Redundancy notices issues in voluntary sector amid political uncertainty

NICVA Chief Executive Seamus McAleavey. Picture: Brian Morrison
NICVA Chief Executive Seamus McAleavey. Picture: Brian Morrison

Mental health organisations and bodies working with vulnerable adults are among those fearful of crippling budget cuts following the failure of politicians to restore the Stormont executive.

The ongoing instability has led to almost one third of voluntary and community bodies putting staff on notice of potential redundancy, NICVA’s (NI Council for Voluntary Action) chief executive has said.

Seamus McAleavey of NICVA said the lack of an executive-approved budget “requires immediate attention”.

He said: “This is over £500 million of public services in areas like mental health, health prevention, children, support to vulnerable people and end of life care for example.

“The results of NICVA’s Funding Watch survey, released this month, show that 88% of respondents that receive statutory funding have received no confirmation of this funding for their services after March and believe this funding is at risk.”

In January the top civil servant at the Department of Finance David Sterling told a Stormont committee that he was prepared to use emergency powers to keep the cash flowing in the absence of a finance minister

“It is purely a stopgap to ensure that business continuity prevails and that departments have the cash necessary for them to run their services until such times as a budget act is put in place,” Mr Sterling said.

The NICVA chief executive also said that 43% said they “would expect losing this funding to result in redundancies” and nearly one third (31%) “have already put staff on notice of potential redundancy”.

Mr McAleavey added: “Nearly one in ten reported that funding cuts to their organisations for next financial year had already been confirmed.

“NICVA fears that, even before any further cuts are confirmed, the current uncertainty on funding for next year will be extremely damaging to organisations seeking to provide continuity of services and retain worried staff.

“NICVA is therefore urging our politicians and government officials to work to give clarity to the question of the future funding for the services which voluntary and community organisations provide, as soon as possible.”