Thursday, 14 March 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Gabrielle McFadden (Fine Gael)
The most recent analysis from the Central Statistics Office estimates that more than a million people in Ireland volunteer regularly. We all know individual volunteers and voluntary organisations that are doing fantastic work in our local communities. We also know that we would be much worse off without them. This work is supported by a network of volunteer centres throughout the country. Their primary function is to match individuals and groups interested in volunteering with appropriate volunteering opportunities. The volunteer centres offer advice and support to volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations throughout a range of services, including information provision, consultation and Garda vetting.
Volunteer centres in Longford-Westmeath have major concerns regarding their funding. The Department of Rural and Community Development published a report of a group chaired by Dermot McLaughlin called Developing Funding Criteria for Volunteer Centres in Ireland. The report states that €121,000 is the minimum funding necessary for these centres to operate. Twelve centres are falling below that figure, including two in my home area in Longford-Westmeath. They are receiving considerably less than that amount. These centres have been told that the funding would be increased to the minimum level identified by the Department. However, when they got their allocation of funding this year, the amounts were the same as last year. If the Department has made a commitment to the centres, I believe it will pay those centres, but operating with such uncertainty presents challenges to the centres and distracts them from the very important and valuable work they do. I have written to the Minister, Deputy Ring, and the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, and now I ask the Leader to use his good office to invite one or other of them to come to the House to ensure those involved in these vital centres will receive adequate funding and be given an indication of the timeline involved. We should be doing everything we possibly can to support these centres. We can help by providing them with adequate funding and removing any uncertainty.