Wednesday, 26 October 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
98. Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress which has been made over the past 12 months in the establishment of dedicated voluntary activity units in all Departments that have significant dealings with the voluntary sector as was committed by the Government under the White Paper on voluntary activity. [30694/05]
Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív): The designation of voluntary activity units, VAUs, in relevant Departments to support the relationship between the State and the community and voluntary groups is one of a number of recommendations in the White Paper, Supporting Voluntary Activity. The tasks envisaged by the White Paper for VAUs include monitoring the relationship between the State and the community and voluntary groups and liaison with these groups regarding policy development and service and programme delivery.
My Department has been in contact with relevant Departments with a view to ensuring the establishment of supports which, having regard to the nature of the individual departmental relationship with the community and voluntary groups, can best meet the White Paper recommendation. Departments have diverse views on how this can be achieved and on the most appropriate arrangements for their particular circumstances, in light of the extent and nature of their relationship with the community and voluntary activity.
A number of Departments have designated certain units to function as VAUs. Such examples include the social policy unit in the Department of the Taoiseach; the voluntary and co-operative housing unit in the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the voluntary and community services division in my Department and the policy on unemployment unit in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The Department of Health and Children has designated a VAU on a cross-divisional basis with representation from the various divisions in the Department dealing with the community and voluntary groups.
A number of other Departments have several sections-VAUs which interact with community and voluntary groups and include the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Foreign Affairs and Education and Science.
In this regard, my Department has recently commissioned a study to make recommendations to my Department on practical measures to further advance key principles set out in the White Paper, Supporting Voluntary Activity such as issues arising in relation to structural matters, including voluntary activity units. Recommendations made will have regard to progress to date in implementing recommendations, major departmental, programme and other innovations by Government in the intervening since the publication of the White Paper, the constitutional, legal, policy and economic responsibilities of Ministers and issues arising in relation to structural matters including the implementation advisory group and voluntary activity units.
Recommendations will include and address appropriate central arrangements going forward to underpin the interface between public bodies and community and voluntary organisations and requirements to secure appropriate community and voluntary representation.
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