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6 May, 2020 Open access

Government should introduce a separate Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for charities, say MPs

Select Committee says that is has heard evidence that undermines assurances given by the Secretary of State that charities can access many of the measures for businesses announced by the Chancellor

The government should introduce a separate Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for charities, a Select Committee of MPs has said.

In a new report, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee says that in March 2020, as individuals, communities and organisations across the UK responded to the threat of COVID-19, it became aware of a mounting crisis within the charity and voluntary sector, with many facing a dramatic fall in income at the same time as the need for their services was increasing as a consequence of the crisis.

However, while noting the Chancellor's announcement last month of £750m funding for frontline charities, the Committee says that this emergency support is 'too little, too late' to prevent the closure of charities across the country, and a lack of transparency in allocating funds means that deserving charities could lose out.

In addition, the Committee says that evidence it has heard from across the sector has undermined assurances given by DCMS Secretary of State Oliver Dowden that charities can access many of the measures announced for businesses by the Chancellor, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - 

'Charities cited barriers to benefiting from support. For example, the furloughing scheme means standing down staff at exactly the time that they are needed to step up. Many charities identify what the NCVO termed an 'unintended consequence of the design of the scheme' whereby workers who are furloughed from one charity are able to volunteer their time and services to another charity, but not to their main employer. Charities that receive public funding alongside other income are also ineligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.'

As a result, amongst a number of recommendations that it urges the government to take immediate action on, the Committee calls for the introduction of a separate Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for charities, that would enable furloughed employees to volunteer for their own organisations; and for the government to guarantee that six weeks’ notice will be given of the scheme ending so that charities can plan accordingly, with the ending of the scheme phased to support any charities that are unable to return immediately to full capacity.

NB - elsewhere in the report, the Committee -

For more information, see Government’s emergency funding too little, too late to protect charities from COVID-19 crisis.