Tuesday, 17 December 2019
Section 39 Organisations: Motion [Private Members]
Two things occurred to me before I came into the Chamber to speak tonight. The first is the enormous footprint of section 39 organisations in Cork, for example, the Cork Association for Autism, Enable Ireland, the Cope Foundation and Marymount Hospice where my grandmother is currently and where she is receiving incredible care. Every Christmas, Marymount Hospice is one of the favourite charities of Cork people. It is an incredible place and it is extraordinary what it can do. It is organisations like it that we are talking about when we discuss section 39 organisations. People rely on their staff. Such a topic can sound dry, abstract and artificial, but we are talking about key services such as those I have described.
It also occurred to me that in most countries across Europe or other parts of the world these would be services provided by the state. The State cannot abdicate responsibility for these services and their staff because they are not direct employees of the State. They are there because the State failed to provide the necessary services over many years and allowed charitable, voluntary and religious organisations to provide them. Whatever about the rights and wrongs of that, people are now relying on those organisations for essential services in the area of education, end-of-life support, disability services, therapies and other such services. That is what this debate is about. Section 39 organisations deserve parity and the respect to which all public servants should be entitled. Every day of the year we hear stories of section 39 agencies limping from crisis to crisis, often because of funding issues but also issues concerning legislation. The relationship between the State and not-for-profit organisations in the disability sector is just one example. There is a complete lack of respect from successive Governments for the vital work they do. Budgets are cut, skilled employees are treated as a low-pay workforce, and investment in beds and equipment is constantly put on the long finger. Their work, however, cannot and must not be undervalued. We must address the inequitable pay terms that exist between section 38 organisations and section 39 organisations. That must end without delay. Pay restoration must be delivered as a priority.