The Report of the Independent Review Group established to examine the role of voluntary organisations in publicly funded health and social services provides a timely reminder of the contribution that voluntary organisations have made and continue to make in the delivery of health and social care services across the country.
The Report makes a range of recommendations covering areas such as the governance of voluntary organisations; dialogue, engagement and contractual processes between the State and the voluntary sector; ethos, asset ownership and public capital investment, and broader issues related to health system development. These recommendations fall to be considered by a number of organisations including the Department of Health, the HSE, other state agencies and voluntary organisations themselves. It's also worth noting that many of the Report’s recommendations dovetail with the Sláintecare programme and are being considered in that context.
The key finding in the Report is the need to strengthen the relationship between the State and the sector and the Group identified the Department of Health as having a lead role in this regard. When I published the Report in February this year I announced my intention to establish a new Dialogue Forum as recommended in the Report as a key mechanism for strengthening this relationship.
The Dialogue Forum with Voluntary Organisations has now been established and I was delighted to address the first meeting of the new Forum which took place on Monday 2 December.
The aim of the Forum is to build a stronger working relationship between the State and the voluntary healthcare sector for the benefit of patients and service users. The Forum will also facilitate regular dialogue with the voluntary sector on Sláintecare and other policy initiatives and will consider issues around governance more generally.
The Forum is independently chaired by Peter Cassells. Members of the Forum include the Department, the HSE, HIQA, the Mental Health Commission and the main representative bodies of voluntary providers of health and social care: The Wheel; Mental Health Reform; Disability Federation of Ireland; Not for Profit Association; National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers; Voluntary Healthcare Forum; Voluntary Hospices Group and National Community Care Network.