Anna Lo MLA said: “As someone who had worked for many years in the community and voluntary sector, I want to stress its importance as part of our society and as key providers of services. In many respects they are more efficient and effective in certain interventions and the delivery of specific services.
“I sympathise with the frustrations that are currently being expressed by the sector in relation to budget cuts, and also recognise the concerns that they are disproportionately bearing the brunt of cuts and the cumulative effect of cuts from various sources.
“There has not been a very strategic approach taken by the Executive, and in particular the DUP and Sinn Fein, to decision-making, co-ordination and budget setting.
“Other Departments have also not taken a strategic approach. I have questioned the rationale of 100% cuts being passed onto many environmental NGOs by the Environment Minister. And while under pressure, the Minister has somewhat reversed his position, it will not be until the end of June that many groups will receive clarity on funding.
“While there has been a focus on the European Social Fund in this debate, there have been some misconceptions. First of all, ESF has not experienced a cut. In fact, this current funding round is bigger than before. However, it is under greater pressure than before due to cuts elsewhere. This current round was 1.8 times over-subscribed.
“Second, the Fund is allocated under an open and competitive process. No organisation should have gone into the process with an automatic expectation of funding. Inevitably, this competitive process means that some organisations will be funded, but some others may not be, including some which achieve the pass mark for funding but don’t receive resources given the level of over-subscription.”