Introduction to strategies and policies supporting the voluntary and community sector

We keep informed about policy developments affecting the voluntary and community sector and are committed to working with other Departments and with the sector on issues such as alternative financing models, contracting and procurement, support for social economy enterprises, asset transfer and support for philanthropy.


A key area of our business is to promote understanding of how the voluntary and community sector (the sector) is working towards increasing collaboration and merger and reducing grant dependency and find ways to support the work.

We also follow developments on evidence and impact measurement, focusing on outcomes, impact and cost effectiveness of the voluntary and community sector’s contribution to meeting social need.

Community Asset Transfer

Community Asset Transfer (CAT) is a change in management and/or ownership of land or buildings, from public bodies to communities. 'Community' ownership and management of public assets encompasses a range of third sector organisations:

  • voluntary and community sector groups,
  • faith-based organisations,
  • community enterprises and social enterprises.

A cross-departmental Steering Group was established to develop the Community Asset Transfer policy framework. This was subject to consultation and was approved by the Executive in May 2014. Development Trusts NI (DTNI) have been appointed as the Department’s delivery partner for CAT. DTNI’s role is to raise awareness of CAT in the Voluntary & Community Sector and facilitate organisations to access CAT opportunities. It is hoped Community Asset Transfer will stimulate social enterprise activity as communities look for sustainable ways to operate these assets. Guidance for asset owners on how to deal with Community Asset Transfer requests is available.

Generalist advice services strategy

The Department is responsible for Generalist advice services strategy. This includes advice on issues like welfare benefits, housing, finance, consumer and employment issues. It involves the provision of initial broadly based advice services, with the option for referral to organisations which can provide more in-depth support. 

Support for faith based engagement

The Department’s aim is to promote the role of faith based organisations in serving the needs of disadvantaged communities across Northern Ireland. NICVA and RCN are currently our strategic partners helping deliver against our Faith Based Engagement Policy. You can read more in the Support for faith based engagement section.

Volunteering strategy

The Volunteering strategy and action plan aims to align activities across government, the sector and other stakeholders to re-energise and increase levels of volunteering. The strategy, which is accompanied by an action plan, aims to create the conditions under which volunteering activity within Northern Ireland can develop and flourish. 

Support for women in disadvantaged areas

We support the work of a regional network support organisation that has specific understanding of and experience working across the women’s sector, with a particular focus on the potential input made by women as mothers, home-makers and carers, living in areas of highest deprivation and marginalisation. Read the Joint policy statement Programme for Regional Support for Women in Disadvantaged Areas


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