Civil Defence is a volunteer based organisation of approximately 3,500 volunteers who give generously of their time and expertise for their community and in support of the Principal Response Agencies.
As outlined in the 2015 White Paper on Defence, Civil Defence policy is set down by the Minister for Defence through the Civil Defence Branch of my Department. The Department also provides up to a maximum of 70% grant aid to each Local Authority Civil Defence unit, as well as other supports such as training for local volunteer instructors. It also supplies vehicles, equipment, uniforms and personal protective equipment
The White Paper also recognises the important role of Local Government in the management of Civil Defence. The Civil Defence Officer who is an employee of the Local Authority is responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of Civil Defence in their Local Authority area.
When Civil Defence’s current PHECC operating licence was up for renewal in November 2018, my officials reviewed the current Statutory Declaration which must be signed by organisations who wish to provide emergency medical services. That review identified that some assurances and details required as part of the licensing process are not within the control or remit of my Department as responsibility for operations rests with Local Authorities.
Since January 2019, my officials have been working closely with senior officials in both PHECC and Local Authorities in order to find a satisfactory solution to this issue, while conscious of the unique structure of Civil Defence.
Following recent engagement between officials from my Department and from the County and City Management Association, it has been agreed that Local Authorities will provide some of the assurances required as part of the signing of the Statutory Declaration. In order to put in place the necessary processes and collate the required assurances, my officials applied for a further extension to its existing licence which currently expires on 30 July 2019. Upon considering that request, PHECC agreed to give a further month's extension, up to 31 August 2019 subject to a satisfactory progress report at the next PHECC Council meeting on 11 July 2019.
I can assure you, I am committed to ensuring the excellent service Civil Defence volunteers provide in terms of emergency medical services continues beyond the 30 July 2019. My officials continue to engage constructively to resolve the issue.