Funding one of the biggest challenges for community organisations

Community groups from across Ireland attended the Befriending Network Ireland (BNI) seminar in Dublin’s Guinness Enterprise Centre on Thursday, which discussed the development of a sustainable community sector.,Picture: Arthur Carron

ALONE, which supports older people to age at home, held the annual Befriending Network Ireland (BNI) seminar in the Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin earlier today. Exploring the theme of ‘Developing a Sustainable Community Sector’, the seminar was attended by more than 20 organisations from across the country, including Wicklow Dementia Support.   

Speakers at the event discussed topics such as loneliness, meeting the needs of Ireland’s ageing demographic, providing support to service users, funding and sustainability, and the future of the age sector.

Speaking at the seminar, ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan highlighted the need for further support for organisations working within communities. He also highlighted the need to build the capacity of the sector to meet the needs of our ageing demographic.

Community organisations are stepping up to help to fill in the gaps

Moynihan commented, “Policies aren’t matching up with our practices in supporting older people in Ireland. We have seen great work such as the National Positive Ageing Strategy and research from TILDA and HaPAI which have highlighted the needs of older people and where improvements need to be made. Community organisations like ALONE and the members of Befriending Network Ireland are stepping up to help to fill in the gaps where statutory organisations can struggle.”

He continued, “Our sector needs to work together and overcome challenges like up-skilling and training to ensure we can meet levels of demand going forward. For years the community has seen cuts, but now more than ever we need to support and encourage community organisations. We see that our population is ageing and that already we cannot meet all of their needs in areas such as support, housing, home care, health care and social integration. If we don’t invest in our communities now, when will we?”

If we don’t invest in our communities now, when will we?

BNI members have cited the need for funding as a major issue that impacts their services.

“The rural environment of the communities we work in creates one of the most significant challenges for us,” says Salena Grace of Befriending Laois. “Adequate funding and resources would enable us to put more people on the ground in the community, and provide more support for clients. We provide an immeasurable service to the people who reach out to us for help. It’s a lifeline.”

Befriending Network Ireland (BNI) is a national support network for befriending and support services across Ireland led by ALONE. BNI provides resources and training to new and well established services.Established by a number of organisations across Ireland in 2015, Befriending Network Ireland (BNI) has grown to a national network of more than 60 organisations.

In addition to ALONE representatives, speakers and panellists included Sarah Van Putten, CEO of Befriending Networks; PádraigVallely, Business Development Manager of Social Innovation Fund Ireland; Niall O’Sullivan, Fund  Development Advisor at Community Foundation for Ireland; Paddy McGinn, Beneficiary Operations Manager of Pobal; Jenny O’Reilly of Wicklow Dementia Support; and Colette O’Regan of LGBT Ireland.


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