggested the Government should look at making the process more streamlined.

Anna Shakespeare, CEO of Pobal which administers Government supports, said the charity and voluntary sector was fragmented and there was a low level of supports being shared between organisations.

Calling for more collaboration in the sector, Ms Shakespeare acknowledged that these comments may be perceived as provocative.

Alison Harnett, Policy Director with the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies, said the sector had stood up to meet the challenge of providing services in changed and challenging circumstances during the pandemic.

Ms Harnett said that many in the sector are providing essential services and these should be funded on the basis of need, and not on whether an organisation falls under Section 38 or Section 39 of the Charities Act, or on whether there is a good relationship with a funder.

Director of Services for the Daughters of Charity, Tracey Monson, said that while governments are transient, the community and voluntary sector is not.

Ms Monson said that organisations had come together during the pandemic like never before.

She urged those within the sector to show leadership, to find ways that they can be more cost effective, and to reduce duplication between services.

CEO of Clann Credo - Community Loan Finance Paul O'Sullivan said it has been dealing first hand with community organisations struggling during the Covid-19 crisis.

"We hear that the vast majority are suffering a double blow from the pandemic, on the one hand their ability to hold events and raise income is greatly diminished, while on the other hand the demand on their services has increased exponentially," Mr O'Sullivan, who is also chair of The Wheel, said.