It has been five weeks since CFG wrote an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to call on government to urgently develop a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme fit for civil society.
The letter set out why government must step in to help civil society #MobiliseNotMothball, as a matter of urgency during the Covid-19 crisis. Thirty other civil society leaders signed the letter and, in total, more than 150 non-profit and business leaders have since added their name.
The Chancellor has now responded. In his reply, he acknowledged that under the current CJRS scheme ‘employees are not permitted to volunteer for their own employer or an organisation linked or associated to their employer...’
In justifying this position, the Chancellor said it was to ‘prevent fraudulent claims’ and protect employees. He wrote: ‘…if we allowed workers to volunteer for their employer, the employer could ask them to effectively work full time whilst paying them 80% of the wages.’
He went on to point out that the government has confirmed a £750m support package for charities and that funds totalling nearly £205m are being distributed through the Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership and the National Lottery’s Coronavirus Community Fund. The government has also matched public donations to the BBC’s ‘Big Night In’, he added.
Commenting on the Chancellor’s reply, Caron Bradshaw said: “We sympathise greatly with the Chancellor’s desire to ensure that employees are not inadvertently put at risk and greater economic harm is not inflicted on the economy. We concur that abuse should not be facilitated or tolerated.
"However, it is clear that the scheme can be amended to deliver the Chancellor’s aims, to protect jobs without endangering employees or opening the public purse to abuse.
"We urge the Chancellor to recognise the severity and urgency of the situation many charities and other organisations delivering public benefit now face, and urge him to work with us to find practical solutions that prevent wider spread harm to those our #NeverMoreNeeded charities serve.
"The blackhole in the sector’s finances is between £10-12billion. Although this cannot be entirely bridged by government, it is within the Chancellor’s gift to amend the CJRS so that we are here for future winters to come. There is precedent both overseas and within our own government’s practices that would enable charities and social enterprises to keep on caring this Christmas.
“I fear that an absence of political will, rather than practical solutions, will see charities continue to be excluded from a scheme which has so generously supported other areas of the economy; a position I find troubling given our inherent duty to deliver benefit for public, not private, use.
“We call again on the Government to meet with us to discuss all points of concern and quickly find a path through. Now is the time to do that before the CJRS policy is reviewed in January. Until that time, we will keep raising the alarm.”
Questions in Parliament
Since we launched the campaign, CFG has actively engaged with parliamentarians and following meetings written questions have been tabled on the issue.
On 23 Martyn Day (SNP) tabled a question to the Treasury which asked: ‘To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what recent assessment he has made of the effect on the economy of charity sector organisations having to stop delivering vital services in order to be eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.’
On 25 November, Baroness Lister of Burtersett tabled a question asking ‘what assessment they have made of the Charity Finance Group’s proposal to allow charities to furlough staff and enable them to volunteer at their own organisation, to help charities to mobilise during the winter period.’
Charity Finance Group launched the #MobiliseNotMothball campaign in early November to urge the government to work with civil society organisations to create a CJRS that would allow employees to volunteer back to their own organisations.
In allowing individuals to do that charities could continue to provide services for the country’s most vulnerable people.
Join us so we can #MobiliseNotMothball
Here’s how you and your organisation can get involved:
- Sign our letter to government and share a few words about why you’re supporting our call for a fit-for-purpose job retention scheme.
- Download our #MobiliseNotMothball campaign supporters pack for suggested tweets and to share with others. Share the #MobiliseNotMothball logo on your social media channels, along with the hashtag #MobiliseNotMothball.
- Tell us what difference a fit-for-purpose job scheme would make to your organisation and the people who access your services. Tweet us @CFGtweets or email a statement of support.
If we’re successful, then this could make all the difference to hundreds of thousands of people who depend on the vital services provided by charities and social enterprises. From helplines and guidance, to practical help and support, we want to see our sector #MobiliseNotMothball during this crisis. Only by doing so can we help those who need us now and, in the future, start to build back better.
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