Raising your Covid-19 questions and concerns with government
From our recent survey and ongoing communications with sector organisations, we have received a flood of questions and concerns regarding the Covid-19 crisis and the initiatives being undertaken by government to address its impacts. With organisations large and small facing huge challenges in simply continuing their activities, chief among the questions being asked is what package government will put in place alongside existing support for businesses and the self-employed, to enable voluntary and community sector organisations to survive and continue their support? As the power to respond to many of these questions and concerns lies at many different layers of government, NICVA is engaging at all levels, including with UK government.
At UK level, we have been raising a number of key questions which require a UK level response, including the following which we have raised directly with the UK Cabinet Office –
- What specific financial support can UK government make available to enable voluntary & community groups and organisations to cover (non-staff) operating/activity costs necessary to keep their organisations running and providing support on the ground?
- Can more detailed guidance be provided on which voluntary and community sector workers and volunteers can be classified as ‘Key Workers’?
- Can there be some flexibility in the application of the furloughing scheme to address a range of anomalies affecting voluntary and community sector workers (e.g. those falling outside the scheme due to seasonal working patterns or the timing of recruitment, as well as the rules regarding furloughed worker ability or otherwise to volunteer for their employing organisations versus other organisations).
- Can the current barriers to migrant workers accessing Covid-19-related government support be removed?
We are pleased to report that the Cabinet Office has responded promptly to the concerns we have raised and has sought a (virtual) meeting with NICVA and our equivalent organisations in England, Scotland and Wales to discuss our concerns in detail.
At Northern Ireland level, in addition to engaging directly with NI Departments and Ministers, NICVA is working closely with the Department for Communities to channel your questions to the relevant officials in the relevant Departments, and secure answers and clarifications. Where relevant, we are also seeking to encourage NI Departments to raise issues with UK government departments that need to be addressed at UK level.
Recent questions to NI government departments which NICVA has raised through DfC include -
- Can VCSE organisations access the Covid-19 support grants being offered to businesses administered by Invest NI?
- Can PHA Covid-19 guidance and communications be updated (on website etc) to include clear guidance on volunteering?
- Could there be some flexibility with grants that partly fund a number of staff to assign 100% of the grant to some posts whilst furloughing other staff?
- Can there be some flexibility in the application of the furloughing scheme to be able to include workers recruited before the 28th February but not starting on the payroll till after and also for annual seasonal workers who were not on the payroll on the 28th February?
We will keep you updated on the latest developments and responses to these questions through the NICVA website and our other communications channels.
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