Equity Diversity Interdependence
Promoting a Peaceful and Fair
Society based on Reconciliation
and Mutual Trust.
20 April 2011
Community Relations Council Offices, Dungannon.
COMMUNITY RELATIONS COUNCIL
|NAME OF MEETING:||Victims & Survivors Committee|
|VENUE:||Community Relations Council Offices, Dungannon.|
|DATE:||1:00pm on Wednesday 20th April 2011|
|PRESENT:||Leon Litvack, Maureen Hetherington (Chair), Robin Morton, Sean Coll, Sheena Funston.|
|STAFF:||Brian Mullan, Carol Carmichael, Danny Angus (Minutes), Duncan Morrow, Joan Clements, Karen Duggan, Micháela Mackin|
|OBSERVER:||Lisa-Jane McIlveen (OFMDFM)|
WELCOME & APOLOGIES
The Chair welcomed those present. Apologies were received from David Russell, Eamonn Oakes, Eileen Gallagher, Jackie Witherow, Jim Campbell and Katie Hanlon.
MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
The minutes of the last meeting were agreed as a true and accurate record of the discussion.
Proposed by Sean Coll
Seconded by Robin Morton
Thanks were conveyed for the comprehensive minutes of the two-day committee meeting in Newry.
Regarding continuity of services to end beneficiaries of services in South Armagh, it was confirmed that no details have been passed to enable an application to proceed with another service provider.
CRITERIA FOR ADJUSTMENTS TO ELIGIBLE EXPENDITURE UNDER THE STRATEGIC SUPPORT FUND
Members were advised that the Victims Team have spent much of April reviewing how to best match savings of eligible Strategic Support Fund awards against the available budget. It was stressed that it has been a difficult yet useful exercise to ensure consistency and equity across the funding stream.
Regarding salaries, it was noted that a number of employees were already in post via either Core Funding or Peace III Funding. Given that it was highly probable that these groups have not secured funding elsewhere it was recommended that CRC honoursuch commitments. It was queried if groups could be asked to confirm that they have not secured alternative funding to clarify that there are not any potential savings in this budget heading.
For information, members were reminded that eligible applications valued approximately £7.9M against an available budget of c£6.1M. OFMDFM stressed that this did not represent a cut as CRC had not received a confirmed budget before assessing SSF Phase 2 applications. The challenge was to ensure a best fit with a robust rationale underpinning that process.
It was reiterated that salaries had been aligned to NJC scales and that caps were already in place for all standard posts. It was noted that Northern Ireland Centre for Trauma and Transformation (NICTT) was a little different as per previous committee discussions.
It was reported that running costs had been reviewed on the basis of the size of the organization and the extent to which its work was solely focused on the Victims Sector. As a result, a number of caps were introduced against audit, insurance, fax, phone and internet. It was queried why not, for example, apply a 10% cut across all awards. It was acknowledged that this idea had been considered, as had a sliding scale of cuts according to the size of each award. However, it was felt a capped approach would be more practical and fair.
It was then queried if the reductions will put any of the groups out of business. It was envisaged that this would not be the case. However, team members noted that given that the majority of the groups had received 100% funding for seven or eight years with very little fundraising activity the reductions will come as a shock. Discussion followed regarding how any funding contract would underpin the groups work and there was no reason why they could not engage in fundraising activities to supplement salaries, running costs or programmes of work.
OFMDFM stressed that the awards for the 2011/12 financial year represented an increase to funding for the Victims Sector. Whilst it will not meet all of the eligible applications, it was stressed that it was still a significant investment and it would be important to highlight that positive message. It was reiterated that this comes against a backdrop of Public Sector cuts as well as the ongoing investigations into alleged fraudulent activity, which should emphasize the extent to which the work in the Victims Sector continues to be valued.
Returning to the presentation, it was noted that all kinds of considerations were factored into the proposed running cost caps including size of organization and urban or rural location. It was noted that no monies were being made available to management time, training, publicity, memberships, bank fees and cleaning/maintenance costs. Differences would either need to be supplemented through another funding stream according to the work they do or would not be needed at all. OFMDFM requested that the rationales and criteria for the applied caps be provided in writing to CRC however acknowledged their approval for the criteria and caps.
Discussion followed on training provision and it was noted that this would generally be picked up under the new Victims Service. It was stressed that appropriate and ongoing training was important so if groups were particularly keen to provide specific elements for their staff during this financial year they should be encouraged to secure the monies by alternative means. Regarding publicity, it was emphasized that the majority of SSF applicants were already well established, with websites and marketing materials in place, so they should not have further significant outlay against this budget heading.
Members were advised that the capped criteria applied against the subsequent workplans will also become relevant to the Development Grant Scheme to ensure consistency and fairness across the sector.
In respect of Mental Health and Wellbeing, it was noted that only limited sessional work will be supported where counsellors are already employed by the group. Therefore, funding will only be made available, where appropriate, for the first three months pending confirmation of CRC’s Letter of Offer from OFMDFM. It was queried if notice will need to be given. It was confirmed that all of the groups have had to issue provisional notice of redundancy pending confirmation of their awards.
In respect of complementary therapies, it was proposed that each group will receive up to ten sessions per week at £25 per therapist over 48 weeks, which equates to a maximum of £12,000. It was recommended that each individual will receive up to six sessions and given there could be up to 480 sessions per year it means up to 80 individual clients or members can receive this service per group. It was also noted that if a group sources a fully regulated therapist at a cost lower than £25 per session then more individuals will be able to avail of their service.
As a result of applying these caps against this workplan, it was anticipated that there would be a saving of approximately £345,000.
In respect of Organizational Development, it was proposed to focus on supporting strategic planning, management committee training, and research that is carried out in conjunction with/ in support of the CVSNI Comprehensive Needs Assessment. It was stressed that no residential costs have been supported. General needs assessments and evaluations have also been disallowed.
As a result of applying these caps against this workplan, it was anticipated that there would be a saving of approximately £108,000.
Members were advised that there was not much in the way of costs against Truth, Justice and Acknowledgement to apply considerable savings apart from research costs.
It was reported that ongoing assurance audits were underway and any SSF award would be conditional on this audit being completed. It was queried if any savings made against SSF could be directed to another funding stream. OFMDFM advised that CRC would need to submit a business case for approval to the Department and stressed the need to coordinate committee meetings to coincide monitoring rounds accordingly.
It was stressed that CRC does not anticipate substantial savings following the proposed adjustments. It was estimated they may be in the region of 2% to 3%.
Further to concerns raised at previous committee meetings, it was reported that a review of respite support was under way and an initial overview may be available when the committee convenes later in the year.
Under the heading of Social Support, the classification of trips includes respite, cultural, social and networking themes. It was proposed to support a maximum of two day trips and one overnight residential (two days). The maximum award per day trip would be £1,124 and per overnight residential would be £9,500 based on the formula indicated on the presentation. It was stressed that these restrictions will affect some groups more than others. However, it should free up staff time and allow groups to focus on developmental work and fundraising to supplement their income. It was also agreed that this would provide an opportunity for larger strategic reflection prior to the launch of the new Victims Service.
Discussion followed about the definition of respite and the rationale for those chosen to participate. It was noted that groups have to report on selection and provide feedback on any activities through mechanisms already in place. It was reiterated that development officers scrutinize this process. It was acknowledged that it is important to make the full process as robust as possible in preparation for the new Victims Service.
An update was provided on befriending which emphasized that it was primarily a rural programme. It was clarified that any hospitality provided was per programme rather than to befrienders directly. Members were notified that a training needs questionnaire would be issued after the Easter holidays to shape the programme for the 2011/12 financial year.
Members were reminded that the Deloitte Review identified Transgenerational and Young People as an emerging need. Again, CRC has implemented sizeable savings against this workplan by applying the same caps on trips and overnight stays as detailed under Social Support, and on complementary therapies as per Mental Health and Wellbeing. It was reported that Christmas dinners and admission tickets will not be eligible moving forward. Costs associated with shadow facilitators have also been removed. It was stated that the new Victims Service will have to review the issue of multiple memberships of individuals to groups as CRC cannot police this.
It was reported that a range of criteria has been introduced against Personal and Professional Development including no duplication of training that can be attained in local colleges. In-house training programmes will be supported subject to specific conditions and all training should be aimed at groups only with no individual or one to one training. It was proposed that minimum group numbers of eight individuals should be applied. There will also be a cap on materials and hire of equipment and individual bursaries will not be offered. It was queried if a group of eight individuals was too small. After further consideration, it was agreed to raise this threshold to twelve individuals and if numbers fall below eight then the session should be cancelled.
It was summarized that to date, the total implemented savings in the SSF budget would be approximately £1.57M. But it was stressed that this was still a work in progress to ensure the best fit with the available resources however that the criteria was now finalised. Members requested that the finalized spreadsheet be circulated via email for their information when the exercise has been completed, taking into account the confidential nature of the information on awards. It was agreed by all that the work undertaken by the team was very comprehensive in reaching this point and the work was accepted and approved by Committee and OFMDFM. Thanks were conveyed by the committee and OFMDFM to programme staff for their work.
IMPACT ON VOLUNTARY BASED GROUPS
Members discussed the impact of the adjusted awards. It was noted that the delay in releasing these contracts in a timely manner to ensure continuity of services has been problematic and caused serious concerns throughout the sector. OFMDFM advised Members that CRC is expected to receive a Victims Budget totaling £7.3M of which £1.6M (first quarter) can be made available having brought a Letter of Offer to the meeting.
The Chief Executive received a telephone call confirming that OFMDFM will release six months (two quarters) of the Victims Budget at this juncture so the current Letter of Offer should not be signed off today.
It was noted that CRC has not received any confirmation of its Core Budget. Discussion followed regarding protective notice and whether three months or one month should apply. It was confirmed that CRC has adopted a best practice policy of three months in respect of its own staff and that principle has been extended to the groups it funds.
It was queried if spend in the 2011/12 financial year would be eligible from 1st April 2011 or from whenever contracts are issued. It was confirmed that spend from 1st April would not be retrospective and therefore be eligible. It was noted that the Strategic Support Fund would be the first priority and the Development Grants Scheme would remain closed pending OFMDFM approval for that portion of the Victims Budget.
The committee conveyed its thanks to Ms. McIlveen and the Victims Team for their hard work. It was agreed to keep the discussion confidential pending the issue of formal contracts.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Feedback was provided in respect of the lack of continuity of services and the detrimental impacts if small voluntary groups still cannot access funding through the Development Grants Scheme. It was reiterated that that budget had not been approved so no action can be taken in the interim. However, it was acknowledged that the Department remains supportive of maintaining this work and hopes to provide more information in the near future.
It was noted that Goldblatt McGuigan’s and FPM’s audit reports were pending and a verbal update was provided to members on the specifics of cases.
Members were notified of very positive feedback on the Annual Victims Conference particularly in respect of the speech by Dr. Litvack.
DATE OF THE NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Victims & Survivors Committee is scheduled for 10:00am – 1:00pm on 12th May 2011 in the offices of the Community Relations Council in Belfast.
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