Northern Ireland

NI voluntary sector warns it cannot plug funding gaps

Edwin Poots
Image caption Health Minister Edwin Poots is due to launch a project which did not receive government funding

Northern Ireland's voluntary sector has warned the Department of Health that it must not be expected to plug the gaps that the government is unable to fund.

An increasing number of local projects which deliver health care have been funded by grants and fundraising.

ARC, an organisation which represents those within the learning disability sector, said it was "not sustainable".

Its Northern Ireland director, Siobhan Bogues, said it was "no way to plan for the social care of the population".

On Thursday, Health Minister Edwin Poots will launch a project which is funded entirely by the Big Lottery Fund.

The project is run by the charity Mind Wise, and aims to help older people cope with depression.

In the past five years, the Big Lottery Fund has invested in excess of £21m into more than 200 established health projects.

'Reduction'

Staff working in the voluntary sector have welcomed the fund's contribution, but have expressed concern that they will be expected to deliver more services for less government funding, under the Compton Health Review.

Ms Bogues said: "I think there has been an increasing tendency for the voluntary community sector to be seen as being able to plug the gap.

"We've seen, bit by bit, a reduction in monies coming into the sector and voluntary organisations have tried to plug the gap, but that isn't sustainable into the future," she added.