Press Release

Minister Harris welcomes the report of the Independent Review Group

Minister Harris welcomes the report of the Independent Review Group established to examine the role of voluntary organisations in health and social care

New dialogue process to be established

The Minister for Health today (Thursday) announced the publication of the report of the Independent Review Group established to examine the role of voluntary organisations in publicly funded health and personal social services. The Group was established to provide a space for an inclusive and respectful process of consideration, and to inform the development of policy over the medium term.

The Group makes 24 recommendations covering areas such as the governance of voluntary organisations; dialogue, engagement and contractual processes between the State and the voluntary sector; ethos, asset ownership and public capital investment, and broader issues related to health system development.

A key finding of the Group’s report is that Ireland benefits from having a voluntary sector and that it should continue to play an integral role in the delivery of health and social care services. The Group also found a high level of mutual interdependence between the State and voluntary organisations. It emphasises the complex, intertwined and evolving relationship that has existed between the State and voluntary sector for many years and calls for a renewal of this relationship based on trust and partnership.

Welcoming the publication of the report, Minister Harris said “I fully agree with the Independent Review Group that we owe a debt of gratitude as a society to voluntary organisations. This report provides a timely reminder of the contribution that voluntary organisations continue to make in the delivery of health and social care services across the country. It also highlights that Ireland is not unusual in this regard, with the voluntary sector forming a core component of many European health systems. This is sometimes forgotten.”

“I am committed to further strengthening the relationship between the State and voluntary organisations so that both can work together in the best interests of patients and service users. The publication of this report provides us with an opportunity for starting a new chapter in this relationship. In response to the Group’s recommendations, I intend to establish a new dialogue process between the Department, relevant health agencies and representation from voluntary organisations in the health and social care sector to provide a forum for engaging with the sector, in particular on proposed Sláintecare reforms and other policy initiatives This must be a two-way process with recognition on both sides of respective roles and mutual dependencies.”

The Minister added, “I also welcome the Group’s recommendations in relation to governance. It is essential that we have robust governance processes and structures across the sector which receives over €3.3 billion in public funding each year. I hope that the new dialogue process will also provide a mechanism for taking these recommendations forward.”

“There are a broad range of other recommendations in the report that will require further consideration. Many of these align with the Sláintecare programme and will be taken forward in that context, while others will require collaboration with other Government Departments and State Agencies.”

The Minister concluded “I would like to acknowledge the work and commitment of Dr Catherine Day, Professor Jane Grimson and Professor Deirdre Madden in completing this report and to thank them for taking on this important task. I also wish to thank all those who engaged with the review process, which I hope will be just the start of a new and concerted effort to strengthen dialogue and engagement. We are entering an exciting period of transformation with the Sláintecare programme and this report provides another important contribution to that process.”

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

The report can be read on the Department of Health website here.

Independent Review Group

The Independent Review Group was established in July 2017 to examine the role of voluntary organisations in publicly funded health and personal social services. The Group’s terms of reference provide for:

• An examination of current arrangements across the health and social care sector
• Consideration of issues currently arising, and those likely to arise in the future
• Recommendations on how the relationship between the State and voluntary organisations should evolve in the future

The Group began its deliberations in September 2017 and the process included:

• Meetings with a wide range of stakeholders including representative bodies, voluntary organisations, advocacy groups, regulators, funders and statutory bodies;
• A public consultation process;
• Consideration of arrangements in other countries, including England, Canada, Portugal, Belgium, France and Germany;
• A detailed review of the ownership and governance arrangements for larger organisations.

The Group was composed of Dr Catherine Day (Chair), Professor Jane Grimson and Professor Deirdre Madden. The Group’s biographies and terms of reference are available here.

Voluntary organisations

There are over 2,000 voluntary organisations receiving funding from the HSE. Voluntary organisations are funded under Sections 38 and 39 of the Health Act, 2004. Voluntary organisations vary significantly in terms of size, geographical coverage and the range of services provided. They span almost all areas of health and social care, including acute hospitals, disability, mental health, older persons, and hospice services.

The delivery of many of our health and social care services is dependent on voluntary organisations:

• A quarter of all HSE funding goes to voluntary organisations.
• Voluntary hospitals account for a quarter of all hospital activity.
• The voluntary sector provides some two thirds of all disability services and 80% of residential services.