The designation of voluntary activity support units, VAUs, in relevant Departments to support the relationship between the State and the community and voluntary sector is one of a number of recommendations in the White Paper, Supporting Voluntary Activity. The tasks envisaged by the White Paper for VAUs include monitoring the relationship between the State and the community and voluntary sector and liaison with the sector regarding policy development and service and programme delivery.
The question of designating VAUs in Departments and the monitoring of progress in that regard has been a frequent agenda item for the White Paper implementation and advisory group, IAG, at its monthly meetings, most recently on 26 January last.
My Department has been in ongoing contact with relevant Departments with a view to ensuring the establishment of supports which, having regard to the nature of the individual departmental relationship with the sector, can best meet the White Paper recommendation. Departments have diverse views on how this can be achieved and on the most appropriate arrangements for their particular circumstances, in light of the extent and nature of their relationship with the sector.
A number of Departments have designated certain units to function as VAUs. Such examples include the social policy unit in the Department of the Taoiseach, the voluntary and co-operative housing unit in the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and the voluntary and community services division in the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The Department of Health and Children has designated a VAU on a cross-divisional basis with representation from the various divisions in the Department dealing with the community and voluntary sector.
I am aware of the importance that the sector attaches to the concept of VAUs and discussions are continuing between my officials and relevant Departments, and within the IAG, in relation to progressing arrangements for increased implementation of this recommendation.