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

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.”

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