Progress in 2018-2019
South West Wexford FRC (SWWFRC) is a based in a very rural community in the most westerly part of County Wexford. It covers a large rural hinterland where families and individuals experience all of the disadvantages of living at a distance from services and opportunities which people in urban settings can take for granted.
The Company has been going through a process of transition over the past few years in being one of the two new FRC’s who were accepted into the FRC Programme in 2015. This was an enormous leap of faith from both the Board and the staff perspective to make the change and to engage in new areas of work as result of doing this.
SWWFRC has moved from an organisation providing universal services to developing the skills and understanding to move into more in depth support work with families in the area. This has required both the Manager and Board to implement a change management process which is now beginning to pay off. However, this has not been without it’s challenges. The move has changed internally the kind of work that the FRC does, but getting the community to understand the change of focus is more complex.
Achievements and Performance in 2018
The following developments framed the context of our work in 2018
|External Positive Influences
· The improving economic climate.
· The VAT Compensation Scheme for Charities commenced. This is a very welcome development, which demonstrates the government’s support for the community, voluntary and charity sector.
· The Charities Regulator published a significant report on the social and economic impact of charities. The publication, Social and Economic Impact Report (2018, Charities Regulator & Indecon) highlights the huge diversity in organisations that are registered as charities in Ireland. It contributed significantly to our understanding of the sector.
· A new governance code was introduced by the Charities Regulator. This is a welcome development, which brings more clarity to the standards of governance expected of charities. ·
· TUSLA – providing ongoing funding and resources with improving relations and communication
· Governance and legislation is bringing clarity to legal and fiduciary obligations
· Engagement in TUSLA local, Regional and National structures are very positive and have significant potential to streamline our work from the local to national
|· Persistent levels of poverty and social exclusion, particularly in certain parts of our community
· Lack of continuity of funding and the increasing tendency to dictate terms from all funders
· · Tusla and the HSE have intensified the commissioning of health and personal social services.
· Brexit, of course, has created an uncertainty over the long-term future of European funding
· In 2018, public trust and confidence in charities increased somewhat. However, public trust and confidence in charities – and indeed in most public institutions – remains at an historic low. Therefore, demonstrating highest governance standards remains an imperative for all charities.
|Internal Positive Influences
|Commitment of staff, board and volunteers and the experience of staff and board
|We need a joined up approach with other local service providers to planning, organising and delivering local services to make them as accessible and effective as possible.
|Good governance (in progress)
|The compliance environment is challenging. Whereas regulation and compliance are necessary and welcomed, the burden on organisations from the multiple duplicate reporting requirements and the absence of any additional funding to cover these additional costs is an increasing source of serious concern for the board.
|SPEAK as the national tool designed as the
evaluation mechanism for the FRC programme.
|Time and resources to match our committment to high standards of professionalism and good practice in all our activities
|The new SCOP and mental health programme brings possibilities for our wellbeing work
|The new childcare arrangements are operationally challenging and is serving the labour market activation agenda rather than having the care and education of young people at its core.
|Development of a commitment to a philosophy of investing in our team to develop our capacity and skills to meet the highest standards of performance
|Holding to our historic firm commitment to the principles of community development and advocacy for the needs and rights of the local SWW community
|The Building itself in which the FRC is housed is a huge challenge in terms of managing the maintenance and dealing with the Ramsgrange Trust issues. It is also an untapped resource which could be turned into a successful Social Enterprise bringing in much needed resources / creating employment opportunities, but currently there is no time or resources among staff to develop this.
The Local Context of our Work:
South West Wexford FRC is the main focus for community development and family support work in the South West Wexford area. Our centre in 2018 offered support services and development opportunities to individuals and families at all stages of the life cycle. The various programmes and services operated by SWWFRC are, for the most part, funded by a variety of public agencies to which the centre is accountable both financially and for its activities. This is supplemented in 2018 by fundraising, Fees for services and the services of volunteers, including members of the board. The core funding provided by TUSLA FSSU underpins the holistic nature of the work of the centre and enables us to leverage revenues from a variety of sources to deliver our programmes. We are committed to following principles of good governance and are in the process of complying with the new Charity Regulator code of Practice.
The development of the centre from 2018 onwards and its services will aim to continue to evolve to meet the needs of our community but also the needs of our funders which can be challenging. These needs are ever changing as the funders remit changes and also as the demographic changes in the SWW area. Some demographics may persist such as demands for suitable rural educational courses and employment schemes in particular for those most removed from the workforce and with no access to transport. Our capacity to sustain and develop our services as the local populations change and needs change, is ever challenging and requires us to devote much effort and planning to acquire funding and other income, not least through engaging in social enterprise opportunities and attracting European funding.
From the perspective of the board of directors, 2018 was again a very positive year for SWWFRC. Since 2015 SWWFRC has moved from an organisation providing universal services to developing the skills and understanding to move into more in depth support work with families in the area. This has required both staff and Board to implement a change management process which is now beginning to pay off. However, this has not been without it’s challenges. The move has continued to change internally the kind of work that SWWFRC does, but getting the community to understand the change of focus is increasingly more complex.
The context for our work in 2018 was also set by ongoing challenges locally and faced by the community and voluntary sector including key core staff changes and recruitment difficulties within the CE scheme leading to continued loss in services at FUSION Café and the Community Café and an end to the food cloud and be-friending services. Coordination of staff cover in childcare is also ongoing and continued to be challenging in 2018 when CE staff numbers remained in decline and policy regulations in the sector continued to change and evolve .
Moreover our funding environment remains taxing with the continued intensification of TUSLA processes to commission services through procurement processes – potentially putting more of our core funding ‘at risk’. Also organisations such as ours are beginning to feel the increased demands that come from working in a more highly regulated environment with the added introduction if the Charity Regulator Code in 2018 and changes to their website annual reporting format.
Letting go of the ability to maintain The Penny Bank end 2018 piece was a huge challenge. Whilst The Penny Bank numbers of savers rose from 105 in 2017 to 120 in 2018 and is an excellent resource to the Project Users, it was decided from a transparency and accountability perspective that resources do not allow this piece of work to be sustainable going forward. The Food Cloud Initiative also whittled down to a Monday only collection but due to competing needs from New Ross Town and a limited supply of volunteers available to us the initaitve came to an end mid 2018 also. However, additional funding received end 2017, primarily for capital funding has however made a difference to up-grading the rooms on the 2nd floor which have become state of the art meeting rooms, a newly developed REaD office space and a welcoming Counselling / Therapy room.
In these contexts in 2018 we worked hard to maintain existing services whilst also aiming to continue to embrace the family support services work under the FRC Programme and Glor required by our core funder, TUSLA.
SWWFRC Impact 2018
The impact of the work of SWWFRC can be measured across numerous fields: family support, early years, food services, counselling and therapy, community development and the labour market and education.
It is evident also that our centre has contributed to raising incomes locally through ensuring social welfare and related benefits were claimed; resolving problems in high-risk families; raising educational standards and school readiness; nutrition; combatting loneliness; improving mental health and well-being among adults and children; informal learning for young people; culture, art, sports and the environment; building labour market skills and integration.
Were it not for these services, there would be substantial additional costs to the state, for example in labour market and mental health services, remedial educational interventions and the integration of new communities and many problems in this rural community would go untreated, bringing their own costs over time.
SWWFRC is known to provide a trusted, accessible, local service and all workplan actions work in tandem to fill gaps and shortcomings in the thinly-spread state services (e.g. citizen information). Our work has uncovered important social policy issues (e.g. poor adult literacy, accessibility of information, malnutrition).
Further despite significant reductions in funding the no of visits to our centre has only increased. All this work however within our annual work-plan saves the State in the long term, as dealing with families in crisis is costly and has far more repercussions for the parents and children involved.
In 2018 we provided significant numbers of learning opportunities locally, including accredited training opportunities that enhanced people’s ability to access employment. Other education opportunities include our community education courses and activities aimed at giving people the positive experience and renewed confidence to explore further education.
Ireland’s economic downturn has had a profound impact on the rural families and community we strive to serve and we are working every year to become responsive and consistent in being willing to work with and for our community. Six years ago, we became inundated with people whose jobs were at risk and who had lost employment. Then, issues of debt and debt management took hold. More recently, we have been dealing with the impacts of long-term unemployment on families and the community.
We have kept the needs of our community central to our work-plans and outputs, and we have concentrated throughout 2018 on early-intervention work to prevent people’s problems from becoming more complex.
SWWFRC is compliant with the Charities Governance Code 2020