Dismay at the outcome of the recent WRC process on Section 39 Pay

(11 Aug 2023)

The National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers - the umbrella body of not-for-profit service providers supporting people with intellectual disabilities and autism - has expressed its dismay at the outcome of the recent WRC process on the key issue of equal pay for Section 39 workers. The absence of pay parity is seriously harming the sustainability of Section 39 organisations to provide essential frontline disability services - as key staff members leave in significant numbers and the organisations struggle to attract new staff. There is a negative impact on staff who are undertaking challenging work on unequal pay and who are experiencing significant difficulty in the context of the cost of living crisis. The current loss of staff will have detrimental effects on the service into the future. Ultimately, the lack of equality of service provided for people supported by Section 39 organisations due to this ongoing disparity is unacceptable.

The Government provides 70% of specialist services and supports to people with disabilities via the voluntary sector, which includes Section 39 organisations. However, a significant lack of equality between the pay of staff in Section 39 providers versus that of workers providing precisely the same service in HSE services is causing the very future of these services to be at risk.

The crisis facing disability service providers - in the already challenging retention and recruitment environment - is significantly exacerbated for our Section 39-funded members, who cannot compete with pay levels provided in similar publicly funded services.

Our hope had been that an early resolution to this matter via the WRC process would have been agreed as a matter of urgency, as the crisis is deepening and causing significant difficulty to the people with intellectual disabilities using our services. Some services are curtailed and some have had to close parts of the service, such as respite, upon which individuals and their families are reliant. Critically, the sustainability of organisations to continue to provide existing services and to meet the significant unmet need identified in the Disability Capacity Review into the future is being severely impacted.

To ensure that a resolution will address these quality and sustainability issues and stem the flow of staff currently taking place, and to ensure no re-occurrence of the issues, it is essential that an agreement is made to provide for Section 39 staff pay to be treated fairly into the future. Given the acute service impacts, immediate implementation of a resolution is needed rather than over an extended period.

The lack of agreement to facilitate pay parity from the most recent WRC meeting brings further uncertainty to the staff working in the essential frontline disability services provided by Section 39 providers, and increases the risk of further closures or restrictions of services as the organisations struggle to retain existing staff and attract new staff with the continuing inequality of pay.  The National Federation is calling on Government to intervene and ensure that pay parity is provided to stem the damage to essential frontline disability services.


Alison Harnett, Chief Executive


091 792 316

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