Thank you for your invitation to say a few words at the beginning of what, I’m sure, is going to be a very robust and productive day for you.
The charity sector has played and continues to play a key role in Irish society. There are nearly nine thousand registered charities in Ireland – ranging from small community groups to organisations with an international foot print and impact.
Irish charities impact on all aspects of our lives and it is possible to argue that most citizens benefit at some stage in their life from their work.
As you know, both Minister Michael Ring and I have been appointed to the newly created Department of Rural and Community Development and I have been appointed responsibility for the Charites Regulatory Authority. Since its establishment in 2014, great progress has been achieved by the CRA, including the completion of an independent organisational review to define the resources required to implement the Charities Act, 2009 and the publication of a Strategic Plan for 2016-2018. I am pleased to report that the resources required by the CRA are continuing to be put in place and I am looking forward to working with yourselves and the CRA for the betterment of the charity sector generally.
The charity sector, through its advocacy role, has a huge part to play in formulating government policies. I am delighted that my Department is in a position to provide financial and other assistance through its programme of supports for the Charity and Volunteers sectors. Charities Institute Ireland is, of course, included in this programme.
Impact of sector
It cannot be denied that the origin of many Irish charities arose where gaps occurred in social and economic provision which required or enabled others to step in to the breach.
Thus emerged a vibrant charity sector which makes a huge impact on our society. That impact was illustrated in an excellent and detailed analysis of the not for profit sector, launched by my colleague Minister Paschal Donohoe earlier this year.
The Benefacts Report revealed that approximately one in ten organisations operating in Ireland are within the ‘third sector’.
These comprise a range of charities and not-for-profits, including educational institutions. Benefacts estimate that the sector generates over €10billion annually. And beyond the traditional perspective of the contribution of volunteers, non-profit- organisations also provide employment to a substantial proportion of the population.
Challenges facing Charities Sector
At home and abroad Irish charities represent some of the best aspects of Irish life and society – a desire for altruism, community support and cohesion.
But like any sector of Irish life the sector faces challenges.
When I looked through the Agenda for today’s conference, it struck me that your organisers had done a very comprehensive job in identifying them.
Not only key issues like fundraising, philanthropy and compliance. I know the Charities Regulator is here and will address you later on this matter.
So, I was not surprised to hear that your Conference has been fully booked for weeks.
Competition for resources from the state is constantly growing, therefore Advocacy on behalf of the sector and the people it supports plays a vital role.
Many of you will know by now that in his recent Budget speech, Minister Donohoe announced the introduction of a scheme to compensate charities for the VAT they incur on their inputs. The VAT COMPENSATION SCHEME FOR CHARITIES will be introduced in 2019 in respect of VAT expenses incurred in 2018.
Charities will be entitled to a proportion of VAT based on the level of non-public funding they receive. A fund of €5 million will be available to the scheme in 2019.
This decision came after consistent and effective advocacy by Charities Institute Ireland and its predecessor the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group over many years. I hope that once the scheme is up and running, Irish charities will make full use of it.
Republic of Opportunity
Many of the organisations represented here today help people when they fall on difficult times. They support them to improve not only their lives but that of their families and children. As a nation we rely on each other to provide that level of support, whether it be Government, Charities, Volunteers or neighbours.
In recent weeks, An Taoiseach has spoken about creating a Republic of Opportunity.
It strikes me here today that the work of Ireland’s charities will be playing an essential and powerful role in creating that Republic of Opportunity.
Thank you again for this opportunity to be here and I hope you have a very successful conference.