Nov 3, 2020

It was great to see Minister of State for Charities, Joe O’Brien TD announce that the government is finally planning to introduce multi-annual funding for charities: It is a real pity it took the impact of a pandemic on the fundraising efforts of charities, to make this happen.

The fact is that without the additional funding which charities bring to the table through their own efforts, and the support of the public who have already paid tax on their earnings before contributing, the level of services which charities provide could not be sustained.

This fundraised income is supporting vital services, and is an ongoing subsidy by charities to the state. The state has always been happy to allow this to happen, in fact there would be a view in some quarters that it is not a bad thing for charities to subsidise state provision through fundraising.

This thinking will certainly have to change due to the impact of the pandemic, as it is clear that many charities will have to cut services. Then the question arises – how much should the state fund the essential services that charities provide? Why not full funding?

As 2021 looms and restrictions continue, it is becoming increasingly inevitable that services will be cut back or discontinued, unless the state steps in to replace lost income.

The fact that services have not been visibly hit so far, is a witness to the determination of charities to do everything they possibly can do, to keep services going. This is what charities do. They stretch themselves massively on behalf of the people who need them. They cut their own salaries. They sacrifice much needed staff to keep the front door open for the people who need them.

But they can only do so much. After more than a decade of underfunding, since the austerity cuts which have not been restored, charities simply cannot afford the impact of the pandemic. 2021 will undoubtedly raise some hard questions which need urgent answers, the main one being, will the state take on funding services currently being subsidised by charity fundraising, in order to keep vital services in place for Ireland’s most vulnerable citizens.