Help Secure the Future of NCCWN and its local Women’s Projects beyond 2014
Implications for the future funding and sustainability of the National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks
The National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks (NCCWN) through its 17 local Women’s projects (see map) engages with women from the most disadvantaged communities in the country. As the only national programme specifically targeted at women from disadvantaged communities, the NCCWN and its community based women’s projects have demonstrated that we are an experienced and essential part of the infrastructure, both locally and nationally.
The NCCWN’s current annual budget is €1.3 million, this funds the work of the 17 NCCWN women’s projects and employs 44 staff across the 17 projects. Working within this limited budget in 2013 the NCCWN Projects engaged with 36,589 women from communities who do not engage with state agencies. NCCWN have demonstrated that this represents excellent value for money. The LCDP funding enables the NCCWN across its 17 projects to not only employ core staff but to also lever in additional funding to coordinate and run development programmes including equality, health & wellbeing, active citizenship, community education, domestic abuse support, employment pathways. Services provided include childcare centres, drop-in/information centres and counselling. In the 17 Projects, this has resulted in the additional employment of approximately 200 people, managed and coordinated by NCCWN staff.
One of the main reasons it is possible to deliver this level of work within a limited budget is that the work is and always has been volunteer managed and led. Work with women from the most disadvantaged communities in the country is happening only because it is underpinned by thousands of volunteer hours and decades of commitment and voluntary effort. NCCWN development programmes encompass equality, education, health, employment paths and supports including childcare provision.
Currently the NCCWN (i.e. the work of the 17 local Women’s Projects) is funded at a national level under the Local Community Development Programme (LCDP) as an alternative structure since January 2011. The Government demonstrated their commitment to women in 2011 by making separate arrangements to ensure that as a national/local women’s programme our specific remit as an essential aspect of addressing women’s inequalities were recognised. The LCDP is due to cease on the 31st of December 2014 and will be replaced by the newly announced Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP) as of the 1st of January 2015. Under measures announced by Minister Phil Hogan groups and organisations will in future have to competitively tender locally to deliver work under SICAP.
NCCWN are extremely concerned that the tendering process for implementation of SICAP, renders it impossible for national organisations to apply nationally as tenders can only be submitted or considered on a county by county basis and only for the delivery of the programme in its entirety (i.e. across an entire county and across all areas of work and target groups). National organisations and those working exclusively on a single issue basis are therefore not in a position to tender nationally to deliver work under the SICAP. This means that the NCCWN cannot tender nationally to continue its current work with women from disadvantaged communities, thus funding for the 17 locally based projects working with women on the ground is now under serious threat.
While Minister Hogan has said that NCCWN can engage in the tendering process and the only route, suggested by Pobal, to do this was for local NCCWN women’s projects to seek to collaborate with local partners to form consortiums to tender for the delivery of SICAP in their area. This avenue has been explored it and it has become clear that it is not achievable for NCCWN as: • all 17 NCCWN Projects would not be enabled to be part of local consortium in their area. • the 1.3m that NCCWN received to fund the work of their 17 Women’s Projects will be included in the overall SICAP funding for 2015 and will therefore be diluted and spread over 31 areas (SICAP lots) and not the specific areas where there is an NCCWN local project • disadvantaged women are not a named target group for SICAP so there is no requirement or directive for partners to include NCCWN local Women’s Projects in local consortiums or no recognition of the work of NCCWN Projects in the new programme. In which case our work with women will be lost as nobody else is doing the specific work which local projects under the NCCWN are currently engaged in.
For these reasons, the NCCWN is extremely concerned that its work in removing barriers to disadvantaged women’s full and equal participation in society and in local and national decision-making and policy arenas will be lost. NCCWN is now in the position of having to lobby both nationally and locally to safeguard the work of the NCCWN. Central to engaging with disadvantaged women has been through community development principles and values to address the structural barriers to women’s full and equal participation on local and national decision making and policy arena’s. NCCWN has given a voice to thousands of women and without the work of the NCCWN these will be silenced.
We ask that Government re-examine their rationale for not allowing alternative models such as NCCWN. When setting up the LCDP, Government made separate arrangements for NCCWN as they recognised that the work with disadvantaged women would be diluted and this same problem will occur in the proposed new arrangements. We formally request your support for the maintenance of the economically viable NCCWN structures to continue to deliver a programme specifically targeted at disadvantaged women both nationally and locally.